Roger W. Smith, “‘Hamilton’ actor disses VP-elect; a few comments in response to a Broadway “lecture”

 

 

Re: “‘Hamilton’ Cast’s Appeal to Pence Ignites Showdown With Trump,” by Patrick Healy, The New York Times, November 19, 2016

 

 

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Some highlights, as per the New York Times story:

A controversy erupted two days ago when the cast of the Broadway hit “Hamilton” made a politically charged appeal from the stage on November 18 to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience, urging him and Mr. Trump to “uphold our American values” and “work on behalf of all of us.”

On Saturday, November, 19, one supporter of Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that the “Hamilton” statement was “a staged hit job.” Another wrote that actors should never “humiliate a member of the audience.”

Mr. Pence’s “Hamilton” seats were bought, not provided by the production as complimentary seats, according to two people with knowledge of the transaction.

President-elect Trump caused further controversy when he tweeted: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended the performance of “Hamilton” on Friday, November 18. Afterward, a lead actor, Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr in the show, read a statement: “You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening — Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out but I hope you hear just a few more moments,” Mr. Dixon said. As some in the audience booed, Mr. Dixon hushed them, then added, “Sir, we hope that you will hear us out.”

As Mr. Pence stood by the exit doors, Mr. Dixon said:

We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us — our planet, our children, our parents — or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.

From the The New York Times:

The plea to Mr. Pence was written by Mr. Miranda; the show’s director, Thomas Kail; and the lead producer, Jeffrey Seller, with contributions from cast members, according to Mr. Seller. In an interview after the show, Mr. Seller said he learned “very late that Mr. Pence was coming to the show, and the creative team and cast members quickly reckoned with how to respond.

Actor Brandon Victor Dixon’s statement is on YouTube at

 

 

 

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Commentary by Roger W. Smith

 

I would characterize Mr. Dixon’s remarks as insipid and inane, a weak tea.

patronize — treat with an apparent kindness that betrays a feeling of superiority.

That’s precisely what actor Brandon Victor Dixon did in his statement.

I would say, apparent kindness that betrays a feeling of MORAL superiority.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     November 20 2016

 

 

 

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Readers’ comments

 

The following are some comments generated by and in response to the controversy,  mostly from the Washington Post and New York Times websites.

 

 

THE WASHINGTON POST

 

If you are hired to wait the president’s table at a restaurant, what you don’t get to do is use that as an opportunity to lobby your political views. So too with actors at a performance. It was not only presumptuous for a relatively obscure (outside of Broadway anyway) stage actor to give the VP elect gratuitous advice on how to govern in accordance with the Constitution, but completely out of line.

I would fire him and any waiter, server, flight attendant, steward, physician, nurse, or any other entertainer or service person hired to serve the president or vice president who fails to keep in mind their job description. People pay $175 to see a Broadway play, not for tinhorn advice outside the script delivered by an airheaded actor.

— Stephen Gianelli

 

Right on target. Thank you. Amidst all the bloviating, someone is capable of talking sense about this ridiculous contretemps, started by producers and cast who thought they would not only put on the performance of a play, but would give a sermon at the end.

— Roger W. Smith

 

Who needs to go to the theatre to be preached at? What turned people off from traditional religion was the judgmental attitude and arrogance. Now, we have the church of the left. But unlike regular church, these people are trying to turn every public area into a sanitized zone for their ideology. Save us from the neo-Puritans.

— Anonymous

 

The audience, all of whom paid also, were most pleased by the gracious and moving response of the cast to an opportunity to address Mr. Pence, whether he wanted to be addressed or not. So was a great swath of Americans, the majority of whom do not support this evil administration-to-be. No one cares that you would fire that wonderful cast — they have the warm support of millions in this country. Like it or not, you are living in history, and like it or not the free people in America will protest this election, and like our founding fathers are not concerned about your disgruntled sensibilities. At all.

— Anonymous

 

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

 

Is this the new normal? If someone you don’t like comes to your show you single them out and embarrass them to make your political statement? I don’t see how this helps. Why not welcome all kinds of people to see your show?

— Jan LP, Northern California

 

Diversity, huh? Yes, the cast of Hamilton is multi ethnic, but that’s where the diversity comes to a screaming halt, since apparently everyone thinks exactly alike and reflects uniformly only one extreme side of the political spectrum. Not one member of the cast, crew or productive team diverges in any way from the leftist progressive agenda, and all are presumably Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton for president. Lockstep, group think, all the way down the line.

So, diversity of ethnicity…. you bet. Diversity of thought and ideology…. non-existent. Some diversity. The booing was classless and the lecture immature and embarrassing. Can you imagine what would happen if Trump himself attended a performance? It would make Diaghilev’s Paris premiere of the Rite of Spring in 1913, which featured a full scale riot, look like high tea by comparison.

As weird as this sounds, I think the cast and creators of “Hamilton” should keep their noses out of politics. Stick with churning out the toe tappers and providing a memorable, entertaining evening at the theater and leave it at that.

— Thomas Field, Dallas

 

While I agree with the message, the actions of the “Hamilton” cast were inappropriate. it was heckling in reverse. Mr. Pence came to see your play and deserved the same respect as any other paying customer who was hoping for an evening of entertainment (and perhaps some enlightenment).

— Honey Feeney, Harrisburg, PA

 

Pence attended the performance, didn’t he? That alone signals an open mind. Only those hoping for Trump and Pence to fail would attempt to convey Pence’s attendance into a liability.

— Anonymous, Cedarburg, WI

 

It is ironic and paradoxical that an actor will single out an audience member to accuse someone for supposedly lacking tolerance for diversity and not provide the stage for equal time and diversity! A perfect example of hypocrisy and not being tolerant of diverse opinions! Shame on you Mr. Dixon and the producers of this Broadway musical!

— Anonymous, Southern California

 

I think the cast of “Hamilton” should seriously petition the producers to lower the thousand dollar plus ticket prices so more of us “diverse” numbers could see the show. And, I don’t mean nosebleed balcony seats.

Anonymous, Florida

 

Here we go again. Those highly educated, lovers of diversity and tolerance liberals shaking their finger at the soon-to-be VP because 60 plus million Americans voted for him. Those liberals who love everyone….so long as you think like them! Otherwise, they’ll kick the you-know-what out of you, or try to humiliate you in public. That’s their definition of tolerance, I guess.

— J. G. Smith, Fort Collins, CO

 

Brandon Victor Dixon [the actor who read the statement after the performance] has lived a life of privilege, having attended St. Alban’s, Columbia and Oxford, on his way to being a rich actor. His supercilious lecture to Mike Pence was horribly condescending – he could have used the moment to wish the Vice President good luck and success, as a start to bringing the country back together.

It’s to Pence’s credit that he responded with grace and dignity, politely listening to the pompous thespian squawk (still speaking in voice) about first world problems. It brings to mind Pauline Kael’s famous quote, “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them,” and reinforces the belief that liberals are out of touch with the rest of the world. Which is why Hillary lost the election.

— Anonymous, Texas

 

“Mr. Dixon, who read the statement after playing the nation’s third vice president, quickly replied with a post of his own:

“@realDonaldTrump conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate @mike_pence for stopping to listen.”

It wasn’t a conversation. It was a monologue, a lecture, a bit of an accusation which didn’t give Pence a platform to respond to what was unexpectedly shoved in his face.

I think Mr. Dixon’s speech, and tweet, were very gracious and I don’t take much issue with it. But, it does seem like this seems to be how the left communicates: a monologue which requires one to listen to a laundry list of perceived wrongs and gripes in which the accused isn’t allowed to disagree or dissent.

— Anonymous, San Diego

 

 

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“It never ceases to amaze me how liberals desire acceptance and diversity for everything except political philosophy.”

— Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party

 

 

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Addendum: See also

“‘Hamilton’ Duel: Addressing the President-Elect on His Own Blunt Terms” (Critic’s Notebook), by Ben Brantley, The New York Times, November 20, 2016

I am forwarding to you a link to an opinion piece by Ben Brantley in yesterday’s New York Times.

I thought of you because the piece supports (energetically) your point of view re the “Hamilton” cast’s remarks after the performance which Mike Pence attended on Friday.

Of course, I thoroughly disagree with Brantley.

I thought his piece, while he used clever arguments earnestly made, was actually weak and jerry–built, and was unconvincing. I am disappointed in Brantley.

I know you won’t agree (!), but there’s no harm in considering and sharing different opinions, right? Isn’t that what the defenders of the “Hamilton” cast are trying to say in their defense?

Roger W. Smith, email to relative, November 21,2016

 

 

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Addendum:

 

The curtain call taunt of a “Hamilton” cast member to Vice President-elect Mike Pence was a public and premature chastisement, grossly impolite and impolitic. It was a perfect example of liberal cultural overreach, importune and embarrassing to a decent man whose only offense was to have given the show his nonpolitical attendance.

Art and politics are often mixed, but post-performance editorializing to a particular member of the audience is simply bad manners.

 

— Peter Hutchinson, Phippsburg, Me., letter to editor, New York Times, November 22, 2016

 

 

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin.
This entry was posted in personal views of Roger W. Smith, political correctness (PC), politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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