STATE OF THE ARTS

“Work on behalf of all of us”: Hamilton’s cast schooled audience member Mike Pence on diversity

Obsession
2016
Obsession
2016

Thespians aren’t known for being withering flowers, and they showed it tonight.

Mike Pence was in the audience of Broadway hip hop musical Hamilton on Friday night (Nov. 18), and the US vice president-elect was greeted with mixed emotions from both the audience and cast.

Pence’s entourage was booed as he approached his seat at the Richard Rodgers Theater in Manhattan.

The cast, whose performance was reportedly interrupted repeatedly with boos directed at Pence, ended their curtain call by addressing Pence directly.

“We have a message for you sir, and we hope that you will hear us out, ” Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who plays Aaron Burr, told the audience. “We sir, we 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. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us.”

The show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, its director Thomas Kail, and lead producer Jeffrey Seller wrote the statement with input from the cast, according to the New York Times.

“Our cast could barely go on stage the day after the election. The election was painful and crushing to all of us here. We all struggled with what was the appropriate and respectful and proper response,” Seller told the Times. “We are honored that Mr. Pence attended the show, and we had to use this opportunity to express our feelings.”

Seller told The Hollywood Reporter that Pence had requested to attend the performance earlier that day. The production has not masked its political leanings; during campaign season, it lent its voice to Democratic fundraisers and voter registration drives.

Audience members had mixed reactions to the charged atmosphere. Some pointed at the irony of Pence patronizing a show put on by politically active, openly gay cast members.

By contrast, New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff criticized the audience for shunning him: “Pence getting booed at Hamilton bums me out. Whatever you think of him. He’s trying to engage. Could get ideas from far worse places,” he wrote on Twitter.

Cast members pushed the issue during their performance. Rory O’Malley, the actor who played King George II, reportedly sang parts of “What Comes Next?” pointedly at Pence and received a standing ovation when he sang the words, “When your people say they hate you.” The audience applauded again when Alexander Hamilton, played by Javier Munoz, and Marquis de Lafayette, played by Seth Stewart, sang the line “Immigrants: We get the job done” during “Yorktown.”

President-elect Donald Trump later weighed in.

Attending Hamilton, a performance celebrated for its multi-racial casting of the founding fathers, is a surprising move for a man who opposed gay marriage as governor of Indiana, signed a bill into law that allowed businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers, and has been criticized for condoning “conversion therapy.” But no one said the Trump administration shies from surprises.

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