Consider, for a moment, two of the greatest shows of the last year. Surely, Hamilton on Broadway and Donald Trump’s unprecedented presidential campaign come to mind, at least in some capacity. The former has caught the attention of theatergoers across the country, casting a unique and fresh light on many of the intricacies that were considered in the early days of U.S. history. The latter, on the contrary, has brought many to wonder if America’s longstanding democracy has met its end, providing a stark contrast to a play about the nation’s birth. The only thing that could be bigger than each of these shows in isolation would be a combination of the two; that’s exactly what the country received this weekend, when Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of the critically acclaimed musical.
Pence’s entrance was met with mixed emotion, as some in the audience clapped while others booed his presence. Regardless, Pence was reportedly very amiable throughout the musical. According to the New York Times, “he appeared engaged throughout the show and applauded after most of its numbers, audience members near him said.” The relative normalcy ended abruptly upon the show’s conclusion, when the Hamilton cast delivered a sharp message to Mr. Pence and the Trump administration he will serve for the next four years.
“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,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us,” said Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who played Vice President Aaron Burr in the show. As the statement was delivered, Pence was already on his way out of the theater, and he stopped in the hallway to hear the message in full. He was seen smiling respectfully as he departed. The crowd burst into applause, appreciating the message from one of the world’s most viewed stages.
While Pence appeared content with the message, Trump took immense issue with the show’s political direction. Taking to Twitter, Trump condemned the incident and demanded that the cast apologize. “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!” He went on say, “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!”
The actor who made the statement then tweeted back at Trump, saying that conversation is not harassment and that he appreciated the fact that Pence stayed behind to hear out their message.
The show’s message, which aims to depict the influential role that immigrants played in the early development of this country, stands in stark contrast with the anti-immigration rhetoric spewed by the Trump campaign on the stump. The emphasis placed on the value of diversity stands in direct conflict with the fact that Trump has appointed primarily white, old men to leading cabinet positions thus far, sans a few exceptions. Thus, it is understandable why the cast chose to make this political statement, regardless of whether or not one believes it was right.
What do you think about this incident? Was the Hamilton cast wrong for doing this? Was Trump’s response appropriate?