With this blog entry, I bring together my two passions: social justice activism and the world of theater.
This time of year, audiences at Broadway and Off Broadway shows are often asked to remain for a few moments following the performance in order to hear a request for donations to an organization known as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Last Friday, however, when Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of the mega-hit musical ‘Hamilton,’ the audience heard a different end-of-show message. It was an expression of concern about the kinds of statements many find to be both offensive and threatening that have been making national news as they are aired or Tweeted from the inner circle of President-elect Donald Trump.
Speaking from the stage, actor Brandon Victor Dixon called on the Vice President-elect to hold off on leaving. This is what Dixon said, reading from a statement prepared by the show’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, its director Thomas Kail, producer Jeffrey Seller, and Mr. Dixon:
“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ We really do. 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 this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us — all of us. We truly thank you for sharing this show — this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”
Word got out immediately, of course, and Mr. Trump quickly responded by Tweeting:
"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 later added a second Tweet: “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!"
While Mr. Pence is hardly the most uncivil member of the future President’s cohort, he was the one who was there, and so he was the recipient of the message.
He himself has said he was not offended and that he would “leave it to others whether it was the appropriate venue to say it.”
For the record, I find nothing disrespectful about the statement.
What I do find interesting is the silence from Mr. Trump's Twitter feed following an incident the very next evening during a performance of 'Hamilton' in Chicago. An audience member (identified as John Palmer) interrupted the performance by yelling curses aimed broadly at anyone who didn't vote for Mr. Trump. No requests for apologies have emanated from Trump Tower.
Given that the remarks in New York were made in lieu of a plea for donations to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, perhaps the next time you are asked to donate, you could throw a buck or two into the buckets being held by members of the cast as you exit the theater. Not such a hardship, really. And if you are not a New York theatergoer, you can always go to their website (CLICK HERE) and make a donation.
As an FYI, the organization helps men, women and children receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance. It is the major supporter of essential social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative and the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic.
SOCIAL JUSTICE IS A VERB!
SOCIAL JUSTICE IS A VERB!