Liberal Column

‘Hamilton’ discourse gets to heart of theater

/ The Daily Orange

The Broadway musical “Hamilton” has been consistently in the news for more than a year now with its 11 Tony awards and record-breaking profits. But the show made headlines for a different reason Friday night when Vice President-elect Mike Pence showed up.

Following the musical and bows, the cast shared a message directly with Pence: Brandon Dixon, who plays the nation’s third vice-president Aaron Burr in the show, thanked Pence for seeing the show and said, “We hope you will hear us out.”

“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,” Dixon said, addressing Pence.

He went on to say he hoped the show could serve as an inspiration for Pence to work for all of the American people, a group even more diverse than the “Hamilton” cast.

Conservatives were immediately up in arms over the statement, let by President-elect Donald Trump. In addition to Trump’s tweets demanding an apology, many have called for a boycott of the show and have said that a Broadway show was an inappropriate time and place to lecture Pence in such a manner.

 

But these comments could not have come from a better place or group of people. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who helped to draft the cast’s statement, has always prided himself on the purposeful diversity of the show.

“This is a story about America then, told by America now” said Miranda in an interview with The Atlantic last year.

And it just so happens that the LGBTQ actors and actors of color who have made Broadway — and “Hamilton” in particular — so successful are the very people who feel most threatened by Trump and Pence’s administration.

Broadway, and theater in general, has long been a place of inclusion for the parts of society who don’t always have a voice. At the Tony Awards this year, for example, all four of the musical acting awards went to people of color. The success of “Hamilton” is what allowed the diverse cast to make its stand, and traditional and social media were quick to disseminate the statement. Many mocked the #BoycottHamilton, hashtag, saying they’d be happy to take tickets off the hands of those boycotting.

Republicans seem opposed to all protests by anyone besides themselves. Former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, who threatened to grab his musket if Hillary Clinton has won the election, tweeted after the cast’s statement, “Where is it written that the POTUS can’t punch back against his whining, liberal, sore loser critics?”

This hypocrisy is almost laughable, with the party that has obstructed and opposed President Barack Obama for the past 8 years saying now is the time to unify and work together as a country. Trump and his party will need to learn to withstand criticism of all types during his presidency, as there exists a sizable contingent who will oppose him at every turn.

“Hamilton,” a story of the nation’s founding, is now influencing current-day politics. Alexander Hamilton himself warned in “The Federalist Papers” against the people electing “talents for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity”— a description that seems eerily fitting for Trump. Standing at this intersection of art, history and life, the cast members of the show would make their immigrant namesake proud with their stand for the American values Hamilton and his fellow founding fathers created more than two centuries ago.

Cole Jermyn is a sophomore environmental resource engineering major at SUNY-ESF. He can be reached at cdjermyn@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @Cjermyn8.

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