When the Hamilton cast addressed Deputy President-elect Mike Pence at Friday’s show, it unleashed furious debate.
President-elect Donald J. Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to castigate the cast of Hamilton, claiming that they had “harassed” Vice President-elect Mike Pence when they addressed him at Friday night’s curtain call, and demanded they apologise. Pence, himself, however, declined to press for an apology when interviewed by Fox News on Sunday, saying that he “wasn’t offended”.
Twitter exploded when footage of the episode was posted, with thousands of comments, both in support of the Hamilton cast and Trump’s response – yet another illustration of how deeply divided the country is in the wake of the recent election.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
By Saturday morning #BoycottHamilton and the humorous #NameAPenceMusical were trending on Twitter, while furious debate continued around issues of respect and freedom of speech.
Hamilton is the hottest ticket on Broadway right now. The highly acclaimed musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which won 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical, uses hip-hop, rap, R & B and pop to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers who became the right-hand man of George Washington. It features a notably diverse cast with black and Hispanic actors playing Washington, Jefferson and other founding fathers.
When Pence and his family arrived at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York to see the show he was met with a barrage of boos and cheers. During his career, Pence has been an opponent of LGBTQI rights. And that same day, Trump had named three conservatives to lead his national security and law enforcement teams, signalling his determination to take a hard line on illegal immigration and Islamic militancy.
Trump isn’t mad because he expects some kind of “safe space”, he’s mad because that lack of decorum is just not acceptable. #BoycottHamilton
— Kathy Zhu (@PoliticalKathy) November 20, 2016
Apparently, Hamilton’s oft-quoted lyric “Immigrants, we get the job done!” was met with a standing ovation mid-way through Friday night’s performance. After the show, as the cast took their bows, Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays America’s third Vice President Aaron Burr read a statement directed at Pence in which he 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,” adding, “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
Pence was making his way out of the theatre, but The New York Times reported that a spokesman for the show said he stood in the hallway and heard all the remarks. The speech was cheered by many in the audience. However, it angered Trump who fired off two tweets. In the first he said: “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!”
How to succeed in Government without really trying. #NameaPenceMusical
— Laura (@mommyMullen) November 20, 2016
A couple of minutes later, he added: “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!”
In response to Trump, Dixon tweeted: “conversation is not harassment, sir. And I appreciate @mike_pence for stopping to listen.”
— Brandon Victor Dixon (@BrandonVDixon) November 19, 2016
Speaking to Fox News, Pence confirmed: “I did hear what was said from the stage, and I can tell you I wasn’t offended by what was said.” He also praised the show and said: “It was a real joy to be there. When we arrived we heard a few boos and we heard some cheers and I nudged my kids and reminded them, that’s what freedom sounds like.”
As debate raged on social media, @HamiltonMusical posted Dixon’s full statement on Twitter:
“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. There’s nothing to boo, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you sir, we hope that you will hear us out.
“And I encourage everybody to pull out your phones and tweet and post because this message needs to be spread far and wide.
“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, are the diverse American 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.
“Thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colours, creeds and orientations.”
Dixon told Broadway.com that the cast had been informed late on Friday that Pence and his family would be in the audience and said that they spoke to the show’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and producer Jeffrey Seller about whether to do anything. The show’s publicist Sam Rudy said the speech was written by Dixon, Miranda, Seller and director Thomas Kail with input from cast members.
Miranda later tweeted: “Proud of @BrandonVDixon, for leading with love. And proud to remind you that ALL are welcome at the theater.”
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) November 19, 2016
In a separate interview with CBS, Pence addressed Dixon’s concerns, saying that Trump has “a great heart… he’s got heart for the American people”. He also said that he wanted to reassure “anyone, including the actor who spoke that night, that President-elect Donald Trump is going to be the president of all the people.”