The cast of Hamilton delivered a message to VP-elect Mike Pence over the weekend, telling him they hope the show will encourage him to fight for the rights of all Americans. Pence commented saying he didn’t take offense at the message, but Trump fired off a series of tweets demanding an apology from the cast. Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who portrays Aaron Burr and who read the message, refused to talk less and smile more in a CBS appearance where he addressed some of the backlash.
In response to a comment saying that they could have spoke to him backstage, the actor responds that Pence should have had the option to come backstage, and encourages the soon-to-be VP to have a conversation with them there. To answer why he was the one to read the message, Dixon explains that it was a request from producer Jeffrey Seller and that he was happy to do it, and even felt honored to do so.
For me, I think the most important thing with respect to all of the emotions that everyone’s feeling after this election is to make sure people recognize that we are not alone. We are here together and we need to listen to one another and speak with one another and those of us who feel like maybe their voice has been marginalized or might become marginalized–it’s important to recognize that there are allies all over the place.
Dixon also reveals in the interview that Seller, director Thomas Kail, and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda were all involved in crafting the message. The message was then read in front of the cast, who made additional adjustments before it was presented for Pence.
To the demand of an apology, Dixon simply takes a sip from his cup and says, “There’s nothing to apologize for.” When asked whether he was worried this would set off other theater disruptions in the face of a recent audience interruption in Chicago (a man acted with extreme hostility and said things like “We won. Trump is President. Get over it”), the actor dismissed this concern.
When you have a platform, art is meant to bring people together. It’s meant to raise consciousness. And when you have a platform like that–I told Jeffrey Sellers after that, “I applaud you all for not throwing away your shot. For taking a moment to spread a message of love. To spread a message of unity.” We’re not here to boo. We’re here to cheer each other on.”
A point that wasn’t brought up in the interview were the various voices that called the incident a “distraction” from other news stories. It’s understandable that while we’re trying to balance the many horrendous, appalling, and urgent stories concerning Trump’s upcoming administrations (like the $25 million Trump University settlement), many will feel frustrated that the majority of public attention is towards a specific story that feels like “fluff.” However, I think it’s important not to write off the words of artists of color in a production as important and popular as Hamilton. Like Dixon says, that platform is powerful, and we should be paying attention to how they’re using it to facilitate conversation and change. There’s room for both of those stories, and as we get closer to inauguration, I imagine we’ll have to learn how to balance them even more.
Dixon voices everything that theatre should strive for and even extends an offer that mirrors the Trump seat George Takei saved at Allegiance. “We welcome Donald Trump here at Hamilton,” the actor says, “I think the power of the show and the way we tell it is undeniable. I think it’s important for everyone to see a show like ours.”
(via Variety, Featured Image via CBS)
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