As a performance of the mega-hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” ended, the actor who played Aaron Burr, Brandon Victor Dixon, singled out Vice-President Elect Mike Pence, who was among the audience.
He thanked him for attending and then began a scripted lecture, or rather, an ambush:
“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. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
The rest of the audience, many of whom had booed Pence when he arrived to see the show, cheered. Of course they did. They would have probably cheered if Dixon threw a tomato at Pence too.
I have no patience with this. I was an artistic director of a professional theater company in the D.C. area for 20 years. If this happened at my theater, I would fire the actor and apologize to the audience member and the audience itself. This is unprofessional, unfair and unethical in many ways:
It is wrong to single out any audience member during a performance. In a tweet, Donald Trump called it harassment. He is correct. believe it or not, he is sometimes.
It is wrong to use a show as a political platform for the individuals in that show. The audience didn’t pay for that. This is hijacking a performance. Inexcusable.
It is wrong to abuse a celebrity or elected official who is taking advantage of his right as an American to purchase a ticket and experience entertainment like any other American. This conduct flunks the Golden Rule and Kant: if every cast did this, leaders and elected officials couldn’t risk going to the theater. You want elected officials and leaders to see “Hamilton.” They need to see Hamilton, because it will help them understand the cultural eddies in the society they are serving. They won’t come, however, if they fear being embarrassed and ambushed.
It is wrong for performers to presume that the fact that they are performing for an elected official entitles them to abuse that position to press a partisan or personal agenda.
Of course, it is wrong—rude, course, boorish, unfair and disrespectful—to boo anyone who attends any public event.
After Trump sent his tweet, Dixon tweeted back,
“@realDonaldTrump conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate @mike_pence for stopping to listen.”
Haranguing a captive audience IS harassment, however, and that’s what this was. Conversations are voluntarily entered into by all participants. If an actor singles me out by name in public and pronounces a manifesto—and don’t tell me it wasn’t an unreasonable statement, for it doesn’t matter: making it was unreasonable—that’s no “conversation.” The cast was lucky Pence is a cooler head than I am, because, believe me, if an actor addressed me like that, they are getting an earful back. I’ll accept that invitation to hi-jack the show, thanks. You and I know the only reason the cast pulled this stunt was because it knew it wouldn’t get a rebuttal from Pence. they assumed they were pulling a fete accompli.
This is just more self-indicting unethical conduct from progressives. I know by the last couple weeks the rationalizations on the list that will be appealed to to justify it, the major ones being, appropriately for “Hamilton,” #28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times, ” and #31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.” Now the arrogance and bias of Trump’s political foes is infecting the theater; it’s already spread to cable TV news, op-ed pages and social media.
I wonder where it will strike next.