The Last Word On The “Hamilton” Cast’s Harassment Of Mike Pence

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In the end, after several posts and a large number of comments about this incident, I am convinced that, more than anything, it shows how little the American public, even well-educated, culturally-engaged members of the public, and even participants in the entertainment profession understand and respect the importance of live theater.

This, at least, is no surprise. The New York Times recently reported that a survey had revealed that symphony orchestras no longer are viable without charity: fewer and fewer, mostly aging, patrons bother to attend concerts any more. Live theater is heading down the same path, probably irreversibly. Theater will never hit rock bottom, of course; it will always be possible to put on a show like Judy and Mickey, and live theater can exist as long as there is a single talented performer, a street corner, and a crowd. But theater is dying as something relevant to society, and that is a tragedy. Each generation goes to live theater events less and less. I have not seen the up-dated figures, but in the Nineties a study showed that Americans under 30 were more likely to have called a phone psychic at least once in the past year than to have attended a single live theater performance in their entire existence on earth.

The role of theater in society has  been extolled by Aristotle and social critics through the centuries as a unique and important community activity in which citizens of all social strata engage in the ancient ritual of sitting together in a darkened theater, and not only experience the events being portrayed on stage but experience it communally, hearing and feeling the reaction of others. Now that social force has receded to the vanishing point. A vacuum has taken its place. Movies seldom explore serious issues any more, and younger audiences have increasingly retreated to watching films online, and often alone. The potentially life-altering experience that is being lost is hard to describe when someone hasn’t experienced it. The power of the medium to communicate ideas and concepts vividly and to change minds and lives is unmatched, and unmatchable. I have seen it. I have experienced it. I have even helped make it happen.

The department store mogul Bernard Gimbel attended an early performance of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” on Broadway in 1949. The plight of Willy Loman, an aging traveling salesman being pressured out of the only employment he had ever known, so shattered Gimbel’s world view that he couldn’t sleep. The next day, he called his managers together and told them and all of his stores that no over-age employee was to be fired. Alfred C. Fuller of the Fuller Brush company asked Miller to dinner to seek his guidance on how to  keep his Fuller Brush salesmen from quitting. That’s power. That’s wonderful. We should want influential people, elected officials, business owners, policy-makers, bankers, investors and corporate executives to see that kind of theater. In today’s New York Times, Ben Brantley, the Times drama critic, explains…
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Ethics Hero: Stevie Van Zandt

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There is at least one liberal, Donald Trump-hating celebrity performer who has the integrity to insist that wrongful conduct is still wrongful regardless of the target.

Bruce Springstein guitarist Stevie Van Zandt, an inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and a memorable actor on “The Sopranos”), used a series of tweets to criticize the cast of the musical “Hamilton” for targeting Vice-President Elect Mike Pence  from the stage when Pence was in the show’s audience. Van Zandt wrote:

“Lin-Manuel is a genius. He has created the greatest play since West Side Story. He is also a role model. This sets a terrible precedent…When artists perform the venue becomes your home. The audience are your guests. It is nothing short of the same bullying tactic[s] we rightly have criticized Trump for in the past. It’s taking unfair advantage of someone who thought they were a protected guest in your home…There never has been a more outspoken politically active artist than me. Everyone who is sane disagrees with [Pence’s] policies…He was their guest. You protect your guests. Don’t embarrass them.”

Boy, just wait, Stevie: now you’ll get all the good progressives explaining to you that Pence had it coming, that he doesn’t deserve to be treated like a guest, that these vile Republicans should be treated like they will treat others, that these are not ordinary times, that ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now, that the cast was nice about it (actually, I just saw the video, and they weren’t nice at all; they were strident and  confrontational), that everybody does it, that the ends justified the means, on and on. Just check the “Hamilton” defenders’ excuses on the threads here and here.

Van Zandt is 100% correct, of course, and courageous to oppose the approved unethical cant from the Left.  Unfortunately, most of his ideological mates have decided that standards of decency, respect, fairness and professionalism were suspended by an election result they disagreed with.

“Hamilton” Ethics Follow-Up: Somewhere In The Multi-Verse, I Am In The Audience At “Hamilton” When The Cast Decides To Abuse Its Position And The Audience’s Trust By Harassing Mike Pence, And This Happens…

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Luckily, I had been tipped off by a friend in the production regarding what had been planned.

As Brandon Victor Dixon stepped forward and called out Pence, thanking him for attending, and then began his planned statement with We hope you will hear us out. We, sir…, I stood up from my seat in the center of the fourth row, orchestra. I have a very loud voice. I said,

“Excuse me, Mr. Burr, is the show over? Or is this part of the performance?”

“It’s not part of the show, no…now, Mr. Pence…”

“That means we all can leave, right? We aren’t all being held captive while you lecture us, just Mike Pence? Is that what’s happening?”

“Well..I…Yes, yes, you are free to leave. This statement is for the Vice-President Elect. Now, if you’d let me finish…”

“Was he aware that you were going to single him out like this? If not, does that mean that every other audience member that buys a ticket to “Hamilton”—great show, by the way, though I only caught about half the words—should be ready to be singled out and told how to do their jobs by you actors? Are you pleased when you’re grocery shopping or at Home Depot or going to see a movie when the staff there recognizes you and  singles you out and tells you how to perform while everyone else stares and listens? I know that Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn take swings at people who do thing like that in the street…”

“No, this is for the Vice-President Elect only! Now if you’d just sit down…”

“I thought you said I could go!”

“You can go! Get lost! We’re trying to speak to the Vice-President elect…”
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Mike Pence Goes To “Hamilton”

(Psst...PLAYING political leaders doesn't actually give you any special insight into political leadership...)

(Psst…PLAYING political leaders doesn’t actually give you any special insight into political leadership…)

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: Continue reading

Hey Uber: Shut Up And Drive.

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Uber, the transportation networking company, now subjects customers seeking to book a ride to a directive calling on them to think about gun violence before they continue the process. When users open the Uber app, they see a message reading, “Our hearts go out to the victims of this week’s terrible gun violence….As we move around our cities this weekend, let’s take a moment to think about what we can do to help.”  Thusly:

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Okay, here’s what Uber can do to help. Stop referring to law enforcement action, even if it’s excessive, as “gun violence.” Stop referring to racially motivated hits, like the murder of the Dallas police officers, as “gun violence,” as if in some alternate universe where there are no guns, Micah Johnson would have hurled spitballs at the officers to show his contempt. In fact, Uber can shut up entirely.

And stop suggesting that the shooting of two individuals in a police confrontation is equivilent to the assassination of five police officers. How despicable.

We saw this kind of arrogant, obnoxious abuse of the customer/service relationship when Starbucks decided it was appropriate to challenge its customers to have dialogue with 20-something barristas about race. Uber knows how to get me to my destination, supposedly. It has no more expertise regarding social and law enforcement policies than my mail carrier, and if he tells me to take a minute to think about gun violence before I can get my mail, I’m telling him to go to hell.

Uber is showing disrespect for its customers and its customers’ time. The company has no right to rob me of a single moment to force-feed me its anti-gun chairman’s political views, and I would say the same if they were pro-gun sentiments. It’s unethical to make me a captive audience for ten minutes, five minutes, a minute or a second. I’m calling for a ride, not indoctrination, not presumptuous attempted enlightenment, not to be told to save the whales, reduce my carbon foot print, vote for Hillary, or think about gun violence.  Continue reading