For once I find myself more or less in agreement with the right-wing columnists whom I normally dismiss as nutters.
What upset them was that Vice President-elect Mike Pence, attending a Broadway theatre last week, was booed by the audience as he was taking his seat, and after the show – Hamilton, a hip-hop musical – was subjected to a lecture from a leading member of the cast.
From the stage, after the curtain-call, actor Brandon Victor Dixon told Pence: “We, sir, are the diverse America who are (sic) 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 this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”
The scribblers of the right were predictably outraged, ranting about the unmitigated gall of the ‘luvvies’ of the left. So, less predictably, was I, even though the sentiments expressed might have come from my own lips.
Not outraged, in truth, just mildly irritated. Outrage I save for more serious offences.
Even so, this turning of the stage into a political platform, I can’t help thinking, could become a regular occurrence, with actors spouting political propaganda at every opportunity, whenever some cause celebre catches their fancy – rail fare increases, perhaps, or the shortage of maternity wings in hospitals.
I would find this deplorable. I go to the theatre to see a performance, not to listen to a political lecture, and when the performance is over part of the pleasure is to mull over what I’ve seen, and discuss with my wife, or companion, whether I liked it or not, and why. I have no desire to be distracted or stimulated by some ancillary outburst of political propaganda. The news media provide that service every day these days. In short, I have no more interest in the political prejudices of the players than I have in their sexual predilections or their diets.
If Mr. Dixon had taken the microphone to launch an appeal to save the theatre from demolition, or any other particular and relevant cause, I could go along with it. But this was a broad-based political message, representing a liberal point of view and directed against an incoming conservative administration. That almost goes without saying – which leaves me wondering what the audience reaction might have been if it had been the other way round.
And I’m curious about the mechanics of the Hamilton episode – how this whole business of hectoring the audience works. Did theatre management approve it, or even know about it in advance? Did Mr Dixon speak for the entire cast of Hamilton? Obviously there must have been a meeting to decide on his peroration because the entire cast, or what I assume to be the entire cast, stood alongside him as he delivered it. Does that mean that the decision was carried unanimously? Or was it simply by a majority vote? And if the latter, did the minority agree to stay quiet? And what would have happened if, say, one cast member had insisted on equal time? Would that have been allowed?
I have not read whether Mr. Dixon was applauded or whether he, too, was booed by some members of the audience.
This is not a topic that arouses strong emotions, but I would like the theatres to follow the advice of my handyman, who, whenever someone utters something silly or disagreeable, mutters “leave it out, mate, leave it out”.