CMU School of Drama

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

American Theatre Artists: Don’t Throw Away Your Shot

AMERICAN THEATRE: On Friday night, Vice President-Elect Mike Pence walked into the Richard Rodgers Theatre for a performance of Hamilton and was booed by the audience. These were the boos heard round the world, including by President-Elect Donald Trump, who tweeted multiple times about the incident

9 comments:

Alex Kaplan said...

I find this article to be rather inspiring. As theatre artists, we can do so much to fight back against the racism and bigotry that threatens to take over our society. Whether it’s speaking from on stage after curtain call, as Brandon Dixon of Hamilton did last week, or just subtly try and influence our community for the better, we can all play a part in what’s to come. I think what both Hamilton and Oregon Shakespeare Festival did was mature and showed that we can take the high road by trying to be respectful in when we speak our opinion. I am definitely excited to see the activism that theatre will bring to the table in the next few months and years. It is up to us as artists to provide the cultural backdrop to our society, which I hope will always be painted with love and tolerance for others.

Rebecca Meckler said...

Like the author of this article, I don’t think that it was inappropriate for the cast of Hamilton to speak after the performance. However, I don’t think the cast imagined the reaction to their speech by Donald Trump and some of his supporters. Nevertheless, Mike Pence in interviews following the event did not seemed insulted or to think the cast acted inappropriately. I think that most people if they were given the opportunity to speak out would shy away from it and choose to be silent. However the cast stood up and spoke their mind, which is a trait that we should admire. This is a moment where theater and activism combined. Though it can be hard to see where to draw the line, I think the cast of Hamilton did something great when the choose to speak. I may have felt differently is they cast had been rude or refused to perform, but with the choice they made I can’t help but admire it.

John Yoerger said...

I think this article has beautifully elaborated on something more and more theatres need to do. Understandably, there are some regions that cannot do this due to major demographics, but I think people generally look towards theatre for change and change that is to come starts in part at the theatre. Opening up the idea of having gender inclusive bathrooms is one step that I think is very important. I also feel it is something that Carnegie Mellon should work on revising to be inclusive of all students. It is similar to the idea of offering a hate-free environment. I don't think any theatre should not have a standard of expectations policy for their audience members and the community. This goes back to what I said about the guy who quit Second City. They need to provide rules for the audience and remove audience members who do not follow those rules. Another thing the article mentioned that I really enjoyed was the idea that theatres should be working within the community to discuss these issues. I think outreach is a very important part of theatre work, even within the larger regional or even broadway houses.

Mary Frances Candies said...

I think this article is very important as it shows ways in which theaters can take action. A lot of articles that I have read post-election regarding the purpose of theatre have always been rather fluffy. The articles have all been rather inspiring, but they do not give advice, nor show examples, of ways in which theaters can combat discrimination. I agree with the author that the cast of Hamilton had a right to speak up. In directing class we always talk about using our "platform" to get our, or others', voice(s) across. I think the cast of Hamilton simply used their platform to get their views and opinions across.
This article is very reminiscent of the one that talked about the guy quitting Second City. I wonder how his situation would have been different if Second City stood up for its employees? I loved the statement that Los Angeles Theater Center put up about its policy against discrimination. I think that that is a perfect example of what we can do as theatre artists to create a safe environment.

Sarah Battaglia said...

Theater has always been a place where people who were not wanted outside or did not feel like they belonged could come and be free. I take pride in the fact that this is still very much true. I stayed pretty silent when all of the stuff about Mike Pence and Hamilton was blowing up on my Facebook feed and all over the news. A lot of my friends were saying exactly what I would have said but in a more eloquent way so I just let it go, but after a few weeks of thinking about it my opinion is that you should never, in any setting, stop standing up for what it right. Whether that be at your dinner table in a classroom or in a Broadway theater. It is always your responsibility to do the right thing and to teach people you side of the story even if they don't deserve it (in the case of Pence). I am happy and proud the cast of Hamilton did what they did because it showed the world that we as a community are not going to stop talking about what the right thing is, and we are not going to stop having the difficult conversations. Theater is the perfect way to say something you maybe can't in real life, and it's an extraordinary way to make your voice heard among millions of people. It's our responsibility to keep the conversation going, even when the person we are speaking to doesn't want to hear it.

Megan Jones said...

The last few weeks have been a very tense and honestly scary time, as it seems like people have become a lot vocal about their racism and homophobia. It's a very uneasy time to be in the United States, but the thing that has gotten me through this time has been the support of the theatre community both at school and at home. Marching with my fellow students the day after the election (and later with the greater Pittsburgh community), reflections at school, and conversations with my friends over break about the changes they're trying to make has been very assuring that unity will bring change. Seeing that larger companies are now stepping forward as safe spaces and to offer support to their artists is also very encouraging. Now more than ever is the time to make sure that out voices are being heard and that the work that we're doing matters. The next four years aren't going to be easy, but staying silent is no longer an option.

Zak Biggins said...

Hamilton continues to break barriers and redefine the role of this production with every performance. As artists, in my opinion, we have to comment on whats occurring socially or politically in the best way we know how. I believe thats why we're doing what we're doing. A song is placed in a musical because the actor needs to convey plot in a new medium- dialogue won't do it anymore- that's why an actor sings. For the President-Elect to criticize the cast on their comments to Mike Pence is essentially saying that artists do not have a place or a voice in society outside of their art. This is whats wrong with our democracy. No one should tell any single person what they can or can't say or how they can or can't react to an event (or election cycle) such as the ones we've seen over the last two years. A wise woman once said we are “stronger together” and that “we are a country where people of all backgrounds, all nations of origin, all languages, and all religions can make a home.” I pray that the President- Elect chooses to make compassionate and intelligent decisions on behalf of this nation of immigrants and that the artists keep on speaking out.

Nick waddington said...

Hamilton is in my opinion a fantastic musical that is constantly breaking barriers, shattering expectations. And pushing the envelope with every new performance. This diverse group of people stand on the stage and pour their hearts into the portrayal if our nation's birth. I think, personally, that theater should be ano artform used for change, and that we as citizens have the right and the responsibility to stand up and speak out. So for the president elect to criticize the cast of hamilton and tell them that they don't have that right, is to me a message that says the arts are not valid or welcome in society. And yet freedom of speech and expression happens to be the first ammendment to the bill of rights. Even though some of America may not want to hear what we, and hamilton, have to say, it is our duty, our responsibility as artists, to make sure our voices are heard and amplify those voices that are hushed in the wake of this election cycle.

Emily Lawrence said...

I am huge fan of Hamilton and the fact that it completely broke down walls of race continues to amaze me every day. I remember when the show first became a hit, many people criticized the casting as the founding fathers were not all cast as white men. The fact that there are so many races on the stage with so many different stories is what this show stands for. That is also why I think it was so important that the cast of Hamilton decided to say something to the vice president. Many people are concerned with how Trump and Pence are going to handle race and religion and orientation and many other issues, and I think this cry for acceptance was not only okay but also necessary. I also think that Trump needs to remember that the cast of Hamilton did not boo Pence, it was the audience. Productions have no say over how the audience reacts to the show, so how are they expected to control what they do before the show even starts. I am glad this article pointed out that Pence has been booed elsewhere and that the theater is not the cause of "hatred", which is not close to what that was. Freedom of speech is a huge law that the United States is based on, and theater, I believe, is one of the prime ways that people can say what they believe. Yes, it is an open and accepting place, but it is also a place in which ideas and people are challenged every day.

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