On Friday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Hamilton,” triggering a firestorm. First, Pence was greeted by both cheers and boos upon his arrival at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York. After the show, the famously diverse cast of “Hamilton” paused during its curtain call to deliver a message to Pence.
“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, sir,” said Brandon Victor Dixen, the actor who portrays Aaron Burr, to raucous applause. “But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”
Pence reportedly left the auditorium before Dixon finished speaking, but a show spokesman told the Associated Press that the vice president-elect stood in the hallway and heard the full message.
Social media accounts for “Hamilton” posted the address online shortly after the end of the show, and videos of Dixon’s speech soon went viral, getting shared tens of thousands of times.
By Saturday morning, #NameAPenceMusical and #BoycottHamilton were both trending on Twitter. President-elect Donald Trump, who has taken to Twitter 35 times since Election Day, expended two tweets Saturday morning criticizing “Hamilton.” He said that the cast had “harassed” Pence with “cameras blazing” and demanded an apology.
The responses were, well, nonstop.
Some cheered the cast for voicing their concerns so directly.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) responded to Trump and said “the reality is that LGBTQ people, people of color, women and others have faced harassment since the election.”
That isn't harassment. The reality is that LGBTQ people, people of color, women and others have faced harassment since the election.— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) November 19, 2016
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been on high alert since Trump won the presidency last week, also chimed in on Twitter, saying Americans did not need to apologize — “not even to presidents or vice presidents” — when lawfully exercising their constitutional rights.
“President-elect Trump needs a refresher on his high school civics class,” ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero told The Washington Post in an email. “… The First Amendment is a cornerstone of our democracy, and Democratic and Republican presidents alike have understood that freedom of speech makes our country stronger — even if it sometimes make our leaders uncomfortable. The apology should instead come from President-elect Trump for calling into question the appropriateness of the Hamilton cast’s statements.”
Still others found the incident “rude” and argued that the theater was not an appropriate place — the modern-day equivalent of crying out, “For shame!” (Peter Marks, theater critic for The Post, offered his take on that argument.)
Many of Trump’s top supporters — including a press aide, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke — joined the chorus of those who derided the cast’s speech.
The arrogance and hostility of the Hamilton cast to the Vice President elect ( a guest at the theater) is a reminder the left still fights.— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) November 19, 2016
As Trump supporters continued to call for boycotts of “Hamilton,” many questioned if it was even possible to “boycott” a show for which tickets are notoriously expensive and difficult to obtain.
Still others enthusiastically supported of the “Hamilton” boycott — if only because it would finally allow them to watch the show. Maybe.
Finally, there were, naturally, a handful of “Hamilton”-related Joe Biden memes that cropped up to join the Twitter fray.
Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton” is a musical about the rise of Alexander Hamilton, from his humble beginnings as an orphan and an immigrant to Founding Father. One of the show’s oft-touted lyrics — “Immigrants, we get the job done!” — attracted a long standing ovation in the middle of Friday’s show, according to theatergoers who were in the room where it happened.
“Hamilton” has been an overwhelming hit since it debuted on Broadway last August, winning 11 Tony Awards in June, including for best musical. Although many original cast members have since left the show, its popularity has remained unfettered — to the point where the only way to nab tickets are to enter a lottery or to pay hundreds of dollars on the resale market.
It is unclear how Pence gained entrance to Friday’s performance; spokespersons for the Trump transition team did not immediately respond to questions by email Saturday.