Friday, September 21, 2018
Stage

'Hamilton' actor on the cast's speech for Pence: 'There's nothing to apologize for' (w/ video)

The "Hamilton" actor who delivered the Broadway show's viral message to Vice President-elect Mike Pence after a performance Friday said there is "nothing to apologize for" in response to President-elect Donald Trump's many tweets demanding one from what he deemed a "very rude" cast of an "overrated" show.

Speaking on "CBS This Morning" on Monday, Brandon Victor Dixon - who plays Aaron Burr in the musical - said that he felt the popular musical was a platform through which they could deliver a plea for understanding and inclusion after a divisive presidential election.

"Art is meant to bring people together. It's meant to raise consciousness," Dixon said. "And when you have a platform like that - I called ⅛show producer⅜ Jeffrey Seller after the show and said I applaud you all for not throwing away your shot, for taking a moment to spread a message of love, to spread a message of unity. We're not here to boo. We're here to cheer each other on."

Dixon told "CBS This Morning" hosts he received a call from the producers of "Hamilton" about an hour before Friday's performance started, asking if he would be willing to speak on behalf of the show.

"I'm not sure why they decided to ask me, but I was happy to," Dixon said. "I was honored to represent our cast in our show in that way."

After the show, several dozen of the musical's cast members zeroed in on Pence during their curtain call. Still dressed as Burr, Dixon stepped forth and cut through the applause.

"You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening," he said to audience laughter. "And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There's nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There's nothing to boo here. We're all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out."

As he pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket, Dixon encouraged people to record and share what he was about to say "because this message needs to be spread far and wide."

"Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at 'Hamilton: An American Musical.' We really do," Dixon said to further applause. "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. 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."

Twitter exploded late Friday night over the "Hamilton" cast's message, with responses that cleaved into two camps: Those who cheered the cast for voicing their concerns so directly and those who found the exchange inappropriate.

In the latter camp was President-elect Donald Trump, who said that the cast members had "harassed" Pence with "cameras blazing" and demanded they apologize.

"The Theater must always be a safe and special place," Trump tweeted as a follow-up. "The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!"

Trump would continue to tweet about the "Hamilton" incident into the next day, insisting at 6:22 a.m. Sunday that the cast and producers of the show, "which I hear is highly overrated," should apologize to Pence.

On Twitter, some Trump supporters called for a boycott of the musical. During the Saturday evening performance of "Hamilton" in Chicago, one audience member reportedly became so upset at an oft-applauded line in the musical - "Immigrants, we get the job done!" - that he began berating those near him with profanities, before fully erupting two songs later.

"We won. You Lost. Get over it. (Expletive) you," the man, identified as 56-year-old John Palmer, yelled during "Dear Theodosia," a tender number about a father's unconditional love for his newborn child. Palmer was arrested on a misdemeanor charge, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

On Monday, "CBS This Morning" host Gayle King recounted the Chicago incident and asked Dixon whether he feared he had set a precedent for similar interruptions during "Hamilton" or other productions.

"No, and I'll tell you that is certainly not the first time nor will it be the last that somebody went into a theater and began to act inappropriately or stand up and interrupt the show," Dixon said.

Over the weekend, Dixon had initially responded to Trump on Twitter, saying that conversation did not amount to harassment and that he appreciated that Pence stopped to listen.

Trump tweeted, "Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen!"

Dixon tweeted, "realDonaldTrump conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate mike—pence for stopping to listen."

Dixon reiterated that on "CBS This Morning" and extended an invitation for Trump to see the show.

"We welcome Donald Trump here at 'Hamilton,' " Dixon said. "Because I think the power of our show and the way we tell it is undeniable. I think it's important for everybody to see a show like ours."

Trump's tweets - in their tone and substance - were sharply different from those of Pence on the incident.

Speaking to "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace, Pence acknowledged that he was greeted by a mix of boos and cheers when he arrived at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City with his daughter and her cousins.

"I nudged my kids and reminded them that's what freedom sounds like," Pence said.

The vice president-elect said he was not offended by the cast's message and that he "really enjoyed the show."

"I did hear what was said from the stage, and I can tell you, I wasn't offended by what was said," Pence told Wallace on Sunday. "I'll leave to others whether that was the appropriate venue to say it."

He added that he wanted to address the cast's message, which a "Hamilton" publicist said was composed collectively by show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, producer Jeffrey Seller and Dixon, "with input from members of the company."

"I know this is a very disappointing time for people that did not see their candidate win in this national election. I know this is a very anxious time for some people," Pence said. "And I just want to reassure people that what President-elect Donald Trump said on election night, he absolutely meant from the bottom of his heart. He is preparing to be the president of all of the people of the United States of America."

Miranda tweeted, "Proud of HamiltonMusical. Proud of BrandonVDixon, for leading with love. And proud to remind you that ALL are welcome at the theater."

"Hamilton" is a musical about the rise of Alexander Hamilton from his humble beginnings as an orphan and an immigrant to become one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Inspired by historian Ron Chernow's biography, the show uses Hamilton's life to relay the complicated, fraught story of the American Revolution. The musical is, among many things, about the difficulty of independent governance and about the Founding Fathers' struggle to establish a democracy, despite their human flaws and differences. It is all told through a mix of hip-hop, R&B, rap and pop songs.

Since its Broadway debut, "Hamilton" has attracted numerous celebrities and politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Hillary Clinton, Ivanka Trump and Richard B. Cheney. (Lynne Cheney, who is a historian, told the New York Times that she and her husband loved the show: "The music was terrific. . . . It's a play about human beings who achieved greatly.")

In the past year, however, the musical has become increasingly politicized. The Obamas have been vocal and unabashed fans of the musical, as well as Miranda's body of work. In October, Miranda and actress Renée Elise Goldsberry rewrote the lyrics to "Ten Duel Commandments" and performed the rap in support of Clinton at a fundraiser for the Democratic presidential nominee.

The vice president-elect told Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" that he could be counted among the musical's new fans.

"'Hamilton' is just an incredible production, incredibly talented people. And it was a real joy to be there," Pence said.

"Chris, if you haven't seen the show, go to see it," he told the host. "It is a great, great show."

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