Vice President-Elect MIke Pence goes to see Hamilton. He gets booed by the audience on his way to his seat. One of the cast members (playing a former Vice President) delivers a curtain speech co-written by the playwright, director, and producer. President-Elect Donald Trump tweet the cast was being "rude" and should "apologize." Other people on Twitter start getting pretty angry about the cast members of Hamilton. Calling for people to #boycottHamilton. (Please, as if they could get tickets in the first place.) Saying that theater is a place to escape for a bit.
Those are the facts.
But here's the deal: going to the theater is not watching The Bachelor. It's not escapism.
You're Not Escaping Anything At The Theater
When I went to NYU, I was often reminded that theater is not a safe place. And that while you are trying to create it many people will want to sanitize it. To take the subversive lyrics out. Or cut the edgy pieces out of the show. To make it cleaner. And it's important to keep them in.
Theater is supposed to make you feel a little uncomfortable. It's supposed to make you pay attention and engage. It's ART!
Non theater goers will tell you that you go to the theater to escape. But here's the deal, those of us who go to see shows, who have been in them, and who make them? We know better. We know that even in the Cats revivals and Wicked juggernauts there is always a little something political in there. Some actor on that stage is finding a lyric to interpret in a new way for this specific time.
And some audience member is picking up on it.
The Astor Place Riots and Today's White Supremacists
So that night as people were booing Mr. Pence and other people were filming people booing Mike Pence, and other people were tweeting people recording the booing, I couldn't help but think back to the Astor Place Riots. A kernel of something from my Theater History days that I knew had something to do with a fight in a theater.
When I was in college I remember thinking a riot breaking out in a theater was absurd. But now i see that's in a country that is so sure it's way of life is right and needs to be fiercely protected, I absolutely see it happening. So I looked up what the Astor Place Riots were about:
Immigrants and nativists pitted against one another? Sounds pretty heavy. Maybe I should go get a ticket to something to shut off my brain for a bit.