Nov 22, 2016 by



hamiltontrumpAlexander Hamilton (Image: Marion Doss)

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Hamilton, the stunning biographical musical that won 11 Tony Awards in 2016 and swept just about every other major theater award in 2016, is the current blockbuster on Broadway. The sold-out production is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the script, lyrics and musical score. Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, dazzlingly transforms an account of Alexander Hamilton’s life — particularly around the time of the US revolution — into a multicultural production with a vibrant hip hop-based musical score.

Miranda largely adhered to historical accuracy — Hamilton is a hero to modern Federalists, such as the late Antonin Scalia — but by selecting a cast largely comprised of people of color, he recreated the story in a new light. Hamilton’s cast and the way the narrative is interpreted point toward the possibility of an inclusive democracy. So does the score, which incorporates the rhythms of a diverse United States. It’s a soundtrack that makes clear the contributions made to the US’s musical legacy by the people who were marginalized by this country’s white founders.

This aspect of Hamilton became an issue when a casting call was issued for non-white actors, as the production was preparing for its first non-New York cast. (The musical is now playing in Chicago.) The right wing promptly started crying crocodile tears over “discrimination.” A Huffington Post post article stated:

But what makes Hamilton work so well is the fact that it’s a commentary on America’s past through the prism of America’s present, its future. It works because the historically white, male founding fathers are being played by a predominantly non-white cast of blacks and Latinos (there are alsoplans to cast women in the roles of men).

Now, what would the musical look like if Alexander Hamilton wasn’t played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Aaron Burr wasn’t played by Leslie Odom, Jr, but instead the characters were played by two capable, talented white actors? The show would likely still be entertaining, but the context and the conversation would change. It’s like suggesting that “For Colored Girls…” or “The Color Purple” have an all-white cast. It’s a completely different show.

The same article notes, “And if you think about it, Hamilton is perhaps as colorblind as castings come — when else would black and Latino actors get to play the Founding Fathers?”

The right-wing whining hasn’t disappeared, though. Currently, Trump supporters are attempting to wage a Twitter war — instigated by Trump himself — against the Hamilton cast. This comes, conveniently, at a time when Trump is no doubt eager to draw attention away from coverage of his payment of a $25 million settlement to end the Trump University fraud case. The Hamilton actors, having been informed that Vice President-elect Mike Pence was in the audience, delivered some tactful remarks reminding the vice president of the vibrant diversity of America. In response to this appropriate and respectful learning moment, Trump tweeted, according to CNN:

“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!”

In another, he said: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

Meanwhile, at a performance of Hamilton in Chicago this week, a drunken Trumpster sloshed wine on some theatergoers — including a child — and shouted out insults against those opposed to Trump. He was arrested, but his attorney claims that the audience members were responsible for provoking his client, John Palmer, after he spilled his wine and started cursing those who oppose Trump. According to Palmer’s attorney, Jonathan Feldman, as reported in The Chicago Tribune:

“I’m not sure anyone else’s family was affected besides Mr. Palmer’s family,” Feldman said. “It’s my understanding that prior to Mr. Palmer defending himself in the audience, other members of the audience had adequately antagonized and provoked a political viewpoint that was not in defense of our president-elect.”

However, one theater attendee witnessed Palmer’s “…obscenities and [Palmer] mentioned Democrats, then ‘pulled his hands into tight fists … attempting to initiate a physical fight at the edge of the balcony during the show.'”

Another theatergoer “said he shot video showing a man going on a profanity-laced tirade in the theater hallway and threatening to punch a security guard who was detaining him.”

It’s not just that Trump and the Trumpsters are always attempting to justify oppression of marginalized people while claiming they, white men, are the aggrieved parties. The reason Hamilton is disturbing to them is that its cast, primarily comprised of actors of color, challenges white privilege right before their eyes. Notably, the play does not challenge all aspects of white supremacy; for example, it erases the genocide of Indigenous peoples, which was, of course, a formative aspect of the US’s violent founding. However, the musical does convey that the US is a diverse place, and has always been a diverse place. Hamilton encourages its audience to think critically about whiteness and history, and that is the last thing Trump supporters want to do.

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