‘Hamilton’ and its post-show message

Kellie Nock

After a showing of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” on Nov. 18 – which Vice President-elect Mike Pence was attending – the cast delivered a message directly to Pence after curtain call. They urged him to consider all Americans during his and President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

This stirred a reaction from the public, as well as Trump.

While Trump admonished the cast for creating an unsafe space in the theatre, many theatre students and professionals agree the theatre doesn’t always have to be a safe space.

“I think there are three issues that sort of crop up around this,” said Dan Nadon, a theatre studies professor. “The first is what is the purpose of theatre … and sometimes it is to create a safe space or fun environment for people to come and sit and just enjoy. But there’s also a rich tradition of theatre as an implementation of social change, of combatting oppression, of confronting authority.”

Nadon teaches classes in theatre and social change, as well as LGBTQ theatre.

“So, the theatre being a place to confront ideas, these actors made the decision to do that — even though it wasn’t appropriate — but because they felt they needed to have their voice heard,” Nadon said. “Sometimes you don’t necessarily choose an appropriate route when you have something to say and no one is saying it on your behalf. You have to speak up and speak out, and that’s what I think they did. Appropriate or not, they got that message across.”

The ‘Hamilton’ cast’s message doesn’t directly address Pence’s past policies, but the play’s director and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is politically outspoken on social media about these issues.

“I mean, the show ‘Hamilton’ is a diverse group of actors and they basically were explaining to … Pence what he just saw,” said John Lagucki, a junior theatre studies major. “A diverse group of Americans … want (Pence and) … Trump to basically be the president for all Americans because it’s like, this is a great example of what all Americans look like.”

Lagucki played a role in “Into the Woods,” a musical that ran a few weeks ago at Kent State. He said he was surprised at how much the results of the election — which happened right in the middle of the show’s run — affected the way they performed the show.

“I feel like the cast of ‘Hamilton’ felt the same way that we did about ‘Into the Woods.’ That theatre is a commentary on social change, and there’s a voice within Hamilton that needed to be said right after the election,” Lagucki said.

Kyle Burnett, senior theatre studies major and ‘Hamilton’ fan, saw the show last year and has a tattoo of “Wait for It” a song featured in the show. He considered the message to be poignant, necessary and expressed pride in the cast.

“An actor’s job is to tell the story to its full potential … with ‘Hamilton,’ it tells the story of yesterday’s America with the people of today,” Burnett said. “And the people of today are scared of what’s to come from Trump’s presidency because of what he has said in interviews and what Pence has done in Indiana with the conversion therapy, and with the people that we see him bring on to his cabinet.”

While it may be scary for some, different political climates often inspire change in theatre, Nadon said.

“I think that theatre comes in many forms, so the balance of those forms in terms of importance might shift a little bit, particularly with regard to theatre and social justice,” Nadon said. “Theatre and social justice is not meant to attack people or ideas, but rather to resist particular policies that might be considered to be harmful to one group or another.”

Whether the work are plays pertaining to the election itself or more symbolic of the events that will transpire in the upcoming years under Trump, theatre may be experiencing shifts and changes as the time comes.

“Whether it be in New York or here in Kent State, people are gonna write pieces talking about their feelings not only about the election, but about how scared they are about what they’ve seen from people and about the diversity in America,” Burnett said. “So all I can say is that the theatre that’s going to be made, whether or not we do more politically-charged shows already written or we create more work that’s gonna be fascinating, and it’s going to be beautiful, truthful, inspiring work.”

Kellie Nock is the arts reporter, contact her at [email protected].