Hamilton shows that the impact of the arts has never been higher
Hamilton: An American Musical hit the headlines on Friday when Vice President Elect of the United States, Mike Pence, was booed by the audience as he attended the Broadway show. He was also addressed directly by the cast following the performance, who called upon the politician to “protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, [and] defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.” It was a strong public declaration from an emerging Broadway powerhouse that reminds us of the power that theatre can provide.
Breaking down the fourth wall
Breaking down the fourth wall between cast and audience has become a familiar tradition in modern theatre. Often, particularly in smaller venues, plays exploring serious social issues will provide cast Q&As following performances to allow audience and cast members to discuss key themes in greater detail. On Friday night, Hamilton didn’t just break down the fourth wall between cast and consumer, it reached right into the heart of US politics and put itself, and its agenda, front row centre.
Hailed as a hip hop musical that celebrates diversity and inclusivity, the Production’s unifying message seems at odds with an increasingly right-wing US political landscape. And here’s the clever part: by recognising that Mike Pence and the Trump regime currently have a spotlight on them even greater that of the Show’s own, the cast have placed a popular stage production into mainstream American media and ensured that their agenda will be heard. From stage to spotlight, this was a masterstroke in joining-up multiple elements of the modern media.
All the way to the Whitehouse
The amplification of this message was helped by Donald Trump himself, who has subsequently tweeted multiple times about this incident, creating a dialogue around the show.
— Brandon Victor Dixon (@BrandonVDixon) November 19, 2016
But let’s just take a step back from the political musings to understand that in a wider context: Donald Trump is the President Elect of the United States of America. Here we have a businessman turned reality TV star who won the hearts and minds of the American population based on his exposure in The Apprentice. What that tells us is that the Arts & Entertainment sectors aren’t just sending contemporary dialogue all the way to the Whitehouse, they’re actually putting Presidents there too. And unlike Ronald Reagan who had served as a California Governor and Union Leader prior to his appointment as the 40th President of the United States, Donald Trump has gone straight from spotlight to spotlight. Never before has being a household name commanded such mass political appeal.
The art of social
And finally, beyond the stage, beyond the screen, we see a new emerging power in these sectors elevating the voice of entertainment professionals even further. An entire dialogue is now playing out around this exchange on social media, consuming our timelines as we scroll. The boos that were heard at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on 46th Street on Friday night were filmed on a smartphone, and instantly rang out around the world for all to hear. Where political and theatrical arenas have merged and made their way into the mainstream media, they have now gone a step further still to make up the very conversation that we, the audiences, engage in on the day to day. Hamilton has shown us that the impact of the arts and entertainment industries has never been higher, and that power is no longer confined to stage and screen.