Mike Pence probably just thought he was doing dinner and a show. He almost certainly didn’t expect to get booed in the process, or to receive a personalized lecture during the curtain call, from the very cast he’d just seen perform.
But Mike Pence isn’t just any theatergoer, and Hamilton isn’t just any Broadway musical.
On Friday November 18, the vice-president elect — who joined Donald Trump’s campaign in July and pushed a platform rooted in anti-immigrant sentiment — attended a hit Broadway musical lauded for telling the Founding Fathers’ story with a deliberately multi-cultural cast and compassion for immigrants.
As you can imagine, the night turned out to be a memorable one.
It started with Pence trying to take his seat amid a wave of boos, (and yes, a few cheers, as per Variety). But the prevailing sentiment throughout the show — starring the openly gay and HIV positive actor Javier Muñoz as Hamilton — was reportedly hostile toward Pence, who has consistently opposed LGBTQ rights.
But even if there hadn’t been an audible outrage from his fellow theatergoers, you have to wonder what the man who backed a candidate calling for a Muslim registry and whose transition team efforts have so far yielded such contentious picks as Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General might’ve thought when he heard Hamilton lines like, “immigrants: we get the job done” or “history has its eyes on you.”
The booing would’ve been noteworthy on its own — but it was only the beginning. The real coup de grace came when the Hamilton cast itself remained onstage well past their curtain call to address Pence directly, even encouraging other audience members to record (and share) the moment:
As Pence was walking out of the theater, Hamilton cast member Brandon Victor Dixon — who’s currently playing Aaron Burr — called out to him, asking him to stay and listen what they had to say. He then pulled out a piece of paper and delivered the following remarks, as the cast linked arms in solidarity behind him:
Vice-president elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do.
We, sir, 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 that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.
We truly thank you for sharing this show — this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colors, creeds, and orientations.
Will seeing this show and and hearing this speech cause Pence to change his viewpoints overnight? Probably not. But by confronting Pence to his face, passionately and personally, the cast of Hamilton made sure to give him plenty to think about the next time he forgets how much is at stake for his constituents — all of them.
Update: While Pence himself has not commented publicly on the experience, President-elect Trump was quick to weigh in on what happened, tweeting on Saturday morning that he found the Hamilton cast’s behavior to be “very rude” and demanding an apology.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
As my colleague Tara Golshan explains, while Trump’s response wasn’t exactly surprising, it put the President-elect’s quick temper on full display, suggesting that “any prospect of Trump being shaped by an establishment administration, ready to rein him in, is dissolving.”