“Audiences shouldn’t have to worry about being blindsided like that. Theater should be sanctuary for Art to speak,” guitarist writes
E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt called upon Lin-Manuel Miranda to apologize to Mike Pence for the Hamilton cast’s speech to the Vice President-elect following Friday’s performance.
Although Van Zandt tweeted that “everyone who is sane disagrees with [Pence’s] policies,” he argued that a Broadway show – or anywhere where art is performed – is not the proper venue to “bully” an audience member.
“Hamilton made a mistake. Audiences shouldn’t have to worry about being blindsided like that. Theater should be sanctuary for Art to speak,” Van Zandt wrote.
“Lin-Manuel is a genius. He has created the greatest play since West Side Story. He is also a role model. This sets a terrible precedent. Completely inappropriate. Theater should be a safe haven for Art to speak. Not the actors. He needs to apologize to Mike Pence.”
Van Zandt reiterated that he is a staunchly against Donald Trump and Pence’s policies – “Nobody on this planet disagrees more with everything Pence represents,” the rocker said – but likened the Hamilton cast’s curtain call speech to the “same bullying tactic” employed by Trump during his presidential campaign.
“It was the most respectful, benign form of bullying ever. But bullying nonetheless. And by the way, human rights must be won, not asked for,” Van Zandt said.
“When artists perform the venue becomes your home. The audience are your guests,” Van Zandt continued. “It’s taking unfair advantage of someone who thought they were a protected guest in your home… A guy comes to a Broadway show for a relaxing night out. Instead he gets a lecture from the stage! Not a level playing field. It’s bullying. You don’t single out an audience member and embarrass him from the stage. A terrible precedent to set.”
Fans were quick to call out Van Zandt for taking the side of Trump on (strictly) this matter, but as the guitarist noted, “There has never been a more outspoken politically active artist than me.” Van Zandt also admitted that while the Hamilton‘s cast message itself was “beautiful,” the Richard Rodgers Theatre wasn’t the appropriate venue to relay it.
“The statement is beautiful. And completely inappropriate at that time. And I would defend the cast’s right to be inappropriate forever,” Van Zandt said. “That statement may prove to be correct for these men in their new positions, we’ll see. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose our civility.”
Van Zandt’s E Street band mate Nils Lofgren took the opposite opinion, however. “I don’t see any [bullying] here. Bravo,” Lofgren tweeted of the Hamilton remarks, while adding of Van Zandt’s stance, “It is ok to disagree. The audience had the freedom to boo. The statement was truth to power… Any chance you get to speak truth to power right now, you have to take it.”