I Dreamed I Went to the Grocery Store, and the Butcher Said…. (Or, Just Who Do the Cast of “Hamilton” Think They Are?)

playbill-hamiltonI had a dream that I went grocery shopping. I was pushing my cart along the aisle, when the butcher stepped out from behind the meat counter, his hands still clad in plastic gloves, the blood of a chicken dripping down his apron. “Lady,” he shouted, “I don’t appreciate the way you drive a car. Last week you barely stopped at the blinking red light at the corner. Why, there could have been someone in the crosswalk!” Other shoppers–a mom with two toddlers, an older gentleman–applauded as the butcher described my carelessness, and scowled at me as I passed. I stammered an apology and hurried on, abandoning my plan to buy a beef brisket so that I could get out of earshot of the murmuring crowd.

Next I heard the pharmacist. “Hey!” he shouted as I wheeled my grocery cart past his pickup window to grab a tube of toothpaste. I didn’t need even a bottle of aspirin; but my basket was close enough to his cash register that he began to shout loudly, warning that my husband had better do a better job of raking the leaves.

As the day went on, still others chimed in to let me know that I, my family, my friends were deficient in some way or another. The dry cleaner scolded that I’d burned the dinner last Thursday. The clerk at the hardware store grumped that I’d allowed dandelions to pop up in the lawn. The hairdresser, the mail carrier–all put me in my place, telling me (with great conviction) how to live my life, how to care for my family, how to do my job.

It was disconcerting, to be sure. I mean, they had no idea of the particular challenges I faced! Bob the Butcher could carve up a side of beef; but he really knew nothing about parenting. Phil the Pharmacist lived in an apartment, so he never had to rake leaves or repair a broken faucet or….

WHY were all of these people trying to tell me how to live my life? I was their customer–I was paying them for a service, not enlisting their advice.

But then I heard a bell. No…. an alarm! It was my alarm clock, and with some relief I woke to see that I was really still in charge of my own life, my own sphere of influence. The nightmare was over, and no one was telling me how to do my job! I smiled.

      *     *     *     *     *

The nightmare didn’t end that well this week for Vice President-elect Mike Pence. On Friday evening, Pence took his wife and children to the theater to see the Emmy Award-winning musical “Hamilton.” They were seated in the center orchestra section. As the Pences left Manhattan’s Richard Rodgers Theater, he was called back by cast member Brandon Dixon, who played the role of Aaron Burr. Then Dixon, as the rest of the cast stood arms clasped behind him, read a statement written by the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The statement said, in part,

We, sir, we 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.

But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.

It was, according to the New York Times, a deeply felt and altogether rare appeal from the stage of a Broadway show. Donald Trump, tweeting about the incident later that night, said that his Vice Presidential pick had been harassed and called the actors “very rude.”  He has called for a formal apology.

Let me clarify: These were not political advisers. Brandon Dixon may play a politician on stage, but he’s just an actor. His background, his area of expertise, is the theater.

And Vice President-elect Pence was enjoying an evening out with his wife and family. His tickets had presumably cost several hundred dollars apiece, and he was entitled to enjoy the private time. If not–if no president or vice president or politician can safely leave the privacy of his home without encountering raucous booing and direct attacks by anyone who has an opinion–then the President is a prisoner at 1600 Pennsylvania Blvd. and the Vice President, likewise, is a prisoner at Number One Observatory Circle, the traditional home for American vice presidents.

The website ZeroHedge notes an interesting angle to this story, citing an earlier CBS report regarding unlawful discrimination on the part of the “Hamilton” creators at the time of casting. According to ZeroHedge:

Finally, a reminder that this appeal to “uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us” comes from a show which as CBS reported back in March may have run afoul of the strict New York City Human Rights Law when a casting notice posted by the producers of “Hamilton” specifically was seeking “non-white” performers.

One critic said “Hamilton” takes a story that “valorizes dead white guys” and replaces it with black, Latino and multi-ethnic performers playing America’s founding fathers.

But as the blockbuster musical looks to expand to other cities, the casting notice with its call for “non-white” performers looks problematic to civil rights attorney Randolph McLaughlin.

What if they put an ad out that said, ‘Whites only need apply?’” said McLaughlin, of the Newman Ferrara Law Firm. “Why, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians would be outraged.”

As McLaughling concluded that “you cannot advertise showing that you have a preference for one racial group over another. As an artistic question – sure, he can cast whomever he wants to cast, but he has to give every actor eligible for the role an opportunity to try.”

Image:  Playbill from the original production of Hamilton. Wikimedia Commons (fair use)

By | 2018-01-27T17:38:48+00:00 November 19th, 2016|Books & Film, Politics & Culture|

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