Politics: There is a time and place for it… Or a time and STAGE for it?

I imagine it comes to no surprise that both MTAS admin (@Simplywilly) and MTAS blogger (@merrynknowles) choose to produce a joint article on this subject. However, we do not share the same views in all areas of the content; so have united solely to provide two sides of the widely spread debate –

Politics: There is a time and a place for it OR there is a time and stage for it?

But for those who may have missed the news, memes, GIFS and general eruption of social media buzz – let’s start at the very beginning; we’ve heard that’s a very good place to start.

Willy Mukendi:

The upcoming vice president Mike Pence received a shady welcome when watching the internationally popular production of Hamilton Friday 18th November. His presence had the audience booing from his very arrival. Right down to the very end of the production where the cast used the opportunity to publicly express their own politically driven views.

Merryn Knowles:

Brandon Victor Dixon [Aaron Burr] had produced a speech on behalf of the entire cast. A speech with rhetoric I agree with…“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you… 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, sir … we truly thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colours, creeds and orientations.”


Willy Mukendi:

Donald Trump (the guy who has openly expressed racism, fascism, sexism and has mocked disability) decided to tweet his own opinion on the subject


Irony knows no boundries

Merryn Knowles:

Was the Hamilton speech with Pence really necessary? I am certainly not a fan of Trump and I despise Pence’s voting record, but was this really the time? Is it really right, for a musical, who holds democracy as a main and central theme throughout the play, to then talk down the democracy that people in their audience voted for? That the US VOTED for? When it comes to white people Trumps voting record is almost identical to Mitt Romney, who lost to Obama in 2012. It was the increase in minorities that actually pushed the vote towards Trump.


Willy Mukendi:

A great point, however if a musical with this much ticket revenue, publicity and genuine voice in this world does not speak up…. who will? I believe Hamilton was the perfect musical to express this. The physical appearance of the cast couldn’t be a more differing reflection of the contents reality if it tried. The POC casting Lin Manuel Miranda continues to support is a reflection of the America that exists and a America that through Trumps public ideologies; may be trying to ruin. Performers on stage are becoming just as publicly known as performers in the mainstream music industry. We all have a voice in this world, but publicity gives some, a louder voice with a better sound system. Why not use this voice to express a public opinion?


Merryn Knowles:

According to the guardian article, Dixon had claimed that it was the responsibility of actors and cultural figures to discuss politics. Is there? You could argue that people, cultural figure or not, have the ability to research their own morals, candidates, policies and belief. Why should one citizens vote be held on a pedestal over another for no other reason than fame? Surely the focus should be encouraging an atmosphere for a healthy debate instead of giving a speech. While I agreed with everything that was said in the speech, I don’t believe standing on a stage in a solidly democratic area, in a room of people who will mainly agree with him is really nurturing a healthy debate.


Willy Mukendi:

Understandable but that would be based on the assumption that nobody in that audience did their own research, or had their own morals in tact prior to the speech. Using Katie Hopkins comment above, actors are here to entertain… absolutely. And their characters do so. However they aren’t always characters putting on a show – they are people who are just as effected and have the right to feel just as passionate by political decisions as anyone else. The major difference lies in the fact ‘popular’ actors have a bigger list of social media ‘followers’ of which to express their point of views. This works also for views we may not necessarily agree on. The same Freedom of Speech that allows Donald Trump or Katie Hopkins to express their views, is the same Freedom of Speech the actors are using to oppress them. Perhaps the stage is a controversial and slightly bias place of which to do so. But as many of those who are now opposing Hamilton are ready to express ‘They are only actors’… if this is the case … why would a Stage be such a crazy place for an actor to express their point of view? I’d like to finally add that Katie Hopkins compared performers to prostitutes based on them being paid to entertain audiences. A remark made as a result of Hamilton’s speech. I find it key to note that the speech given by the cast of Hamilton wasn’t fuelled by hate, it wasn’t derogatory or slanderous. Yet Hopkins chooses to respond by comparing all performers to prostitutes. Classless. It was neither necessary, relevant and considering she was paid to go on big brother riddled with hypocrisy.

(The slide show below shows the performers coming together to oppose Katie Hopkins attacks).

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So what are your views? Tweet us at @MTAS_Official

Willy Mukendi: @SimplyWilly

MerrynKnowles: @MerrynKnowles

Full copy of Hamilton speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWlwrUFiuUw






One thought on “Politics: There is a time and place for it… Or a time and STAGE for it?

  1. The theatre has always been a place where political statements can be made, but usually it’s done within the play/show itself. Consider Bertolt Brecht, whose plays were entirely based around a political message. Personally, I like to have the choice whether I see a political play or not. I would be uncomfortable hearing political messages (no matter how much I might agree) during a play I went to see for my entertainment.
    As for the “prostitute” comment, that’s an old one. I remember being taught at drama school that “acting is prostitution”. It’s used in the sense that the commodity the actor is selling is himself: and as such he has to learn to market his own body, and care for it like a work tool.
    No. I don’t like political speeches at an entertainment show, and certainly not when they’re aimed at one person. That’s as bad as a preacher berating one person and exposing their sin from the pulpit. It may be right, but it’s not the right place. in my opinion they should have stuck to twitter. Their personal feelings may be strong, but as an actor you shouldn’t let those feelings be shown to the detriment of the show. If I want political comment I can watch the news.


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