Letter: ‘Hamilton’ actor deserves freedom medal

The multiracial, multicultural, all-American cast of the hit Broadway show “Hamilton” had a shot and, as the song goes, they did not “throw it away.”

After the curtain fell, actor Brandon Dixon stepped out of character as the unprincipled Aaron Burr and spoke on behalf of all the actors on stage directly to the Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

“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 and uphold our inalienable rights,” Dixon said to Pence who was in the audience and just leaving. “But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us,” he added.

To his credit Pence stopped and listened. President-elect Donald Trump’s demands for an apology are disappointing but unsurprising. Here is a newsflash for Trump: We live in a free country and robust free speech is central to the strength of our democracy. Theater throughout history has provided a public check on government through drama, satire and parody.

The arts are a “safe place” for ideas and expression. During dark times theater has been taken over by authoritarian regimes and used for propaganda purposes.

But now the president-elect stoops to tweet his displeasure with comedy skits on “Saturday Night Live” that others leaders of the free world laughed off. Days later he is still whining that the heartfelt, eloquent post-curtain call speech urging him to uphold his soon-to-be sworn duty to protect and defend all the people is “harassment.” Hopefully he will develop some thicker skin from the abrasive inherent nature of dissent in democracy.

Yet there are precedents in our lifetime such as the McCarthy-era blacklisting of women and men in the arts, which remind us that we cannot take for granted all the voices in our brilliantly designed self-correcting system of limited government. With the public justifiably concerned that elected officials of both parties are neither responsive nor effective, and doubting that the press is fulfilling its constitutionally protected role as a check on the abuse of power, it is time for everyone in our great nation to speak up, demonstrate their views, engage and take back control of those who are chosen to govern.

In order to sustain and strive to form a more perfect union we need many encores reminding us of our core shared values. The original actor who played Aaron Burr won a Tony award. His replacement deserves a freedom medal. Bravo!

Nicholas Allard, trustee

Shakespeare Theatre Company