I wrote this post almost two weeks ago. It got waylaid by some other things on my mind. So, it’s “late”, but hey, this is the day theatre moms get to have their say. Starting with me…
The lyrics from Hamilton spin in my head… “..Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy!! the Schuyler sisters!” or if I’m in a different mood, “I am not throwing away my shot… you know I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot.”
I met Lin Manuel Miranda about ten years ago when he was was one of my daughter’s roommates in the neighborhood of Innwood, the farthest north point of Manhattan. Lin was at the small keyboard in their living room, working. Lin, Anna said, this is my mom, Gayle. Nice to meet you we said to each other. Maybe a couple more words I don’t remember now. Lin was busy writing In the Heights, his first soon-to-be Broadway hit. Eventually I saw the show off-Broadway, before it went to Broadway and won the Tony Award for best musical of 2008. I thought it was brilliant, but hey, I’m a theatre mom and my daughter is a musical theatre kid. The truth is I tend to think my daughter and most of her fellow actors and singers are brilliant.
As a teenager she performed in San Francisco’s Young People’s Teen Musical Theatre Company (YPTMTC) or “Company” for short. When her friends were at my house gathered around the piano and singing, I’d be busy in the kitchen preparing some snacks that I hoped expressed how welcome they were in my home. I loved the music, songs, friendliness, and great energy they brought into my life.
I loved witnessing how fun-loving and thoughtful they were, how affectionate, their strong sense of belonging to each other.
Creating a musical theatre production involves all kinds of collaboration, an on-going awareness of inter-dependence, the shouting of Bravo! and Break a leg!, and all kinds of help given and received. These kids loved what they did. It got them through high school without serious drugs, alcohol or other self destructive behaviors. Personally I think all kids could benefit from participating in a musical theatre production.
As a theatre mom (and I know this is true of most other theatre moms) we had not only our own kid’s back, but also the backs of all the kids. Sometimes your kid or another one didn’t get the role they wanted, and you’d feel bad for them, but you saw them rolling with the punches and persevering.
It is with these eyes, ears, and heart that I saw Trump’s tweet about what happened the night Pence went to see Hamilton. The Hamilton cast is made up mostly of actors of color. I can barely imagine the conversation going on back stage when the word filtered back that Pence was in the audience. The fear. The fury. The adrenaline. I can’t imagine how they contained all these feelings for the duration of a whole show. And yet. I can. These “kids” are second to none as actors, as professionals. Plus, they are doing a show that means A LOT to them and to everyone who’s been lucky enough to see it. Maybe they hoped Pence’d get the message and deliver it. They probably felt they couldn’t let the moment pass when they, as people of color, as women, as LGBTQ had the stage and the spotlight. They were amazingly respectful, conveying a message of their own and others’ fear of what is to come, asking that Pence convey the message to Trump.
Trump’s tweet is such an outrage! With every ounce of my theatre mom strength I want to stand up for Muslims, Women, People of color, Immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and yes, for actors and other artists. This theatre mom is not done with her job.
My daughter still performs in New York. Her husband is also an actor and musician. He has written and is creating a Shakespeare Rock Musical called Very Very.
Some think that Trump is just using the Hamilton/Pence affair to deflect attention away from more dangerous stuff. That may very well be the case. Trump U fraud. Trump’s appointments in general, Bannon in particular. Conflicts of interest. His views on fossil fuels, torture. Well, everything.
The thing is that even though this is one small incident, Trump’s tweet is an attack on the first amendment in general, and on peoples’ right to creative self-expression in particular. His tweet is absurdly hostile and paranoid. It is not a random threat when it is coming from someone seizing as much power as Trump is attempting to.
On so many fronts we have to resist. We will need to have each other’s backs. We will need theatre moms and actors, water protectors, and every kind of all of us. Laying claim in every way to our humanity and our right to live in a humane society that champions the human and civil rights of everyone!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections. Each and every one of you, and especially would love to hear from theatre moms!