Each week, our #StageDoorLive News Writer / Researcher Hillary Dziminski chronicles her interaction with the news of the week. Some of it that made it to the show, and other bits that didn’t… but they matter damn it. Watch the news that did make it in #StageDoorLive Episode Thirteen.
Greetings, Earthlings and any extraterrestrials who may be reading this blog in an attempt to understand humankind. (Don’t @me, I woke up on the weird side of the bed this morning.) Anyway, before I get to the news that was cut for time, I just want to share one quick thing. Yesterday… I was in a theatre. Like a for real, brick and mortar theatre and performing arts venue. And it was basically an out-of-body experience because it felt both very familiar and very alien. I could go on about it but for your sake, dear reader, I will not. Let’s do what we came here to do: dive deep into the complex criticisms of Hamilton.
Yes, I watched it on Disney+ last weekend. I might even watch it again this weekend if the mood strikes. But in the run up to the smash hit musical’s release into the mainstream streaming world, I started to spot a lot of pieces raising questions about Hamilton.
Most of them seem to be concerned with the historical inaccuracies of the musical, with this Vox article (linked above) going so far as to call the show “fanfic” (fan-written fiction, for those of you not familiar with the term). And Miranda has responded to these concerns time and time again since the show’s premiere, like in this 2015 interview for The Atlantic where he says:
“My only responsibility as a playwright and a storyteller is to give you the time of your life in the theatre. I just happen to think that with Hamilton’s story, sticking close to the facts helps me. All the most interesting things in the show happened. They’re not shit I made up.”
And these critical pieces popping up left, right, and centre are raising so many interesting and completely valid points. Like this piece in CNN which examines the context into which the Hamilton film has been released and interrogates the contrasting attitudes of contemporary Black Lives Matter activists and the slave-owning (or at least slave-owner-adjacent) characters portrayed in the Hamilton story.
Or The Complex Violence of ‘Hamilton’, published in Super Dope & Extra Lit Magazine on July 3rd which argues that at its core, Hamilton is complexly violent because it simultaneously helps the BIPOC artists involved in the realisation of the show and harms them by asking them to portray white historical figures in a story that “sanitizes and venerates their violent accomplishments”. It interrogates the validity of the famous line “Immigrants, we get the job done!” because…were the founding fathers really immigrants? Or colonizers? Is there room for both to be true? (I don’t have the answer.)
Lin-Manuel Miranda Responds to the “Hamilton is Canceled” Controversy
Another good read on this comes from Oprah magazine (linked above) which includes Miranda’s response to the criticisms on Twitter and a response from filmmaker Ava DuVernay who points out that a musical is not a history book.
Which, in the context of the numerous debates taking place around the removal of statues of historical figures, their place in contemporary society, and concerns over “erasure” of history, is an excellent reminder – when it comes to history, the books are written by the winners. And the winners aren’t always objectively good people who are worthy of being put on literal pedestals. Just as we shouldn’t rely exclusively on Broadway shows (which Imani Vaughn-Jones points out are often economically prohibitive to most people) as a historical source, nor should we rely exclusively on statues and other iconography.
History should be learned holistically, from as many angles as possible. And in some cases, I think it’s important to realize that there is no definitive or correct answer. Is Hamilton harmful and helpful? I think the answer is as complex as the piece itself.
Recommended additional reading:
- Ruth Negga: ‘People who say they don’t consider skin colour… are you f**king blind?’
- ‘Theatre was my first love’: Bernardine Evaristo on her NHS play, Twitter trolls and ‘porny’ posts
- Review Essay: Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton
Carrying on very neatly from Hamilton to statues, this article in the Irish Times takes a look at the Walker Plinth in Derry which was built in 1826 memorializing Rev. George Walker, and was blown up by the IRA in 1973. Its long life has been tumultuous, but Derry’s Void Gallery has been commissioning works to activate the space with works that are “universal rather than overtly political.”
Like the performance of the Astronomic Weather Choir for Culture Night 2018 which makes me really wish I had a time machine so I could go back in time to see live and in the flesh. Or Alan Phelan’s RGB Hyacinth Challenge which I cannot wait to see later this year.
And speaking of arresting visuals, check out this article on the #scenechange project.
‘The #scenechange project will see theatres in the UK and Ireland wrapped with pink barrier tape reading “Missing Live Theatre”. It has been organised by a community of designers who work in theatre and want to bring “joy and colour” to venues that currently stand empty, devoid of their usual hustle and bustle. “Theatres which are usually teeming with life feel stark and bleak,” they said, “some even shut away behind hazard tape to prevent them inadvertently being places of gathering.”’
Have you seen this around Ireland? I haven’t left my house for days but if you do see this happening at any Irish venues, send me your photos at firstname.lastname@example.org, I want to see this on the homefront!
COVID, FUNDING, AND REOPENING
There is a lot to be said about Coronavirus, reopening, funding in Ireland (and other places) and I cannot cover it all in one blog. So rather than try to break it all down and explain it to you myself, I’d like to direct you to the link above. John O’Brien, an independent consultant specialising in the Arts, Culture and Creative industries, does a much better, more thorough, and more informed job than I ever could. This blog entry includes the infographic pictured above.
Again, I think trying to paraphrase or sum up this piece by Toner Quinn for The Journal of Music would be doing it a disservice, so I encourage you to read it yourself. To pull a quote from it which I find infinitely agreeable:
“Minister Martin needs to set out a new vision for arts and culture in Ireland and make the case for putting cultural ecosystems on the same footing as business and tech culture.”
I have high hopes for Minister Martin; having been immersed in the cultural ecosystem herself, I hope she will bring her experience to bear when considering policies that could potentially make or break an entire industry in the wake of the seemingly endless Coronavirus pandemic. And when I read stories like Quinn’s, I hope even harder for a better, more sustainable, more equitable future for the arts.
And on the note of sustainability, I’ll just take a quick second to draw your attention to this Tweet (above) from the wonderful Peter Daly. Do consider getting in touch with Peter if you’ve had your PUP decreased or cancelled. Twitter is showing me an increasing number of Tweets like this one from Mary Coughlan, so research efforts are going to be critical going forward.
And now, to quote one of my favorite childhood stories, ‘Madeline’: that’s all there is, there isn’t any more. (This is a lie, of course, there is so much more that I couldn’t cover! Did I miss anything earth shattering? Send it to me if I did!)
Until next week, Earthlings.
@tai.draws on Instagram is a brilliant artist and this illustrated guide on how to get better at getting new pronouns right is lovely to look at and also very helpful
Tai on Instagram: How to Get Better at Getting New Pronouns Right
This is a long but very informative read on Direct Provision; I moved to Ireland five years ago and this article has been helpful in filling in the gaps in my knowledge around the history and practical implications of Direct Provision.
I live in direct provision. It’s a devastating system – and it has thrown away millions
And finally, part of being a good ally or accomplice to anyone is to make responsible decisions when it comes to public health. Download the Covid-19 tracker app. Just do it. Everyone already has your data, just get the app.
Download the COVID Tracker app [Ireland]