Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, took to Twitter all day Saturday (Nov. 19) calling on the cast of Hamilton to apologize to Vice President-elect Mike Pence for their speech following Friday’s performance.
“A guy comes to a Broadway show for a relaxing night out. Instead he gets a lecture from the stage! Not a level playing field. It’s bullying,” he wrote. “You don’t single out an audience member and embarrass him from the stage. A terrible precedent to set.”
It was the most respectful, benign form of bullying ever. But bullying nonetheless. And by the way, human rights must be won, not asked for. https://t.co/JfN4yjq8jM
— Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) November 19, 2016
“So because he’s a public figure we should be rude to him and bully him at public events?” he asked.”I’m not the one who couldn’t be more wrong on this.”
To recap, the cast of Hamilton addressed Pence — who was in the audience — after their Friday night curtain call at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in New York.
“Vice-president elect Mike Pence, we welcome you and truly thank you for joining us at Hamilton American Musical,” Brandon Victor Dixon said in the statement, distributed on social media by the show’s producers. “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 hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
Van Zandt made his first statement early Saturday, writing, “Hamilton made a mistake. Audiences shouldn’t have to worry about being blindsided like that. Theater should be sanctuary for Art to speak. Lin-Manuel is a genius. He has created the greatest play since West Side Story. He is also a role model. This sets a terrible precedent> Completely inappropriate. Theater should be a safe haven for Art to speak. Not the actors. He needs to apologize to Mike Pence @Lin_Manuel.”
When fans started tweeting at Van Zandt in disagreement, he continued to explain his point of view, adding that there is a time and a place to make a statement, saying audience members are in fact “guests.”
“There has never been a more outspoken politically active artist than me. He was their guest. You protect your guests. Don’t embarrass them. When artists perform the venue becomes your home,” he wrote. “The audience are your guests. It is nothing short of the same bullying tactic we rightly>have criticized Trump for in the past. It’s taking unfair advantage of someone who thought they were a protected guest in your home.”
When comic Richard Belzer stepped into the debate, telling Van Zandt to “stop going through ethical gymnastics to justify your way too thin logic,” Van Zandt shot back. ” love you Richard. You want to do this in public? We can. The Broadway Community and its Art need to be protected. My logic is impeccable.Nobody on this planet disagrees more with everything Pence represents. But I don’t tolerate bullying in any form. Even the respectful kind.”
When fan Lauren Yurick wrote that Springsteen often brings up politics “mid-set” and asked “What’s the difference? This was done post show,” Van Zandt explained that rock shows and theater are different venues.
“You don’t single out an audience member and embarrass him from the stage. A terrible precedent to set,” he wrote. “That’s the difference between Rock and Theater. Different art forms. Different expectations. Different protocols as to what’s appropriate.”
Van Zandt was clear in his opposition to Pence politically, defending his views and pointing out the E Street Band’s stand against North Carolina’s controversial bathroom law and defense of the LGBT community when one fan wrote, “if you cared about your Broadway family, you’d be outspoken on this assault against gay rights. Don’t be a coward.”
“What are you like 10? I’ve spent my life defending human rights including LGBT. Remember us boycotting North Carolina? Were you born yet?” he asked.
“Please don’t misunderstand. Everyone who is sane disagrees with his policies. This was not the time or place to do it is all I’m saying,” he wrote. “The cast was not intentionally rude. The speech was heartfelt with content shared by all of us. Given at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
E Street Band member Nils Lofgren also took to Twitter in defense of Dixon’s statement, writing, “I don’t see any (bullying) here. Bravo. It is ok to disagree. The audience had the freedom to boo. The statement was truth to power. Any chance you get to speak truth to power right now, you have to take it.”
Van Zandt, who called the statement beautiful, disagreed, saying the proper place for such a statement is in the art of the play itself.
“How about IN THE PLAY! For starters. Just as Lin-Manuel Miranda (the creator of ‘Hamilton’) is already brilliantly doing,” Van Zandt tweeted. “And oh yeah, elections.”