By Brian Ives

By now, everyone in the country knows that the cast of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton addressed Vice-President elect Mike Pence from the stage, after the show ended on Friday night. Predictably, Trump supporters (and President elect Donald Trump himself) have reacted to this; on Saturday, #BoycottHamilton was trending on twitter (a rather moot point, as the show is sold out for the next few months anyway).

Steven Van Zandt, an artist who has always been outspoken about his politics (see his classic “Sun City” song, an all-star effort of rock, hip-hop and R&B artists that railed against apartheid) spoke out about the incident, and his take was surprising to some.

Over a series of tweets, Van Zandt said, “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.”

He took pains to note that he doesn’t advocate any of Pence’s, or Trump’s, stances. Quite the opposite (the following quote compiles a few of his tweets): “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. 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. Nobody on this planet disagrees more with everything Pence represents. But I don’t tolerate bullying in any form. Even the respectful kind… 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.”

“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,” adding that “Bigotry is obviously never acceptable. I am saying it is a bad precedent for actors to start addressing audience members!”

Some who disagreed called him out, and he responded, noting that he didn’t even disagree with the cast’s statement, just that he disagrees with where it was made. He notes that the point of inclusion was made within the play itself, and also shot down the idea that anyone should adopt bullying tactics because those tactics were employed by Trump.

When asked if he would defend gay rights, he referenced the fact that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band recently canceled a show in North Carolina to boycott an anti-LGBT law.

When someone asked how this was any different from Donald Trump calling out MSNBC reporter Katy Tur on the campaign trail, Van Zandt’s response was “You want to compare yourself to them, good luck.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of E Street, Bruce Springsteen’s other lead guitarist, Nils Lofgren, had his own opinion on the cast of Hamilton‘s actions.

Noting that it was ok that he and Van Zandt disagree on the matter, he said, “The audience had the freedom to boo. The statement was truth to power.” When someone countered that it was the wrong place and time to make a statement, he responded, “The times they are a changing,” adding in a later tweet, “Any chance you get to speak truth to power right now, you have to take it.”

He also noted that the Hamilton cast didn’t boo Pence, although the audience members did.

Tom Morello, who did some time as a guitarist in the E Street Band in 2013-2014, merely retweeted someone who said, “‘Booing Mike Pence is disrespectful’ The dude believes I should have the gay electrocuted out of me I will boo him in his own goddamn house.”

Meanwhile, the other guitarists in the E Street Band — Soozie Tyrell, Patti Scialfa and, oh yeah, Bruce Springsteen — have yet to comment.

As for Mike Pence himself, he told CBS’s Face the Nation that he wasn’t offended. “I wasn’t offended by what was said, I’ll leave to others whether it was the appropriate venue to say it. But I want to assure people who were disappointed in the election results, people who are feeling anxious about this time in the life of our nation, that President-elect Donald Trump meant exactly what he said on election night, that he is going to be the president of all the people of the United States of America.”


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