Over the weekend the internet has been alight by the tweets by Trump about the ‘Hamilton’ cast statement to Vice-President Elect Mike Pence audience attendance. Trump calling for the theatre to be a “safe place” and demanding an apology from the cast.
I don’t condemn or condone the cast, but acknowledge they are serving a sacred, natural and inherent purpose of the theatre. I always say that democracy was born on stage and that is because the ancient origins of the theatre was a revolution in culture. It gave a space for not politicians, nobles or royalty to speak, but common people, at times the lowest of the caste system, to freely discuss issues to the masses. Some of the first words spoken in the Greek theatre were politically motivated taunts, mockery, slapstick farce and satire of the ruling class. While concepts like free speech are relatively modern now, it’s first expression is found in the amphitheatre.
In ideal circumstances the artists are protected by the theatre (or laws of the nation), but there has been a long history of artists being punished, even put to death. The theatre has *never* been a safe place, for either audience or artists.
When artists are being forced to apologise for their expression by members of authority it is a very disconcerting sign and something that merits acknowledgement and watchful eyes.