After the first performance of his sold- out week at the Minneapolis Pantages, the great mime, Marcel Marceau stepped to the apron of the stage, and breaking out of his character, Bip the Clown, SPOKE.
And the Audience BOOED!
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Shortly after the election VP-To-Be Pence attended a performance of the hit musical HAMILTON on Broadway, and as he walked down the aisle to his seat, the audience booed! The audience, not the cast, booed.
I can’t believe Pence attended a hip hop/rap musical/opera, based on the life of an immigrant bastard, whose mother was reported to have been part Black, for his own entertainment. More of an ego trip, a test of his newly granted status to be able to jump in line ahead of others.
Mr. Pence was a good choice to ride shotgun on Mr. Trump’s Hatemobile. He has a record of attacking Human Rights and the laws that protect them, first as a right wing radio talk show host, and later in his political career. Unlike Trump’s Twitter approach, Pence uses the evangelical-tunnel-vision-Tea Party-judgmental method. Thump the Bible, or what you think should be in the Bible, to support your stance against fellow human, and be sure to avoid any reference to the second part of what Christ said was the most important commandment: To love your neighbor as yourself.
As Pence was walking out after curtain call, Brandon Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, stepped foreword from the cast and spoke to Pence, who turned and listened. The words were courteous, well thought out, short and to the point. It was a thank you for attending, followed by an expression of fear that the new regime will not defend the planet, the children, their parents and uphold the inalienable rights of every American. The closing was, ‘We thank you for sharing this wonderful American story, told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientation.’
Pence was silent about the affair but not the Head Hater, Mr. Trump. Trump got on Twitter, declaring Pence was harassed by the cast of HAMILTON. He demanded an apology from the cast and producers of the show, which Trump said he heard was very overrated. Trump also said the theater should be a ‘safe’ place.
To say the theater should be a ‘safe’ place is proof he knows about as much about theater as he does about Human Rights and the Constitution. From the time of the ancients Greeks the theater has been a place to shake up the audience and their hard fast ideals, whether the performance is tragedy, comedy, or a musical.
Nothing is more topical in our current atmosphere of hate than the play that premiered in London during the worse persecution of English Jews. The popular actor, director, theater owner and playwright, William Shakespeare, risked his career, his theater, his life, alone with the specter of causing riots with his new ‘comic’ offering, The Merchant of Venice. Going along with the hatred of Jews, he created a villain, Shylock, in the stereotypical role as a Jewish money lender. And then addresses the hatred and prejudice against the Jews by giving Shylock one of the most poignant speech in literature against prejudice and hatred. ‘If you prick us, do we not bleed?’.
As Mr. Dixon argued against an apology, he pointed out, ‘Art is meant to bring people together; it’s meant to raise conscientiousness.’
To say that it was not the time or place to issue such a statement goes against the history of theater. To step forward and speak to the audience directly, to break the 4th wall, is a time honored tradition. No playwright was more adept at it than Shakespeare, in the play itself, like Hamlet’s many monologues: at the end of the play, like Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which starts: ‘If we shadows have offended…’ While the type of breaking the 4th wall as Mr. Dixon did, is not that common in America, it is quite common in other countries.
Personally I have seen this speaking directly to the audience used many times.
From the serious: On 9/11, we were setting up for a run of RIVERDANCE. Prior to the performance that evening, the multi national cast assembled in full on the stage. A spokesman spoke of the sorrow and offered condolences and prayers. At the end of the curtain call a dancer stepped forward and requested the audience join the cast in silent prayer.
To the silliest: During a performance of a play by the Stratford Theater at the Guthrie, Bill Hutt, a veteran Canadian actor made his entrance in a scene; but before he spoke his lines, he informed the American audience that the Canadian National Hockey Team had just beaten the Russians.
Trump’s Tweets accomplished what he wanted, keeping his Cesspool of Hate aboiling, giving his Brown Shirts something to rail against.
They called for a boycott against HAMILTON, a record breaking Broadway show with tickets sold out for months and waiting lists for more tickets both in NY and other cities where the touring companies are or will be playing. Frankly, I don’t think many Trump hard core supporters would go to HAMILTON with or without a boycott.
Of course there is a good possibility that the new regime will declare the musical to be VERBOTTEN and shut it down. But even then it will continue to be played around the globe as a symbol of American art and a remembrance of American freedom.
The Brown Shirts also called for a boycott of a small theater which has nothing to do with HAMILTON the musical. It has had the name Hamilton for decades because it is located in – wait for it – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada!
Then there was incident during a performance of the road company in Chicago, where upon hearing the word ‘immigrant’, a drunken Follower went ape. Screaming, swearing, threatening to kill the ‘Democratic assholes’and women and Blacks. threw wine on his own son. His wife was in tears pleading for him to stop. And even as he was being expelled from the theater by three security guards, he kept screaming, ‘We won! Get over it. This is Trump’s America now!’ PS: He is the CEO of a national company.
(That kind of behavior hits close to home for me. My nephew, Rick Dalglish, is Head Props for that touring company of HAMILTON.)
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The Marcel Marceau incident took place at the first performance of his farewell to America run at the Pantages in Minneapolis. And in spite of the boos, this brave man repeated his breaking the fourth wall after every performance.
It was that terrible time in our history. Using the never proven pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Bush the Younger was about to loosen the dogs of war against Saddam Hussein. It was a time of bad intel, half truths, and outright lies.
Unlike the 1st Gulf War, where Bush the Elder had a large coalition of nations and U.N. approval, the only backing Bush the Younger had was Tony Blair of the U.K., who later admitted he had been wrong in his backing of Bush. Neither Bush nor Blair had approval of the majority of their advisors. And even though the terrorists of 9/11 were Egyptians and Saudis, and had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein, much of the backing for this invasion of Iraq was wanting revenge for 9/11.
France, who backed the 1st Gulf War, was outspoken in its disapproval of invading Iraq this time. France was hated by the American hawks. A Congressman sensing a chance to pick up future votes, actually submitted a bill to change the term French Fries to Freedom Fries.
It was in this time of rupture in America and in the Western World, that Marcel Marceau spoke to the audience and was booed. This French Jewish gentle man of peace did not preach, did not take sides. This man who had known the horror of war first hand, simply asked the audience to pray the whole affair could be worked out without violence, without war.
I doubt if many in the audience feaared they would have to fight in Iraq. Let the kids in the service take the risks. I doubt if many in the audience had ever served in the military, let along fought in a war. Yet these chickenhawks booed Marceau’s request for prayers for a peaceful resolve.
Marceau was just a teenager when Germany breached the Maginot Line, the ‘Wall’ that France had built to stop any German invasion and took over France. The Nazis took his father to Auschwitz where he was ‘exterminated’. Marcel and his brother joined the French Resistance.
(This also strikes home to me. My wife’s birth father, a French Jew, left his Mexican wife and new baby girl, my wife, and to back to his homeland and fight in the Resistance. He was never heard of again.)
Marcel was personally responsible for smuggling 500 or so children to Switzerland. It was during this time, he got into mime, silent entertainment to keep the children quiet.
With the Liberation of France he joined the Free French and was a translator for General George Patton.
He knew the horrors of war.
I was standing in the wing with a flashlight waiting to help him offstage. I clapped as loud as I could after his prayer for peace, but the boos won out. As I led him off I commented, ‘Dumb, damn, chickenhawk S.O.B.s!’
He put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘C’est La Vie, Don. So many fought and died so people can speak their mind, or even boo. This great freedom is not allowed in a Fascist government . Let us hope it will always be that way in America and France and all over the world. ’
When Marcel Marceau went to leave the Pantages for the last time, he paused and hugged me. ‘Merci, Don, for joining me in the hope for peace. And, when things happen that you disagree with, just remember, C’est La Vie. That’s Life, mon ami.’ When his farewell tour was over he went back to his home in France where he died a few years later.
To Mime aficionados Bip the Clown will always be the King of Mime. And we who knew him also as Marcel Marceau, we are twice blest. We admired his deft artistry of silence and also the deep humanity in his speech. To us he was both an artist and a hero.
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Sorry, Mr. Trump, if you can’t stand the booing you chose the wrong road to travel down. I suggest you have the First Amendment of our Constitution explained to you. And maybe even go to a preformance of HAMILTON. Learn how that immigrant from Nevis and the other Founding Fathers created the foundation that makes America great.
Soon Mr. Trump, barring a successful revolt by the Hamilton Electorial College voters, you will have to take an oath to protect and obey this Constitution for ‘the diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientation’ that make up our great country, America.
C’EST LA VIE