Mike Pence and Donald Trump: Doing art wrong

With all due respect—and, admittedly, it’s not much—to Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence, theatre and the arts are not supposed to be safe. That’s missing the entire point of the arts.

 

The difference between a summer beach read (think: a Harlequin romance) and a compelling novel (think: Ta-Nehisi Coates's “Between the World and Me”, a beautifully poetic novel in the form of a letter from the author to his son) is enormous.

 

The difference between a fluffy piece of entertainment (see: Sharknado IV) and one of those movies that sticks with you for years and changes the way you see the world (see: The Shawshank Redemption or Crash or Idiocracy)? We shouldn’t use the word “film” to describe them both.

 

The difference between a commercial jingle (hear: the insipid Kars for Kids tune that plays endlessly on the radio) and a piece of music that is beautifully crafted and performed (hear: anything by Etienne Charles, or Earl MacDonald, or Bernstein’s West Side Story, or a Frank Sinatra cover from the Great American Songbook, or Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, or Kendrick Lamar stunning and challenging, or James Taylor singing one of his gems) is like night and day.

 

The arts are at their best when they are dangerous, and edgy, and challenge us, and make us uncomfortable. A great musical performance, or composition, or improvisation makes us think something new, and feel something different.

 

We don’t go to Hamilton to feel safe—we go to be challenged, and confronted with our own shortcomings and biases, and to disrupt our previously held assumptions and convictions.

 

So, Mr. Pence, if you went to Hamilton expecting a nice night out on the town with your daughter and her cousins, you’re doing art wrong. I’ll give you the same advice I tell people when they say they “don’t like jazz,” or modern art: Try it again. And try harder this time. It’s not supposed to be easy.

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