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CounterPunch on Stage: The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

My real purpose for traveling to the East in January was to attend the showing of a two hour and forty-five-minute film that Steve Cannon, Walter Cotton and I produced in 1980, “81,” that was scheduled to be shown Washington’s National Gallery. Since Kino Lorber restored the film, it has been shown at museums and theaters throughout the country. Art Forum magazine was among the film publications that have called it one of the best movies of 2018.

Then came the government shut down, and the postponement of the showing. I had bought plane tickets and booked a hotel. Only Amtrak offered me a refund. To make use of my time, I decided to have Rome Neal, who has directed eight of my plays at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, round up some of the actors who had appeared in my 2017 play, ”Life Among The Aryans,” to  read from a script I was working on entitled “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda.” Like The Star Spangled Banner, “Hamilton, The Revolution” is some noisy, brassy state art, which pushes the creation myth that Alexander Hamilton and others were abolitionists. When, like the writer of The Star Spangled Banner, they were hypocrites. Next time you sing the lines, ” …and the land of the free,” remember that those lines were penned by Francis Scott Keyes, a wealthy slave owner. Historians who make a living lionizing those who, if they were around today, would be charged with war crimes, offer Hamilton and his father-in-law, Philip Schuyler, membership in The New York Manumission Society as proof of Hamilton’s devotion to emancipation. The members of the Manumission Society were abolitionists who refused to give up their slaves. Hamilton, according to his grandson Allan McLane Hamilton, owned slaves and purchased them for others. As one would groom dogs for a dog show, Hamilton, who was involved in the slave trade from the time of his youth, had a job of preparing blacks for auction, when working for a Caribbean slave trading firm.” He helped to inspect, house, groom, and price the slaves about to be auctioned. To enhance their appearance, their bodies were shaved and rubbed with palm oil until their muscles glistened in the sunlight. Some buyers came armed with branding irons to imprint their initials on their newly purchased property.

Though I am catching some flak for daring even to question this 100 million dollar year juggernaut–staging the reading cost me a thousand dollars after splitting the gate with the producer–women historians began the criticism of Hamilton’s portrayal in Miranda’s play. Lyra Monteiro, Nancy Isenberg, and especially Michelle DuRoss professor at the University at Albany, the State University of New York, who is an intellectual Cyborg, the UFC fighter. She challenged all of the good old boy historians, one by one, who’ve subscribed to the myth that Alexander Hamilton was an abolitionist. Their dissent reflects upheaval in the American Historical establishment as women, Blacks, Latinx, and Native American historians challenge those who view American history as a series of actions by godlike heroic White men.  The purpose of my play is to give voice to those who are omitted from “Hamilton”– slaves, indentured servants, Native Americans, and Harriet Tubman.

There were reviews of the Nuyorican Poets Café reading in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New York Observer, Billboard, Current Affairs, and The Paris Review. The majority were positive. Though one critic writing for the publication Outline called it “Counterpunch on stage,” having read my Hamilton articles in CounterPunch. He found the reading “boring,” but writing for Berkshire Fine Arts, Rachel de Aragon summed up the audience response in her review, January 8, 2019, under the head, “Rome Neal Directs Sold-Out Readings at the Nuyorican Cafe. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the subject of Ishmael Reed’s reading at the Nuyorican Cafe.”She wrote:” Audience response to “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda”, a new entertaining, witty and historically incisive play was unusually enthusiastic.”  While an intelligent debate about the reading led by Joy Behar occurred on “The View,” I was mocked on NPR’s nerdy “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.” NPR is ungrateful. During the reign of George Bush the First, I was a correspondent for NPR. I received no compensation. I was fired when a commentary predicted that the Willie Horton ads, which featured a black criminal who raped a woman while on furlough would backfire on Bush and Lee Atwater. NPR’s Neal Conan told me not to say anything about my firing.

Part of the reason for standing room only audiences during those four nights was my alerting Kurt Sollor of The Times that such a reading would take place. He called me in 2017 inviting me to participate in a photo shoot that would feature black male writers. Something about their resurgence. I told him that I couldn’t make it. He asked me again last year. I told him that it was ironic that The Times would view me as part of a resurgence. Under feminist book editor Pamela Paul, my last five books, including two novels and a biography of Muhammad Ali have been ignored. My forthcoming book of essays, “Why No Confederate Statues in Mexico,” includes my interview with Ms. Paul. I asked her if would she condemn Roger Ailes for his treatment of women at Fox. I’d seen her as a member of an all-White woman panel during which she criticized Bill Cosby. She refuses to condemn Ailes. She’s one of those corporate feminists who are silent about the misogyny of the influential wealthy Patriarchs who promote their careers and exercise their misandrist grievances against the brothers. The Times’ shoot took place at a library in Brooklyn. Sollor passed news about the reading to Time’s writer Sopan Deb. The momentum for the reading was begun with an article by Deb called “Ishmael Reed’s Play Challenging ‘Hamilton’ Will Get Reading.”

Attending the reading’s first night was the distinguished historian, Annette Gordon-Reed. She’d also questioned the depiction of Hamilton as an abolitionist but said that she enjoyed the production. During the Q. and A., she asked whether I had seen the musical, a question that came up in one of three Times’ articles about the reading written by Sopan Deb. I hadn’t, but I’d read Miranda’s book many times and even quoted from it in my script. The part where Hamilton argues against treating Blacks as property. Wrong. Hamilton considered Blacks as private property and also accused the British of “stealing negroes from their owners.” Both Hamilton and the Schuyler’s ranked “negroes” with horses and cows as personal property. It turns out that Ms. Gordon-Reed is on the “Hamilton” payroll. She’s a consultant for plans to build a “Hamilton” museum. If “Hamilton” fans, whose comments about my reading were printed in the comment sections of The New York Times and Broadway World are furious with me now, you can imagine the uproar when full production begins on May 23. One of them said that I was better off here than in Africa. I had a great time in Africa. Not once was I spied upon while shopping in a store. Seventeen of these “shithole countries” have a higher GDP than the United States.

And so, to satisfy my critics, on an early March 2019 Saturday, I attended a performance of “Hamilton, The Revolution” at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco, performed by the touring cast that Miranda organized to begin in Puerto Rico. My headline would be that “Hamilton” is bad jingoistic history salvaged by the brilliant performance of a multicultural cast. There was more diversity on stage than in the audience. Sometimes what’s happening on stage is overwhelmed by a rowdy bass line, and so I had more of an access to the lyrics by reading them than listening to them. The set and costumes were dazzling and seemed historically accurate. For eye candy, “Hamilton” is the tops. I thought that the dancing was smart, though I recognized some moves from Bob Fosse’s classic Broadway style and Michael Bennett’s “A Chorus Line.” This might be because choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler admires the work of Fosse and Bennett. Though the musical is billed as a Hip Hop show, the Hip Hop moves were kept at a minimum. Broadway knows how to put on a show. Miranda’s songwriting abilities are hyped, however. He’s no Cole Porter or Billy Strayhorn. Okay. Date me.

But with this MEGA script, “Hamilton” is like expensive chocolate that you bite into only to find half a worm. I winced for two hours as slave traffickers, and owners like Hamilton, Washington and members of General Schuyler’s family were portrayed as abolitionists. They weren’t. They were cruel to their slaves. Archeologists found the Schuyler family’s slaves remains and concluded that they were subjected to “back-breaking” work and suffered from malnutrition. Elizabeth, Hamilton’s wife, helped her mother manage the slaves, yet she is cast in “Hamilton” as an abolitionist. Runaways from the Albany plantation like a Black woman named Diana, who appears in my play, were punished, possibly murdered. And where were these Schuyler women, party girls, when their father sold a whole family for $200? And what was theirs and Elizabeth’s fiancé Hamilton’s position when General Schuyler and his friends decided that any slave found a mile from his Albany plantation be shot? Or when the Schuylers and  Rensselaers presided over the hanging of three black teenagers, who were accused of arson in 1793? They thought that the Haitian revolution had spread to Albany.

Though thousands of poor White women engaged in armed rebellion against the Confederacy, an uprising which was crushed –another thing that you don’t learn in Miss Betsy’s MEGA curriculum–wealthy White women like the Schuylers were complicit and, according to Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, even bought slaves for themselves. One of the most outrageous moments in “Hamilton” is when the Schuyler sisters sing the lines:”All men are created equal.” This didn’t apply to Tom, a slave owned by Angelica. He has lines in my play.

Angelica owned a slave named Tom, who appears in my play. Hamilton, the abolitionist, negotiated his return to her. Critics who haven’t seen my play and argue that I am critical of Miranda are wrong. I see Miranda as a victim of state historians. I call them historians of White history, like Jon Meacham who told a Morning Joe audience that slavery lasted 90 years and then corrected himself. He said 100 years. 2019 is the four hundredth anniversary of slaves arriving in Virginia. Meacham also has some kind words to say about Andrew Jackson, the Eichmann of Native American policy. It’s easy to land where Miranda found himself intellectually. Jesse James, who was glorified in dozens of films, was one of my childhood heroes. Later I learned that he was a member of a Confederate guerrilla gang, Quantrill’s Raiders. His brother Frank was one of those who entered Lawrence, Kansas, and murdered 200 men. Their crime?  Echoing Hamilton’s complaint against the British: stealing Blacks.

Though “Hamilton” has received a rapturous reception in the United States, Miranda was picketed by students in Puerto Rico. One student accused him of glorifying an oppressor and suggested that he do a musical about Harriet Tubman. Finally, Annette Gordon-Reed was quoted in The Times review of my play:

“Harvard Law professor and historian Annette Gordon-Reed, who has criticized the show [“Hamilton”] in the past, is offering her historical consultation for the exhibit. She attended a reading of Reed’s play and sounded a hopeful note that both sides can come together.”

How can we come together? Distribute my script, “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda,” to the thousands of students who’ve received the “Hamilton” script, so that students receive both sides of the debate. We’re about $5000 short of raising funds for a full production of the play at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, which will begin on May 23rd at 7 PM, and run Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for four weeks with a possible extension. Those who live on the upper west side of Manhattan can catch a reading of the play directed by award-winning director Rome Neal at The Center at West Park Sanctuary Theater 165 W 86th Street (entrance on Amsterdam Avenue) Saturday, April 20, 2019 7pm – Tix:$15.

In my play, Blacks, Native Americans, andindentured servants, have their say about the events portrayed in “Hamilton, The Revolution.” If you wish to send checks to support the May 23rd production, mail them to Ishmael Reed, PO Box 3288 Berkeley, California 94703. Make them out to The Before Columbus Foundation, and you will receive a tax deduction. BC has a 501c 3.

Before I saw “Hamilton, The Revolution,” my not seeing it was a complaint made by Times’ readers who responded to one of The Times’ stories about the reading of my play. Most of the comments were hostile. So were those in the trade publication Broadway Central. The reason that most of the comments are uninformed is that the writers were educated to be Europeans. They know more about The War of the Roses than the Civil War.

Comments in The New York Times:
I also, I have to admit, saw the musical in New York, and I absolutely loved it.

2 Yes, he married into a slave-owning family–but not a plantation family, as Jefferson had. But yes, he was opposed to the institution of slavery from an early age.

3  yes, the puerile, imbecilic criticism that is “The play/musical/novel/symphony I would have written – and that you should written – because mine would have been so much superior.”  Mr. Reed’s complaints are those of a petulant narcissist …Finally, what is dispiriting is how for a third-rate, near-forgotten talent like Mr. Reed can only attract interest in his work by attaching himself to the truly successful.  The Times’ role in furthering this exercise in narcissistic envy is equally troubling.

4 Come now. As a tribal member, none of the players in this piece really care about Native representation. It’s just a ploy to get attention *for themselves* – as usual…Leave us out of your dumb argument.

5 I’m glad someone is finally bringing the fabrications of “Hamilton”  into the light. I thought I might be the only one in the country who dislikes that rewriting of history.

Ever since the play debuted I have been surprised and disappointed to see the show lauded by people who really should have questioned it. But most people don’t bother to read deeply into our country’s history. The average American takes the Founding Fathers stories he is presented, in school and in various forms of “faction” entertainment, as the Truth. Unfortunately, this is true even for a story presented in costume, on a Broadway stage, and the 18th century characters are rapping.

6 Mr. Reed, use your own “genius” and stop trying to piggy-back on someone else’s. Make it on your OWN merits, and not by trying to knock down or deride Lin’s work. …Sounds a bit like personal rivalry with a dash of envy to me. Or perhaps another Latino versus African American  showdown on who owns a historical narrative? Or could it be Mr. Reed and Mr. Neal want a share of the limelight that “Hamilton” [after all a work of fiction] is getting and use this opportunity for a 5 minutes chance at fame by “exposing” its faults and discredit it by making  it look opportunistic? Why do minority artists compete and fight among each other instead of basking in each others’ triumphs?@Passion for Peaches

I think it is YOU who has the problem here. YOU are conflating things that should be taught in the classroom with things that are presented on a Broadway stage. In this case, the latter is “inspired” by the former, but is not a retelling of it. The use of rap is not just intended to make the story current, it is a form of expression Mr. Miranda chooses to use, as it is his right to do as an American but also his duty as an artist being true to himself. I think the “average American” understands the difference between art and history.

Whether they came from slave-holding families I’m sure did not enter into the question, nor should it. He didn’t have slaves himself. As for his wife, who came from that horrible slaveholding family, Elizabeth Hamilton herself went on to establish a home for orphans, which continues to this day. I’m sure it has helped many black children, the descendants of slaves, certainly to a greater degree than whatever this guy is trying to do. Find your own story, Mr. Neal. You’re simply trying to skim off money and attention for yourself by taking on a fine piece of academic work and a very inventive and artistic interpretation of it.

@Passion for Peaches

7 Do you believe Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” was 100% factual, with NO “rewriting of history”?

Do you think “The Crucible” is a purely factual report of the Salem witch trials?

Of course “Hamilton” takes liberties with facts. It’s meant as art, not journalism.

Chelsea, Jan. 14

8 Ismael Reed is just desperate for attention. When your only claim to fame is a novel published nearly fifty years ago, you’ve got to find a way to stay relevant, so he does it by hitching his wagon to the literary/theater star of the moment by way of insult.

9 @AACNY:  I disagree with the idea that Mr. Reed is “equally intelligent” – if he were, he wouldn’t need to swipe gratuitously at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s success.

I’m sure Reed is far more controversial than Lin; that would be b/c Reed set out to BE controversial (which seems like a poor use of one’s time to me, but that’s Reed’s problem).

I believe the term is pawning off – this guy is pawning off LMM. “Leech” would also apply.

This guy is using Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fame to bring attention to himself, and it’s sad.

“The play, ‘The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda,’ was written by Ishmael Reed, 80, a prolific and often satirical writer who, as a critic reviewing one of his books once said, ‘has made members of every constituency angry’ during his long career.”

I think Lin-Miranda’s defenders need to take a step back.  Clearly Mr. Reed is equally intelligent and controversial.

@Jacqueline Gauvin

10 But it was taught as history in NYC schools and entire curricula were built on it.
It’s not simply an entertainment.

Rich commented January 14

11 Reed’s is a classic example of why the Left has ceded so much power to the Right.

Rearranging chairs on the Titanic.

I’m good and you’re bad. Sadly the once maligned “identity politics” of the 1980s and 1990s have become “the new normal” in NYs elite liberal circles. Combine with a dash of self-righteousness, sprinkle with finger-pointing accusation, demand “freebies” galore from *anyone* with *something*… and you have the perfect recipe for disas…. I mean decli… I mean “cultural enhancement” and giving the disenfranchised an ahem voice…

12 @Thomas Zaslavsky: Mr. Reed is the author, but Mr. Neal is the enabler, in his attempt to profit from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliance. It’s just the ultimate in sour grapes & grasping on the part of BOTH Reed and Neal.

@Thomas Zaslavsky: Both Neal and Reed are guilty of intellectual laziness, AND of trying to use someone else’s fame as a punching bag.

I replied: Oakland California, Jan. 14

Some of the comments reflect the lack of a balanced education available in American classrooms. The media missed Rep.King’s comment that he learned how to be a white nationalist in  school. He’s not the only one. How do I know that Hamilton was not an abolitionist? It was easy. He left receipts confirming his sale of Blacks. His grandson says that he owned slaves and bought them for others. Also, he went along with G.W.s plan to “extirpate” Native Americans. Hamilton wrote:” the people of Kentucky wonderfully pleased with the government; and Scot, with a corps of ardent volunteers, on their route to demolish every savage, man, woman, and child.” No, I haven’t seen “Hamilton,” nor have I seen a production of “King Lear,” but I read the text of “Hamilton” a number of times and even quote from his book in my play. Finally, I’m easier on the musical than three brilliant women scholars, especially Prof.Michelle Du Ross whose essay on Hamilton can be found online.They represent an uprising in the Historical Establishment against the Good Old Boys,who make sales by representing the ” Founding Fathers,” enslavers and Native -American exterminators, as gods. Hope that all of you will see a full production of my play in May

A school teacher wrote: Moreover, I used some of Reed’s criticism of Miranda the last time I taught the course, and I look forward to including excerpts from  the play in the next version.

I also plan to include some of the Times excellent reporting on the mixed reception

Jan.16, 2019 Comments from Broadway World

Ishmael Reed on Why He Thinks Hamilton is a Total Fraud#1

Posted: 1/16/19 at 10:30pm

I found an interesting article I think it worthy of discussion regarding the musical Hamilton.Ishmael Reed is presenting a play now that pretty much embodies many of the critiques of the musical that have been going around for years from some academic; progressive; and other circles.

“Critics and academics claim the show erases critical facts about the founding fathers from its narrative, chief among them that Hamilton himself, supposedly an abolitionist, participated in the purchasing of slaves. Now, novelist, poet, playwright and MacArthur Fellowship recipient Ishmael Reed has responded to the Hamiltonbrouhaha with a theatrical work of his own: The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda, a two-act play that serves as a rebuttal to Miranda’s roaring success.”

https://observer.com/2019/01/playwright-ishmael-reed-on-why-he-thinks-hamilton-is-a-total-fraud/

“In Reed’s play, which was read to sold-out audiences in a series earlier this month at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City, the character of Miranda, who is floundering in the midst of the writing process, is suddenly visited by manifestations of slaves, Native Americans and white indentured servants who were conveniently left out of the book upon which he based his musical: Alexander Hamilton, by historian Ron Chernow. Distraught, Miranda listens as the facts are laid out for him one by one and his preconceived notions about America’s OG Federalist are shattered beyond recognition.”

There are some interesting facts regarding the Schuyler Estate and its treatment of slaves and runaway slaves.

As for what Reed says is the greatest irony of the diverse casting being used as a benchmark of the musical’s success and breaking new ground, Reed said that by “giving black people jobs . . . it deflected from the material.”

Even if you disagree with this interpretation of the work, I do think it provides some food for thought. Many of his critiques seem harsh, but they aren’t new and posters on this forum have talked about these issues in some capacity over the years.

uncageg

Posted: 1/16/19 at 10:43pm

1 My problem with this, and i think his big mistake, is that if you are going to go after the man who wrote the musical, see the show. Don’t base this off of the book the show was based on.

And finding the dancing distracting? I am not a fan of the show’s choreography but, um, it is a musical! Dancing tends to happen in musicals.

And of course i had to pause and gather myself when he was asked if he had listened to the soundtrack.

JMO

Just give the world Love.

ScottyDoesn’tKnow2

Posted: 1/16/19 at 10:45pm

2 I agree that the most problematic part of his critique is that he didn’t see the musical but based his critiques on the Chernow biography. However, I will say that a lot of what he said has been said by others who have seen the musical and came to similar conclusions, so I give him a bit of a pass on that.

poisonivy2

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Posted: 1/16/19 at 10:53pm

3 This is like Arlene Croce’s article “Discussing the Undiscussable.” She had valid points to make but when she pointedly made it clear that she had no intention of seeing the work she was condemning so harshly she lost credibility and it became an ugly culture war.

I think any harsh critic at least needs to respect the work enough to see it.

HogansHero

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Posted: 1/16/19 at 11:29pm

4 First of all, even accepting what he says as correct for sake of argument, it is not a “total fraud.” That however illuminates what these folks are actually doing, which is attempting to get attention by hijacking something that already has attention. And it also highlights what’s missing here: scholarship. An article in the Kushner Gazette giving someone their contrarian 15 minutes. Whatever.

uncageg

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Posted: 1/17/19 at 12:11am

5 It seems that he is not only going for the work but also its creator. I feel he has no right to do this without seeing the show. Go after the book.

I don’t know if this has happened but i feel that with the enormous popularity of this show and that it is based on history, a lot of people probably ended up doing their own research on Alexander Hamilton and may have found these things out.

Just give the world Love.

Niles Silvers

joined:9/27/18

Posted: 1/17/19 at 12:26pm

6 Lin-Manuel’s biggest sin is being successful.  That is unforgivable in certain circles.

haterobics

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Posted: 1/17/19 at 12:44pm

7 Err…

“I think Hamilton is probably the biggest consumer fraud since The Blair Witch Project.”

WTF was fraudulent about the Blair Witch Project?!

ggersten

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joined:5/11/06

Posted: 1/17/19 at 1:17pm

8 So, I had a couple of classes with Mr. Reed back in the day at Cal (University of California, Berkeley) and some interactions with him since then. He is a very sharp person and is not shy about his opinions.  (Although, in retrospect, I think he bit his tongue/lip quite a bit in class about certain topics and methods of storywriting)  From reading the interview article (which appears heavily edited), it does not appear he is attacking the musical or Miranda per se – but rather that he read or was informed that the Biography and the Musical both treat Hamilton as an abolitionist.  That is something Reed could not abide.  It sounds like the play Reed wrote has – in a Xmas Carol way – spirits meet with Miranda to try to enlighten Miranda (and the audience) on this particular issue.

John Adams

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joined:4/1/13

Posted: 1/17/19 at 1:21pm

9 I don’t discount anything Reed has to say regarding historical truths. Neither do I find anything wrong, or even obnoxious about his need to write what he knows.

What I’m unsure if Mr. Reed understands, or is able to acknowledge, is that it’s completely possible (and pretty common) to know what the truth is, yet still find incredible value in a work like “Hamilton”, in spite of any omissions of fact, or dramatic license regarding historical accuracy.

It’s both unfair, and demonstrates immature thinking to label the musical as “a total fraud”. That assertion colors how I think about anything else he writes (including what his play might be like).

Hellob

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Posted: 1/17/19 at 1:38pm

10 Idr him being portrayed as an abolitionist. I remember that being John Laurens

Elfuhbuh

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joined:3/23/14

Posted: 1/17/19 at 1:40pm

11 Hamilton makes a snarky comment to Jefferson about Jefferson’s slave owning in the show.

“Was uns befreit, das muss stärker sein als wir es sind.” -Tanz der Vampire

Updated On: 1/17/19 at 01:40 PM

Rainah

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Posted: 1/17/19 at 3:24pm

12 Elfuhbuh said: “Hamilton makes a snarky comment to Jefferson about Jefferson’s slave owning in the show.

Which, honestly, is pretty accurate. Hamilton was a member of an abolitionist society, and did not personally own slaves.

He just didn’t see a problem with his wife’s family or his friends owning slaves, or do much at all to prevent slavery political or personally. Not an abolitionist by any means, but the musical doesn’t really paint him as one. I would say a bigger difference would be portraying hamilton as being pro immigration instead of a giant racist xenophobe who spearheaded anti immigration laws.

Consistency

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Posted: 1/17/19 at 3:29pm

13 Eh… The musical does exaggerate Hamilton’s egalitarianism (he was actually very much an elitist), but this kind of hyperbolic response doesn’t really help anything.

I preface this with the caveat that I am not a historian, but… Hamilton’s writings make it clear that he had a lifelong dislike for slavery. Most notably, towards the end of his life, he publicly advocated for an end to slavery in New York and to stop the importation of slaves to the new nation. However, none of that stopped him from getting involved in the slave trade at certain points in his life, or from turning a blind eye to (for example) Washington’s ownership of slaves. That is to say, he wasn’t some grand egalitarian, and he didn’t always let his principles get in the way of his ambitions.

Of course, slavery was such a fundamental and inextricable part of 18th century American society and economics that it would have been hard for any member of the “elite” to not be complicit in that evil institution to some extent.

That’s not to defend the whitewashing in the musical or excuse his behavior. Hamilton was a racist, but he was still more progressive than most of his peers (and almost all of the founding fathers), at least in regards to slavery. Calling him “pro-slavery,” as Reed does in that interview, seems just as inaccurate as anything presented in the musical.

Updated On: 1/17/19 at 03:29 PM

Mister Matt

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Posted: 1/17/19 at 4:54pm

14 Somebody send him a DVD of 1776 and then butter a big ol’ bucket of popcorn!

Or any musical/play/film based on actual events, for that matter.  They all take dramatic license with the facts.  Not to mention that every single popular musical gets obsessively nit-picked by either those who truly disliked it or the those who jump on the contrarian bandwagon simply because the show IS popular (BWW has been plagued by the latter since Hairspray opened).  This man’s personal vendetta against Miranda, who is not actually responsible for the popularity of the musical, is just embarrassing.

“What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?” – Reginald Tresilian

CarlosAlberto

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joined:6/29/10

Posted: 1/17/19 at 5:33pm

15I am so pissed off that the Nuyorican Poets Cafe of all places hosted this piece of trash. They should be uplifting one of our own not tearing them down. Disgraceful and damn shame.

It’s handled.

ScottyDoesn’tKnow2

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Posted: 1/17/19 at 5:35pm

16 He’s not just picking at it to pick it at it. If you’re familiar with Reed’s work then you’ll see a consistency of social critiques about this country in general for decades. Of course he’ll pick on the musical because it’s successful. That success garners it attention and accolades. With that success you’ll have people observing the phenomena and scrutinizing it in a critical way regarding its politics and dynamics portrayed since it’s a show that was praised for being socially-conscious and progressive. It happens all the time in the left, especially when you do non-profit work like I do and we have to keep on our toes about the effects of our actions. The thing that really makes me question his critiques is that he seems to have used what he heard from other social critics about what the show portrays or represents to inform his work rather than personally observing it for himself. Even as a fan of the show, I can’t really take this personally (maybe because I see where the critiques are coming from) because I feel like a show that has been praised as much as Hamilton also deserves the respect of being taken so seriously that it has real scrutiny. Great theatre can be about pushing the boundaries on such things and commenting and critiquing work and how it portrays life, society, and struggles with power and I think if anything, this actually sort of gives Hamilton a bit more credibility because it’s not just a show you can be “mindless” about but can generate discussion….even if some people think the points are wrong at least a substantive discussion was generated.

South Florida

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Posted: 1/17/19 at 5:42pm

Thanks Mister Matt.  Very funny.

Stephanatic

Updated On: 1/17/19 at 05:42 PM

Impossible2

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Posted: 1/17/19 at 5:59pm

17 haterobics said: “Err…

“I think Hamilton is probably the biggest consumer fraud sinceThe Blair Witch Project.” 

WTF was fraudulent about the Blair Witch Project?!

18 Upon its initial release it was sold as ‘real’ found footage and that the 3 kids had actually disappeared.

Of course once it went wide the truth came out, but when it was at Sundance etc the filmmakers said it was real and it’s website was set up like it was real.

ScottyDoesn’tKnow2

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joined:1/22/14

Posted: 1/17/19 at 8:34pm

19 An article by a non-fan of Hamilton criticizing Reed’s play and wonders why Reed seems to take it so personally:

https://theoutline.com/post/6952/the-haunting-of-lin-manuel-miranda-review-ishmael-reed-hamilton?zd=2&zi=gr4lhdxn

20 I think this critique of Reed’s play also brings up issues people have with Hamilton and the way we brush away bad things in history in order prop up the good parts.

“A reasonable adult has many reasons for disliking Hamilton, the only musical of recent memory to become the subject of widespread cultural debate. The facts of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hopera are shaky: Alexander Hamilton is celebrated as an abolitionist, despite credible evidence that he owned slaves and felt no particular way about their cause. The casting of non-white actors as figures like George Washington and Aaron Burr gives the show an appearance of diversity, but it still centers on a historically white telling of America by valorizing the Founding Fathers who, foundational myths aside, were enthusiastic slave-owners. What’s worse, there’s the songs, which are a great example of “successful musical theatre,” but a piss-poor rendering of what they claim to be: enjoyable rap music.”

So it’s clear this author is not a fan of the musical nor is he impressed with the music as rap music.

Some content of Reed’s Play described:

“The content of these accusatory monologues is similar to Reed’s op-eds, found online for free, in which he lays out the facts about how and why Miranda deviated from the truth. As a historical lesson, it’s explanatory; as a rant, it’s cathartic in places. It is funny to imagine Miranda getting chewed out by Harriet Tubman, after actively petitioning to keep her from replacing Hamilton on the $20 bill.”

His issue with the piece as art:

“But as art, which demands more than a recitation of the facts, the play committed a cardinal sin: that of being boring.”

He also goes on about Reed taking this way too personally.

As to the question why The Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York’s Alphabet City is hosting this play…why not? Why can’t they host a work that is critical of a work from another Puerto Rican if they find his work problematic? Here’s the reception to Reed’s play there:

“That said, the response to the show has been enthusiastic. The Hauntingonly ran for four days, and reportedly sold out each night. Judging by the audience’s frequently raucous responses to the fictitious Miranda getting owned by one of his ghosts, there’s clearly a demand for a counterpoint to Hamilton, which has been relatively hater-proof. Cultural works are so rarely validated by the critics, the market, the donor-class apparatus, and the actual president that to voice one’s antipathy for Hamilton felt purposely misanthropic, a way of intentionally ruining other people’s fun, and hope for the future. The cafe felt like a safe space for the dozens of people bunched into the narrow rows, a place to revel in one’s dislike for Miranda’s play without judgment.”

He does bring up the point that as ticket prices are expensive and not accessible, many of Hamilton’s critics did not see the show and that’s an issue for the criticism. It’s also something brought up regarding how much of a social phenomenon and how far spread can the play be can it be when not everybody has access to it.

I liked Gordon’s ending paragraph:

“At the end of the play, Miranda confronts Chernow, who’s presented as a pompous hack, about his manuscript’s falsities. Chernow, unbowed, replies: “Didn’t you take the hint when the Rockefeller Foundation endorsed your play?”  . . . Should he not want to publicly repudiate the more objectionable myths his play has perpetuated, Miranda might want to stay the course, as the fictional Chernow suggests: He could write a similar play about Columbus, which would surely be a smash.”

Updated On: 1/17/19 at 08:34 PM

OlBlueEyes

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joined:5/31/10

Posted: 1/17/19 at 9:19pm

21 Hamilton had a sorry upbringing as a poor white orphaned bastard in the West Indies, and he was exposed to the conditions there where blacks were little better than animals working on the sugar plantations until they dropped. So he really was inside himself against slavery and, further, unlike many abolitionists, he did not believe that blacks were inferior to whites. But if non-opposition to slavery was necessary to accomplish some policy matter, he would go along with it. As one who desperately wanted to see the Constitution ratified, he did not oppose the three fifths compromise.

I wouldn’t feel too superior to those people. If I believed that racist hiring policies were in effect where I worked, but my department head got hot over the issue, insisting that fewer blacks were hired because they were less intelligent, and at a meeting over hiring he gave his opinion and then asked me what I thought, would I stay true to my principles or sell out to keep my job and career.

Anyway, I thought that most of the Founding Father myths, and others, had been obliterated by now. Jefferson, the man of whom President Kennedy said at a formal dinner in the White House, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone” should hold the Guiness Book of World Records record for hypocrisy. “All Men are Created Equal.” He was one of the largest slave owners in the South and did not even free his slaves upon his death, as Washington did in his will. (About half his slaves belonged to his wife’s family and he could not free them.) Jefferson could not even manage his home estate Monticello. He fell heavily into debt and had to be bailed out by friends.

Has everyone by now been made aware of Lincoln’s statements during the final debate with Stephen Douglas in September, 1858.

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.  (Fourth Lincoln Douglas Debate – September 18, 1858 – Charleston, Illinois)

And the Emancipation Proclamation did not free the slaves. It freed the slaves in the Confederate states so Lincoln would get the Abolishist vote. It did not free the slaves in the Union border states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri so Lincoln could get the votes of those states.

Hey, nobody’s perfect.

BobPopa

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joined:12/27/06

Posted: 1/17/19 at 9:28pm

22 Anyone who fell for “Blair Witch Project” as being real “found footage” is probably broke and homeless from falling for every email scam in the world. It was a smart idea and concept at the time it was out…but come on, I was in college when it came out, never once did anyone I know think it was “real”.

“He wants to know who cares. I care you stupid fool we all care…” John Wilkes Booth (Assassins)

OlBlueEyes

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joined:5/31/10

Posted: 1/17/19 at 10:09pm

23 The facts of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hopera are shaky: Alexander Hamilton is celebrated as an abolitionist, despite credible evidence that he owned slaves and felt no particular way about their cause.

This is blatantly false. It reflects poorly on Slate. Hamilton was one of the first to join the New York Manumission (Emancipation) Society founded by the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, and Hamilton was a very active member. Anyone calling himself a journalist would be aware of this.

He was also one of the young officers who tried to persuade Washington to admit blacks into the Colonial Army in exchange for their freedom.

This is not to say that he did not let his principles slip at times when something of great personal importance was at stake.

Slavery was legal and practiced in New York until 1829. Slaves were mostly household workers and laborers. If slavery had been as important to the economy of New York as it was to the economy of the South, would New York have abolished slavery in 1829?

Mister Matt

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joined:5/17/03

Posted: 1/18/19 at 12:51pm

24 Anyone who fell for “Blair Witch Project” as being real “found footage” is probably broke and homeless from falling for every email scam in the world. It was a smart idea and concept at the time it was out…but come on, I was in college when it came out, never once did anyone I know think it was “real”.

Oh, I’m sure there were people who thought it was real.  Have you seen who’s President?

A reasonable adult has many reasons for disliking Hamilton, the only musical of recent memory to become the subject of widespread cultural debate.

Jesus.

What’s worse, there’s the songs, which are a great example of “successful musical theatre,” but a piss-poor rendering of what they claim to be: enjoyable rap music.

They were written to be a score incorporated with a book to a musical.  They never claimed to be anything else.  Unlike how this person claims to be a reasonable adult.

The cafe felt like a safe space for the dozens of people bunched into the narrow rows, a place to revel in one’s dislike for Miranda’s play without judgment.

The only appropriate response to this: OH FFS! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!  I’m immediately reminded of that white supremacist who posted the video of himself crying when he thought he was going to jail. GAWD.  “We were just a small group who don’t think Hamilton is all that AND LOOK WHAT THEY TRIED TO DO TO US!”

So, the play sold out four nights at a cafe to “dozens of people”.  Is this considered impressive?  Because the “sold out” part gets mentioned a lot. I mean, I get it in terms of strategic marketing, but is it supposed to be an influential statement somehow?  My first theatre company used to sell out 6-week runs at our first space that we could afford.  It was only 3 performances a week and the space had 13 seats, but should that matter?  We SOLD OUT!

“What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?” – Reginald Tresilian

Updated On: 1/18/19 at 12:51 PM

Kad

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joined:11/5/05

Posted: 1/18/19 at 12:58pm

25 The fact that Reed has written a play explicitly to criticize Miranda, but staunchly refuses to see Hamilton itself and justifies that by saying his play is actually a critique of Chernow’s biography, seems more than a little disingenuous.

“…everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace.”

Ishmael Reed’s forthcoming books include a book of essays, Why No Confederate Statues In Mexico, published by Baraka books in September and Feeding My Dragons, a book of poetry to be published next March by The Dalkey Archives.

More articles by:

Ishmael Reed is the author of The Complete Muhammad Ali.

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