BLOG: HOMOPHOBIC HAMILTON
You may have seen recently the news of an illegal production of Hamilton which was put on by a church in the US. This production changed the show and the meaning and turned the ending of the show essentially into a homophobic rant.
I have been thinking a lot about this over the last couple of days and following the story so I thought I would share my feelings on this issue.
The church in question is The Door Christian Fellowship Ministries which is situated in Texas. The southern states are well known for harbouring far right wing views and pushing the religious agenda in intolerable ways. This church has even been in trouble before for changing theatrical productions to support their message.
I am not a christian or a follower of any faith but I support peoples rights to have their own beliefs. What I do not support however is when groups such as this church openly spread hate and division, masquerading as sharing the message of god. The church is a big institution in the US, much more so than in the UK, and therefore has a lot of clout and a huge following. They somehow think this gives them a license to do what they want without consequence.
Firstly, before I discuss the changes to the show, I must first say that this production was essentially illegal. Hamilton is still hugely successful on Broadway. There are also major productions touring the US, in London's West End and worldwide. This means that the producers have not released a license that you can apply for to put on your own production of the show. It simply does not exist. So when this church alluded to the fact that they had permission to stage a version of Hamilton, they were simply lying. I believe they broke a commandment right there!
The song Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story had its lyrics changed so instead of being about raising children, the focus of the song was to "introduce hundreds of children to Jesus".
Lyrics were changed in other songs too including That Would Be Enough. Instead of being a love message from a wife to her husband, the song was about giving Jesus a 'chance'.
The church's associate pastor Victor Lopez also gave a sermon as part of the production which compared homosexuality to drug addiction. He said "Maybe you struggle with alcohol, with drugs, with homosexuality. Maybe you struggle with other things in life, your finances, whatever. God can help you tonight."
The production was also live streamed which meant it reached many people. Think of the negative effect that hearing homophobic messages from the church can have on young members of the queer community. It's no wonder that the suicide rate for queer teens is so high when the church, who many look to for solace and help, constantly refers to your community with such bile and hatred.
Much of the script was also changed. The church removed anything that they thought was distasteful, such as swearing. There were many mentions of Jesus throughout the unauthorised production and Alexander Hamilton actually 'finds Jesus' and has a conversation with him!
The thing I don't get is that there are many religious musicals that they could have produced without infringing on licensing laws and without having to make changes to suit their agenda. Godspell or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat both tell religious stories without promoting hate.
A spokesperson for Hamilton told USA Today that the team behind the smash hit Broadway musical denounced the 'unauthorised changes' to the production.
"Hamilton does not grant amateur or professional licenses for any stage productions, and did not grant one to The Door Church."
"We issued a cease-and-desist letter for the unauthorised use of Hamilton's intellectual property, demanding the immediate removal of all videos and images from previous productions from the internet, including TikTok, facebook, Instagram, their own website and elsewhere."
"The Hamilton family stands for tolerance, compassion, inclusivity and certainly LGBTQ+ rights. We are in the process of reviewing the unauthorised changes made to the script to determine further action."
It is also worth noting that the Hamilton team have denied giving a license to the church to perform the production, even though one of their pastors has publicly stated that they had received one. I have seen no evidence of this to date.
The first performance took place on Friday 5th August with a second scheduled for Saturday 6th August. What I didn't understand that when the cease-and-desist letter was sent on the 6th, the second performance was still allowed to go ahead. They weren't allowed to live stream or have any video recording or photographs of the performance. But why was it still allowed to be performed?
This really angered me as it seemed that the Hamilton team were almost condoning the hate and homophobia that this production promoted. They have since stated that at that point they were unaware what the changes to the script were so allowed the performance to go ahead. I'm not 100% sure that they didn't know as all you had to do was look online to find out what was going on!
I'm more inclined to think that they didn't want to publicly shut down the church and face the backlash from the vocal christian community, especially as a lot of the performers were youngsters who undoubtedly had worked hard to rehearse the production.
I just hope that Hamilton doesn't just brush this under the carpet and move on because the church will continue to behave in this manner. I'm sure they have great legal teams and very vocal supporters, but I feel this is too important to just let them get away with it.
The shows creator and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda has sent out a tweet that reads "Grateful to all of you who reached out about this illegal, unauthorized production. Now lawyers do their work."
I would have liked him to have publicly called out the homophobia and supported the LGBTQ+ community, but I guess if its now a legal matter (which I really hope it is) then maybe he didn't want to say too much. Who knows?
I have to remember also that Hamilton is his intellectual property and not only has this church taken it from him with no license, and therefore no payment, but they have made changes to it which can only have a negative effect on him.
His tweet also said he was "grateful to the Dramatists Guild, who have the backs of writers everywhere, be it your first play or your fiftieth."
The Dramatists Guild is a professional organisation which represents playwrights, composers and lyricists. They have also publicly condoned the church's production.
Part of their statement reads "We hold up the Door McAllen Church's brazen infringement to shine a light on the problematic pattern of some theatrical organizations performing authors' works without a license and rewriting the text without authorial consent.'
Why is it that the church, who are meant to spread love and acceptance, are usually the most guilty of spreading hate and division? This is especially the case in the southern states of the US.
It is worth noting that many prominent members of the church have spoken out against this church's production.
So there you have it. What do you think about what this church has done? Do you think that the team at Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda are right to take legal action? I know I do! Let me know what you think.
Please note that all views are my own and to the best of my knowledge, all information is correct at the time of writing this blog.