Donatella Galella, '“I Want to Be in the Room Where It Happens”: Nationalist Neoliberal Multicultural Inclusion in Hamilton'
November 9, 2016, 12:10 p.m. in ARTS 157
Musicalizing the founding father Alexander Hamilton through a hip hop aesthetic and a multiracial cast, the Broadway blockbuster Hamilton has earned high praise from across the political spectrum. President Barack Obama joked, “Hamilton, I’m pretty sure, is the only thing Dick Cheney and I agree on.” In this talk, I encourage us to wonder: Why does Hamilton, aside from its impressive artistry, appeal to many different people? What work does the musical do? To answer these questions, I articulate the political project of creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton as “nationalist neoliberal multicultural inclusion.” In other words, Miranda occupies a centrist position that mobilizes performers of color and the bootstraps narrative in order to celebrate and envision the United States as a racially diverse utopia where everyone has a fair chance to compete for access to the “room where it happens.” Examining interviews, the printed Hamilton tome, and the musical production itself, I draw attention to the terms and limits of this inclusion. In so doing, I gesture toward those deliberately kept outside of the room, the narrative, and the nation. I conclude by inviting us to stage a performative intervention in Hamilton, as many of us feel the pleasures of embodying this seductive, U.S. American dream but must also maintain a radical critique.
Donatella Galella is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at UC Riverside where she teaches global theatre history, Asian/American drama, and history of musical theatre. Her research addresses the operations of capitalism and racism in contemporary U.S. performance. Theatre Journal published her article on interpreting multiracial casting in Oklahoma! in the age of Obama, and Continuum published her article on theorizing the popularity of the musical version of A Raisin in the Sun. She is working on a book project entitled America in the Round: Arena Stage and the Production of Capital, Race, and Nation, which is a critical history of the first professional resident theatre in Washington, D.C., and how it has navigated what it means to be non-profit, black, and U.S. American.