Lin-Manuel Miranda serves church with cease and desist after unauthorized performance of 'Hamilton'

ByScottie Andrew and Sandra Gonzalez, CNN, CNNWire
Sunday, August 14, 2022
'Hamilton' team responds to Texas church's unauthorized performance
A Texas church performed "Hamilton" this weekend, but the team behind the Tony-award winning production says it shouldn't have happened.

TEXAS -- A Texas church performed "Hamilton" this weekend, but the team behind the Tony-award winning production says it shouldn't have happened.

"'Hamilton' does not grant amateur or professional licenses for any stage productions and did not grant one to The Door Church," Shane Marshall Brown, a spokesperson for "Hamilton," said in a statement to CNN on Monday.

Officials behind the musical were not aware of the "unauthorized staging" until the day after the church's first of two scheduled performances and sent a cease-and-desist letter, the spokesperson added.

The Door, a church in McAllen, a town in South Texas, was allowed to continue with its planned second performance, with conditions, among them that the show would not be live streamed, recorded or shared on social media in photo or video form, according to the statement.

The Door performed "Hamilton" on Aug. 5 and 6 with edited content that included lyrical references to Jesus and Christianity throughout, according to footage of the production shared on social media. A sermon reportedly delivered to the audience also compared homosexuality to drug addiction, according to video.

In an additional statement provided to CNN late Monday, the spokesperson said they were not aware "of the extensive changes to the show or that there would be a sermon at the end" when they allowed Saturday's performance to move forward.

"We have reserved all of our rights and are considering how to proceed based upon what we've learned," the spokesperson's statement said. "The Hamilton family stands for tolerance, compassion, inclusivity and certainly LGBTQ+ rights. We are in the process of reviewing the unauthorized changes made to the script to determine further action."

CNN's attempts to reach The Door for comment over the weekend and on Monday have gone unanswered.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony, Grammy and Emmy-winning smash that retells the tale of the "10-dollar founding father" Alexander Hamilton and his contemporaries with a cast mostly comprised of people of color.

It won both the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony for best musical, and its producers have launched productions on Broadway, in Chicago and in San Francisco, among other cities, not counting its multiple touring companies. It is not available for licensing to theater companies.

Per copyright law, churches do have an exemption that allows them to perform copyrighted music during religious services, but that exemption does not allow for streaming or distribution of those performances and does not extend to any other public performances outside of service.

Much of the footage from the church's first "Hamilton" performance was scrubbed from The Door's social media accounts, per the production's cease-and-desist request. But some clips were preserved online and shared by Hemant Mehta, a writer and atheist advocate.

In one clip, a character appears to read from the Bible while Hamilton is in crisis. The character tells him that "God is the only one that can help you right now."

In another clip, an actor playing Eliza Schuyler sings "My hope is in Jesus. If you could just give him a chance today, that would be enough."

Other footage shared by Mehta reportedly shows The Door pastor Victor Lopez addressing the audience on stage, with "Hamilton" sets behind him, and he says: "Maybe you struggle with alcohol, with drugs, homosexuality. Maybe you struggle with other things in life, your finances, whatever, relationships -- God can help you tonight."

"Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and famously used his 2016 Tony Awards acceptance speech to read a sonnet that addressed the shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, that killed 50 people hours before the award show.

Miranda has not individually commented on the unauthorized production.

CNN has attempted to reach Lopez for comment.

Some arts critics who weren't attached to "Hamilton" took issue with the McAllen church's unauthorized production and the changes to its text.

Howard Sherman, an arts administrator and writer who was one of the first users to widely share news of the production, said the rights of the artists behind "Hamilton" had been violated.

"The work of Lin Manuel (sic), Tommy Kail, Alex Lacamoire, Andy Blankenbuehler, David Korins and others cannot be taken for free or manipulated to send other messages," he wrote. "I respect all faiths, but I cannot respect The Door McAllen for stealing material to serve their own purposes."

The statement from the spokesperson for "Hamilton" thanked the show's "devoted fans" for "bringing this to our attention."


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