Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Dramaturgy
By Sabrina KhanSenior Plogger Andrew Jackson may not be everybody’s favorite president, but he’s definitely popular on Broadway. Our former leader comes to musical life in the Public Theater’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and he’s not exactly himself. President Jackson has quite the reputation in the history of the United States. And this unique musical portrays the persona of the man we’ve only met in textbooks in an unconventional and contemporary manner. In emo-rock tongue, this musical reshapes the major events that outlined our 7th president’s life and administration: his relationship with first lady Rachel Jackson, the state of populism and the Indian Removal Act. In office from March 4, 1829 – March 4, 1837, Jackson was such political maverick that his political philosophy, and the era in which it was adopted, has since been coined Jacksonian democracy. He was also nicknamed “Old Hickory,” having been raised in the American Frontier. So his attitude and policies while in office were molded by the upbringing and life he led in the west. As a point of contention in the musical, and in reality, Jackson’s marriage to his wife was scandalous from the beginning, though not necessarily between the two of them. He met his wife to-be in, Rachel Donelson Robards, in 1788, when boarding as a tenant with her family. At the time, she was unhappily wed to Captain Lewis Robards, but decided to divorce her husband. Jackson married her thinking they were divorced, but since the process wasn’t yet over, she was labeled a bigamist (bigamy being the offence of marrying someone while already married to another person). Though a tough and stubborn man, Jackson didn’t take this well. He could forgive insults against him, but those against his wife hurt him too deeply. In fact, Jackson’s opponents called him a “jackass” and he actually liked it. He even used the symbol for a while until it eventually became the icon for the Democratic Party. So Jackson definitely had thick skin, he just had a soft heart too. As for his fierce behavior in office, Jackson encouraged a democracy in which the power of the executive branch exceeded that of Congress. He was a strong supporter of the masses—excluding the slaves, of course—and pushed for greater rights for the poor. Speaking of, the public was actually invited to the White House for the first time for his inauguration ball. There was even a mob scene as many of them tried to catch glimpses of the president, earning the president yet another nickname, King Mob. The defining moment of Jackson’s career was the Indian Removal Act. Essentially an ethnic cleansing of various Indian tribes, Jackson supported acquiring land from the Indians to hand over to White settlers. Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830, which authorized creating treaties to buy tribal lands in the east in return for lands further west and outside the bounds of existing United States borders. It wasn’t so simple to negotiate a treaty in Georgia, where the Cherokee Nation refused to leave. Jackson’s successor, President Van Buren, enforced the treaty and ordered 7,000 armed troops to force 4,000 Cherokees to leave on what became known as the Trail of Tears. President Andrew Jackson was definitely a controversial figure and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson shows a side of him that theatrically explores these events of his life and their effects on his personality. And it’s up to the viewer to decide whether he’s not so bad of a guy after all.