BWW Feature: HAMILTON Celebrates History Education By Giving Back to 3,900 Students with EDUHAM in Detroit!
When you see a high student support another high school student that is one of the best moments you can ever witness, but when you see over 2,000 students support one another the experience is astounding and one you will never forget! This was exactly the experience that happened at the Fisher Theatre on Thursday morning for the Hamilton Education Program, better known as EduHam, when the second of the two high school only Hamilton matinee performances happened. The students were greeted by Chaundre Hall-Broomfield, who plays Hercules Mulligan / James Madison, and then selected students took the stage to perform original projects inspired by their analysis of primary source materials and lyrics from the musical. That was followed by a Q & A with some members of the Angelica Tour company of Hamilton that is currently here in Detroit as part of the Broadway in Detroit season and the special matinee student performance. It was an experience that these students will never forget!
When Chaundre Hall-Broomfield walked on stage to kick-off the event, the loudness of the cheers was evident to show how excited the students were to be there. He let everyone know that this was a safe space for them to have fun and enjoy the students up on stage. The roars for each of the 14 student acts were loud and boisterous with each school of the performers letting their classmates who were on the stage know where they were sitting in the theatre. If the students who were performing were nervous, no one could tell because they shined through their performances and let their peers in the audiences cheer them on. If they stumbled, the audience roared, not with laughter, but with positivity and encouragement. If they did something spectacular like hit a good note, make an emotional and unexpected turn in their performance, or with their ability to rap like they were in Hamilton, the audience was present and right there with them through every moment. It truly was a safe space for the kids to express themselves and have fun both on stage and off.
After the student performances concluded, the Q & A took place. Jon Viktor Corpuz (John Laurens / Philip Hamilton) hosted this portion of the event with five other members of the company on stage: Kendyl Sayuri Yokoyama (swing), Kyle Weiler (universal swing), Josh Tower (Aaron Burr), Alaina Vi Maderal (swing), and Tré Frazier (standby.) They told the students about what their roles in Hamilton are. They answered submitted questions such as this one from John Glenn High School (Westland, MI), "what was their favorite thing they have done so far in Detroit?" Josh Tower replied, "that he went to the Motown Museum and it was great. He played Barry Gordy at one time and it was amazing to go there and to sit yourself down in that museum" and Kyle Weiler likes "walking around and exploring downtown." They educated the students on what swing life is like and how much work goes into that the entire performance when a swing steps in. When Southfield High School for the Arts and Technology's (Southfield, MI) question was read by Jon Viktor Corpuz, not only did the crowd cheer loudly, but it brought a lot of laughs from audience and performers on stage with their answers - "If you could trade characters, who would you play?" Kendyl Sayuri Yokoyama immediately yelled, "Burr!" Followed by Kyle Weiler saying, "the bullet." Josh Tower said, "Angelica." Alaina Vi Maderal picked, "Eliza." Finally, Tré Frazier agreed with Tower and said, "Angelica, too." Then Tower looked at Yokoyama and said, "you can't have my role though," which broke the audience into lots of laughs. "How do you handle different live reactions from the audience?" was asked by Western International High School (Detroit, MI.) "Absolutely react - laugh, cry, clap, but keep your cell phones away. Whatever you need to do to react," Josh Tower answered. Detroit Edison Public Schools Academy (Detroit, MI) wanted to know, "what advice would you give to aspiring performers?" "At the end of the day, I know this is incredibly hard to put into practice, but the only person you should really be comparing yourself to and trying to be better than is yourself and I can't stress that enough. In an industry that is so built around obvious comparisons, for you as a performer, I would say it is very, very healthy to let a lot of that go and only try to be better than yourself. It's all about the art and bettering yourself as an artist," answered Tré Frazier.
The whole morning was a fun, entertaining, and educational time for the students in attendance. Like Chaundre Hall-Broomfield said when he first came on stage, it was a safe space for the students to perform, learn, and enjoy theatre. BroadwayWorld Detroit had a chance to speak with Hall-Broomfield and some of the student performers about the Hamilton Education Program. Read what they had to say below followed by more detailed information on EduHam and photos from student performances:
First up is Chaundre Hall-Broomfield who hosted the student talent portion of the EduHam event. He plays Hercules Mulligan / James Madison on the Angelica Tour of Hamilton.
BroadwayWorld Detroit: What does EduHam mean to you?
Chaundre Hall-Broomfield: I think it is one of the main responsibilities of what artists should be doing in the world right now - to be able to use art as a medium to educate the next generation - because people walk away from this show not only being entertained, but being moved by history. When these kids sit in the classroom for 7 ½ hours a day and they're bored and feel like they can't absorb any more information, this show does it in a manner of three hours. They have songs that they can sing along to and that are real information. To be able to use art to educate is, I think, a prime objective right now.
What do you see when watch the kids on stage?
Chaundre Hall-Broomfield: I see kids who are excited at the fact that they get to learn through watching a show. The freedom that they feel of not being behind a desk and that they're hearing hip hop; they're hearing R&B; things that they listen to on the radio; they get to have an educational experience while doing the things that they love; and hearing and listening to things that they love. I see excitement.
Is that one of the best things about being part of this to you?
Chaundre Hall-Broomfield: Ohmigosh, yeah. To see a young, black kid cry from our performance after a show - it moves me because this show is doing something that has never been done before. It is giving kids a mirror that they can say "oh man that can be me." I didn't necessarily have that and the generation before me didn't necessarily have that, so I get a lot of gratitude and I get very humble when I see these kids be moved by the work that we do on stage.
You really light up talking about this and it seems really gratifying to you.
Chaundre Hall-Broomfield: Oh, absolutely.
Do kids ever really blow your mind with what you see? I've watched videos of other EduHam's and today even I was amazed by the talent.
Chaundre Hall-Broomfield: Ohmigosh, yes. I was talking about safe space a lot today. When I'm not acting, I substitute teach and high school can be one of the cruelest places ever. To see all these kids come into this place and be so supportive and so encouraging and to see kids get up in front of 2000-2500 kids and fully express themselves in ways that they are not allowed to in schools, it makes me excited. I literally think, "man I can't wait to get on the stage with them in ten years," because that's what it is, that's the magic of it, the inner child when you are a kid. When you are an actor or artist, that inner child has to be thriving and to see it thrive with them, it makes me a little emotional.
Next, are student from Southfield High School for the Arts and Technology in Southfield, Michigan: Myles Dungey, Jared Ingram, and Isaiah Ray. These three gentlemen did a Hamilton / Burr duel song.
BroadwayWorld Detroit: Explain a little bit about what you did and how you created it.
Myles Dungey: I have been following Hamilton for a little over a year now. I have been really inspired by the musical. It's probably one of my favorites. I've always been interested in theatre. I'm in a theatre company called the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit so I got a lot of exposure to theatre from them. By listening to the cast recording of Hamilton, I was really inspired by the battle between Hamilton and Burr. It's probably one of my favorite scenes of the show. I kind of made a playlist of songs for Jared and Isaiah to listen to because they hadn't heard Hamilton before. Just out of the songs that would be important to doing the project so they would still be surprised today watching the show. From there, we all just kind of collaborated with different music stuff - Jared is really good with the piano so he made different chords for us to try out - and we just made the thing together.
How long did you guys practice and take time to create it?
Myles Dungey: We have a free period on certain days called seminar, which is basically just where you can do extracurricular work if you need to, catch up on homework, and stuff like that. We would typically meet during seminar and we gave up a lot of our lunch periods so we would have time to rehearse together. Our teacher, Mr. Jeff Martin, was really essential in the process of getting this done. He gave us time to rehearse with the piano in the choir room, time in his office to work, time in the auditorium, and whatever we needed for today.
What was it like performing on the stage today?
Isaiah Ray: It was very amazing. It was very exhilarating. It was a new experience for us. I don't think we will ever do something like this again.
Did you have nerves before you went on?
Myles Dungey, Jared Ingram, and Isaiah Ray: Yes!
Jared Ingram: We did. We were all worried. We were shaken up just listening to everyone in the warm up room. We just sat in a circle listening to each other's performances. It was really great. Everybody sounded amazing and it was so good. It's just been a really fun experience.
What does this program, EduHam, mean to you and that you guys got to do this?
Myles Dungey: Getting to do this is really important to me because I've always been a big fan of just Hamilton in general - the way that they do this show and the way that they cast it. There are no racial boundaries; there are no gender boundaries; there are no class boundaries; there is just the story of this country, which is just really, really important right now because a lot of people are wavering right now in this country because there isn't always equality and isn't always justice, but then there are things like this that remind us of really what this country is about and the good things that it stands for. I think that Hamilton does a really good job of that. Having that opportunity so close to home, where all different kinds of kids can experience that, is really important.
Jared Ingram: I just have to thank Myles. He really got us both into musical theatre and before I knew what Hamilton was, and, I mean, everyone knows what Hamilton is, but I never really knew. Now that I know, it's just really beautiful. Thank you. And thank our teacher, Mr. Martin. He put together the instrumental for us. He's just a great teacher and we wouldn't be here without him.
Finally, Vanessa Ybarra from Western International High School in Detroit, Michigan. She did an original song called "The Duel" and accompanied herself on the guitar.
BroadwayWorld Detroit: How long did you practice for EduHam?
Vanessa Ybarra: It's kind of funny because I had the music way before the Hamilton trip was coming and I just added lyrics to it last minute. But I have been practicing for about a month and half, maybe.
Did you create it all on your own?
Vanessa Ybarra: Yes. There were some inspirations from the little handbook that they gave us and from the play. I looked up different stuff on the topic that I was writing about, which was the Hamilton and Burr duel, but other than that, it is completely original including the music.
What was it like performing on the Hamilton stage?
Vanessa Ybarra: It was, I don't know, indescribable. The feeling of being watched by so many, but those people were so encouraging of you and happy to see you there. Having everybody cheer for you - it is like really an amazing feeling!
What was your favorite part being up there?
Vanessa Ybarra: My favorite part being up there was definitely when I was in the middle of singing and everybody just started clapping along to the beat of the song that is something that I don't think I'll ever forget. It really makes a difference from when you are performing up there when everybody is listening to you from when you are performing up there and everybody is listening, enjoying, and into what you are doing.
Why do you think EduHam is a good opportunity for students like yourself?
Vanessa Ybarra: I think it's an amazing opportunity. I'm glad we get to have this opportunity just because I feel like the arts can be overlooked sometimes. I think it is such a great opportunity to see the arts in a such a way that it can be truly highlighted in our own education.
What do you hope to take away from all this?
Vanessa Ybarra: I hope to take away from that it's not impossible to be up on that stage. To anybody that wants to pursue music and wants to pursue musical theatre in any form that it's entirely possible because we're here, we're talking to the actors and the musicians that are performing. Others schools and I, we got to perform ourselves because people thought we were worthy of doing that. And I think it's very important that this isn't just another tier or level of society, it's something that is very achievable.
The Hamilton Education Program provides tens of thousands of high school students in Title 1 schools with the opportunity to engage in an innovative curriculum about the Founding Era and attend the musical Hamilton. The Hamilton Education Program inspires students and teachers to become historians, writers, musicians, and performers. It is one of several history education programs offered by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The innovative education program debuted on Broadway and has continued on tour with Detroit having two EduHam performances on April 11th and April 18th with over 3,900 students and teachers in attendance from 59 high schools at the Fisher Theatre. Leading up to the matinee performance, the students spent several weeks studying American history through the special Hamilton Education Program integrated curriculum about Alexander Hamilton and the nation's Founding Fathers. The Hamilton producers are making tickets for this educational partnership available for $70, $60 of which is subsidized with the support from The Max M. & Marjorie Fisher Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, William Davidson Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The Marshall Mathers Foundation, The Royce Family Fund, and SMZ Advertising, INC. Therefore, tickets cost $10 for each student.