BWW Feature: 2800 Students in the Room Where It Happens, and Then Some

BWW Feature: 2800 Students in the Room Where It Happens, and Then Some
The student performers of the
Hamilton Educational Program
at the Paramount.
Photo credit: Christopher Nelson

If downtown Seattle was feeling a little more electric, a little more amped up this afternoon maybe that's because 2800 students from around the northwest got the chance to take in the hottest theatrical commodity. I refer, of course, to "Hamilton" currently at the Paramount Theatre. But this was so much more than a simple school outing as the students were given an opportunity to really dive into the subject and for some, that meant their own moment to shine.

Stemming from the educational program that began with "Hamilton" on Broadway, Seattle Theatre Group partnered with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and "Hamilton" to bring their innovative program to Seattle. For this event which took place on March 8th, 39 schools participated to infuse their curriculum with the show "Hamilton" to help bring the history alive for their students. And within that curriculum the students were encouraged to dive deeper into other areas of the history and create their own original works. Out of those projects the schools then were allowed to submit an outstanding piece to be performed by the students on the Paramount stage in front of all the other schools.

We had original songs, skits, raps, and spoken word pieces in subject matters ranging from the Sons of Liberty to Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" to indictments on slavery. And if there's one thing that all the presentations showed me it's that I was not nearly ambitious enough with my own high school projects as these were all amazing. But what thrilled me the most was the diverse beginnings from which these projects came.

I spoke with Simone Williams from Highline Big Picture High School in Burien who already had a love and interest in theater as she created her rap on Abigail Adams out of her existing love for the character from the musical "1776" making her as "sassy" as they did in the musical. And of the experience of being here to share this Simone said, "It's definitely not a lonely thing. Everyone here feels mostly the same about what's happening. We're all theater kids and this is a labor of love. We're all here because this where we want to be and we're all doing really creative things and we're all very talented beautiful people and "Hamilton" is waking those people up. It's really important."

BWW Feature: 2800 Students in the Room Where It Happens, and Then Some
Elijah Malcomb, Joseph Morales,
Kyle Scatliffe, Fergie L. Philippe
and Company -
HAMILTON National Tour -
Photo credit: (c) Joan Marcus 2018

However, I discovered not everyone had a theater background. Nia Campbell of Albert Talley Senior High School in Seattle created her spoken word piece on Rachel Faucette (Alexander Hamilton's mother) as a letter to Faucette's first son, Peter. "I wanted to find somebody who had actually been through a lot" Nia said, "Something that would be more relatable to write about, something that I could really get into and get creative with and I looked at what she'd been through. She was beaten, she ran away from her husband, she sent her son back, she'd been through so much and she finally found a husband who really loved her and a family. And then she lied to them and he left. I just thought that was something that really needed to be heard and said and I just felt that she owed her first son an apology." But as much as Campbell blew us all away with her performance I found out she's never done theater before or really been exposed to it much before now, "I never really looked at theater like that but now it's like they made sure that you got into it like you really understood everything that was going on around you and the fact that they're trying to bring the play alive to you and make it relatable. And I think that that's really amazing."

If this program weren't already incredible enough, the students were also treated to a Q&A with some members of the cast before they caught the matinee of the show. A show, I might add, that the producers made available to the students for this educational partnership available for $70 a ticket, $60 of which is subsidized by Google.org. So, the tickets only cost $10 for each student. You know, a Hamilton. AND they're doing it all over again next week with 36 other schools and a whole new batch of presentations totaling more than 5700 students they will have made this available to before they're done.

So, before you say no one cares about the arts or education in our area, STG, The Gilder Lehrman Institute and Google not only care, they're prepared to back it up.

For more information on The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History visit them online at www.gilderlehrman.org. For more information on Seattle Theatre Group or the current run of Hamilton visit them online at www.stgpresents.org.

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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