BWW News: HAMILTON Education Made Sure Local Students Didn't Throw Away Their Best Shot at Kennedy Center
For many high school students, just the dream of seeing a Broadway show is something pretty awesome. Now I want you to imagine you not only being able to see the national tour of the smash hit juggernaut musical known as Hamilton onstage in the Opera House at Kennedy Center but being able to perform on that very stage on the set where it happens.
This past week that dream came true for some lucky local high school students as part of Hamilton's education program. Wait, you're asking "What is that?" Well, this writer is going to tell you.
Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda from the onset insisted that the show be made accessible to those that might not be able to afford to see it otherwise. This has been done in a few ways. First off whether it's in NY, Chicago, or on national tour there are ten dollar lottery seats available at every performance.
Secondly, the show has partnered with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to create and implement a curriculum in each city the tour goes to. The program is open only to lower income schools and each student only pays, true to Miranda's wishes, ten dollars.
For three weeks prior to seeing the show Alexander Hamilton is brought into the classroom as part of American History teachings. Students are asked to create short (usually no longer than 2 minutes or so) based on their impressions of the curriculum they just learned. It is those works that over 4,000 students and teachers heard at the Kennedy Center this past week right before the end of a record breaking fourteen week run for Hamilton's national tour.
I was lucky enough to attend the second day of this event and I must tell you I was very impressed with what these young talents came up with in such a short period of time.
There were thirteen schools at my performance. I would say something about each but that would run this piece longer than it should so I'll just say a brief word about a few of the pieces that really spoke to me.
As you probably know Hamilton is based in rap music for a lot of the show so it was perfectly natural that Anacostia High School students Brenda McKinney and Kelli Johnson started things off on a high order with their "Boston Tea Party Rap." They sat the bar high for what was to come. Soloist Brian Oates from Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy, Capitol Hill also impressed me with his "Revolution Rap".
There were also spoken word artists that held me in my seat with every word. One of my favorites had to be Jacob Ten-Eyck Stull from Bard High School Early College with a stunning poem about King George. After hearing it, you almost thought King George wasn't such a bad guy.
You had to think that all of the talent was very nervous. How would you feel performing in front of 2,364 people? Every one of the students that performed did an excellent job. I applaud their creativity and professionalism as well.
All in all, Hamilton's education program made sure these kids didn't throw away their best shot. Theatre is meant to educate, entertain and engage. Hamilton and its education initiatives fulfill those goals, Miranda's vision, and then some.