UT students experience Hamilton

Posted by on December 1, 2017 with 0 Comments

Thanks to the Gilder-Lehrman Institute who sponsored the trip, the American Studies and Western Civilizations classes were afforded a very special chance to see Hamilton: An American Musical live at the Private Bank Theater in Chicago this past Wednesday.  (Photo by Megan Marchese)

by Joey Dryoel

Many students dream of getting to see a Broadway show in person someday, and many never get the opportunity that the students in UTHS’s American Studies and Western Civilization classes received this week.  Thanks to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History who sponsored the trip, the students were afforded a very special chance to see Hamilton: An American Musical live at the Private Bank Theater in Chicago this past Wednesday.

The trip required all the participating students to learn about the history of the show before they left for the trip.  In the weeks leading up to the show, the students studied primary sources on the founding of the United States as well as doing research to create their own performance piece.  Students grouped up to record a rap, poem, song, or scene related to the time period of Hamilton. The teachers (Mr. Mark Kaczmarek, Mrs. Heather Monson, Mr. Andy Round, and Mrs. Holly Schou) selected just one to be submitted to the Institute who then chose our students to perform their piece live in front of over 2,000 students and teachers.  Betsy Muniz and Itzel Rivera were chosen for their project and got to tour the dressing rooms, sing and rap an original song on the stage, and then were treated to exclusive seating at the front of the auditorium.  

Betsy says, “It was a huge honor to perform in front of 2,000 students and a great privilege to have front row seats.”  Itzel described the performance saying, “It was nerve-wracking, but also very exciting.  I could definitely feel my heart beating really fast, but you could feel the support from all the people and it was really nice.”  The girls walked off the stage to cheering and a standing ovation.

After the performances by the students from 15 of the schools attending, the students were provided a bag lunch at the Palmer House, and then returned to the theater for a matinee performance of the musical.  Mr. Kaczmarek, who had seen the show in New York when it was still off-Broadway, said, “It was a lot glitzier than the first time I saw it.  It was interesting to see the changes they made from the original production.”

For the rest of the students, the experience was equally as special.  The students felt personal connections to the stories of these characters that actually lived just a few hundred years ago.  After seeing the show,  Carter Kongkousonh recalls, “I really liked the character Angelica Schuyler and her solo.  The vibrant lighting during her performance really enhanced the emotions she conveyed.”

It was also a great introduction into the acting world, which many students have never been introduced to.  Fernanda Montoya said, “I learned that the entire experience of being an actor is very challenging, but I could tell through their performance it was equally rewarding.  The hard work pays off for the actors and the viewers, and it’s inspirational to watch people put their all into something that they love.”  

The Gilder Lehrman Institute sponsored the show for Chicago-area schools that have high populations of low-income students in an effort to bring theater and history alive for those who would not normally get the opportunity to see professional theatrical productions.  With tickets to the show currently selling hundreds of dollars, the Institute’s charge of $10 (or a “Hamilton” as Gilder Lehrman likes to call it) per person was an amazing opportunity.   Former UTHS history teacher Mr. Alex Mayszak successfully applied for UTHS to be part of the program last year, and the United Education Fund and UTHS generously provided the bus transportation for the 45 students and five chaperones.

Everyone was incredibly thankful for such an amazing and exclusive opportunity, and this show really reminded the students to live knowing that anyone has the power to make a difference.  From parents, to race, to money, to love, they learned that hard work can triumph against all obstacles.

(Read more about the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Hamilton program at https://www.gilderlehrman.org/programs-exhibitions/hamilton.)

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