'hamilton' and my future's history

| 03 May 2016 | 02:41


“Hamilton,” the Pulitzer, Grammy and likely Tony-award winning musical that's the talk of the town, reminded me what it was like to love passion. “Hamilton” was making its transition to Broadway when I first heard about it. I was on the phone, talking about my least favorite topic, applying to college. “Have you listened to the “Hamilton” soundtrack? It's all I listen to,” my friend remarked. My 45-minute commute to and from school enabled me: I was hooked.

It shouldn't have been a surprise, I've been a theater nerd for as long as I can remember. I have always reveled in the worlds that Broadway shows create: the stories they tell are a particular and yet indescribable magic. Broadway shows, however, don't tell everyone's story. Broadway has a tradition of being for mostly the rich and otherwise privileged and one of the best things about “Hamilton” is that it challenges the stereotypes people have about Broadway. The show is about a bunch of old white dudes, but no one on stage looks like they are from the Founding Fathers' friend group. The principal cast is made up of people of color, and this casting eliminates the gap between the audience and the Founding Fathers, and makes Alexander Hamilton's world and his legacy a little more meaningful.

“Hamilton” is a passionate show: Lin-Manuel Miranda, its star and creator, asks some pretty big questions: What are we leaving behind? What is getting erased from our histories? How do we make life count for something? This music, this phenomenon, caters to those who hear the time of their lives ticking by fast. Teenagers, who often hear that clock loudly, seem to have grasped the tightest fist around legacy. They can see what will become of them — a sturdy job, a family and a routine, and they can remember what they used to be — idealistic, sugar loving, discovery machines.

I feel like I'm arriving at a pretty meaningful spot on my timeline as a human. I've been a teenager for what seems like a really long time. The years I've spent navigating high school halls and covering up pimples have a slight tinge of nostalgia to it now: the worst moments of the past four years seem to have been for something, because as all great and terrible things do, my high school years are coming to an end. A lot of this year has felt like treading water. The waves crashed over and over, above my head, and I continued swimming. Listening to “Hamilton” has gotten me through my senior year of high school, because it created a connection to something so many people relate to. “Hamilton” is successful because Alexander Hamilton (strange as it may seem) reminds the show's fans of themselves.

Picture a 17-year-old girl: dreams of college momentarily dashed by a smaller envelope, helplessly listening in a quiet classroom:

“In the eye of a hurricane/There is quiet/For just a moment,/A yellow sky./When I was seventeen a hurricane/Destroyed my town./I didn't drown./I couldn't seem to die./I'll write my way out .../Write ev'rything/Down, far as I can see .../I'll write my way out .../Overwhelm them with honesty./This is the eye of the hurricane,/This is the only way I can protect my legacy.”

Picture a 17-year-old girl, standing outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre. There is snow everywhere. New York is quieter than usual during snow falls, but the buzz around West 46th Street doesn't get toned down. Everything that she does in the city feels significant, because, whether she likes it or not, she will be moving away soon. Her humming while she waits in front of the stage door for the show she hasn't yet seen becomes contagious. The group of strangers become friends, and as the snow falls, they sing:

“I gotta holler just to be heard./With every word, I drop knowledge!/I'm a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal/Tryin' to reach my goal. My power of speech: unimpeachable/Only nineteen but my mind is older./These New York City streets get colder,I shoulder/Ev'ry burden, ev'ry disadvantage/I have learned to manage, I don't have a gun to brandish/I walk these streets famished.”

Picture a 17-year-old girl receiving the big envelope in the mail from her first choice college, Wesleyan University, where her favorite musical lyricist (Yup, you guessed it, Lin-Manuel Miranda) once attended:

“I'm past patiently waitin'. I'm passionately/Smashin' every expectation/Every action's an act of creation!/I'm laughin' in the face of casualties and sorrow,/For the first time, I'm thinkin' past tomorrow/And I am not throwing away my shot”

“Hamilton” is successful with every age because of the passion that exudes out of its every note. It is a phenomenon because everyone believes in passion, and in the future. The show asks its audience who they want to be when they grow up, and no matter where they are on the timeline, adults, teenagers and children will answer.