You know that musical? The one you can’t get tickets to unless they were willed to you by your grandmother because she was lucky enough to stumble out of the Tardis right at the box office on opening day, but had to buy them for, like, six years from now, and they’re actually for the Kansas City production? The one in which the founding fathers are, you know, brown? My friends and family assumed I’d hate the whole idea, but I don’t. Like so many people, I love it, and not just for the music, though my preferred method of psyching myself up for GeeDubs1790 or What Cheer Day is listening to the Stones or the Beastie Boys all the way up.
So, what then, interests me in “Hamilton,” and why do I think it relates to interpretation? This: the way that the show filters the concerns of the late eighteenth century through the lens of the twenty-first could make for enlightening listening.
My Shot gives me goosebumps: why? Is it because history and civics are finally sexy?
Maybe. But “Hamilton” as a whole, per Rebecca Mead in the New Yorker, “is a hymn to the allure that America promises the immigrant who aspires to reach its shores; it is also an argument for the invigorating power that this nation’s porous borders, and porous identity, have always offered.”
Porous identity. That’s part of why I’m fascinated. But just as “Sleep No More” and Occupy Providence (really really) were partial inspirations for What Cheer Day, “Hamilton” strikes me as the kind of production worth paying attention to. No, I am not suggesting that the paunchy reenactors start channeling their inner Biggie, though I might well pay to see that.
No, what I’m suggesting is that we reconsider what it is we’re doing out there on the field and in the historic houses, and not just what but how and why. Hamilton takes an unexpected approach to history and it’s going gangbusters, while Amazing Grace tanked. So it’s not about the costuming authenticity, though I implore you not to give that up. It’s about the passion. It’s about coming at things sideways.
What makes you love doing laundry, drilling with precision, telling local gossip, making soap, or whatever it is that you love best about your place in the past? Why does all this matter to you so much? What is it that we can learn about today as you teach us about the past? Let loose that love and passion, share those insights, and ten to one you’ll have more fun and excite more visitors.