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Broadway

Hamilton Teaches History to NY Schools

Hamilton Teaches History to NY Schools
Sasha Hollinger,Gregory Greco

Sasha Hollinger and Gregory Greco during The Rockefeller Foundation and The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History sponsored High School student Photo by Walter McBride

The Broadway musical, Hamilton, has made history, in no small part, by making history so much fun.  With its multiracial casting, and its message of success in America being possible for anyone willing to work hard enough for it, Hamilton has engaged the broadest socioeconomic and racially diverse audience of any musical in history.

Andrew Chappelle, Sean Green Jr., Sasha Hollinger, Gregory Greco, Antuan Magic Raimone

Andrew Chappelle, Sean Green Jr., Sasha Hollinger, Gregory Greco and Antuan Magic Raimone during The Rockefeller Foundation and The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History sponsored High School student #eduHam matinee Photo by Walter McBride

As an important part of their outreach, Hamilton on Broadway has created an educational opportunity tied to the marketing of a matinee performance. As part of an in-school study program, devised by the Glider Lehrman Institute for American History, called the Hamilton Education Program (HEP). The program was launched by the Institute in 2016 combining an in-class curriculum for high school students studying Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Era, built around the experience of also studying the Hamilton musical.  As a culmination of their studies, students are create and perform their own Hamilton related songs, scenes, rap and poetry in a pre-show event the morning of the show, prior to attending a matinee performance. The program was initially funded by a $1.46M grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.  On the basis of the success of the program in NYC, the Rockefeller Foundation committed another $6M to a national expansion.  So just like Hamilton the musical, you can look for the Hamilton Education Program to be coming soon to a theater near you.

Photo by Walter McBride

At ten o’clock in the morning on November 14, 1300 students from 17 local high schools swarmed the Richard Rogers Theater. Students from a dozen of the schools performed their own work. Each school was there to cheer for their own “team”, but graciously supported the effort of every young performer who took to the Hamilton stage. Most of the students wrote their own rapping monologue or scene.

Photo by Walter McBride

One student with a particularly lovely voice, Ginger Sakarya, gave the only traditional musical performance with her original song about the Boston massacre. Some of the young people were more comfortable with their moment in the spotlight on a Broadway stage than others. But all were passionate about being there. Even the more gun shy among them was not throwing away his or her shot.

Photo by Walter McBride

Following a break for lunch, the students were treated to a matinee of Hamilton,  with the superb Michael Luwoye as the  new Alexander Hamilton. Needless to say, the crowd responded enthusiastically.

Photo by Walter McBride

The importance of this program for engaging students in the study of history, encouraging their self-expression, and empowering their belief in themselves are reasons enough to cheer its success. But Broadway and its touring productions commonly known as “the Road” have a broader reason to cheer. For as long as I’ve been aware of it, the key demographic of the typical Broadway theater goer has been a middle aged white woman with income of $200,000 per year plus. But as Broadway productions of recent years have offered more stories tailored to the direct expression of younger people and their contemporary life experiences,  including notably Dear Evan Hansen and the viral phenomenon of Be More Chill,  Broadway audiences are, for the first time, growing younger and more diverse in a demonstrable way. By encouraging the study of the past linked to its interpretation by theater artists, Hamilton is also building Broadway’s future.

Photo by Walter McBride

Photo by Walter McBride

 

Broadway

Jeffery Lyle Segal is a multifaceted theater artist who has worn many professional hats. He started as a musical theater performer in his teens. He attended Stanford U., Northwestern University, and SUNY at Binghamton to study acting, directing and dramatic literature. He also wrote theater reviews for The Stanford Daily and was Arts Editor of WNUR Radio at Northwestern. After college, he is proud to have been the first full time Executive Director of Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater Company. He left them to work as a theater actor and director. His special effects makeup skills got him into the movies, working on the seminal cult horror film, Re-Animator.He also did casting for several important Chicago projects, sometimes wearing both production hats, as he did on Chicago’s most famous independent movie, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. While living in Los Angeles, he joined the Academy for New Musical Theater, where he developed two book musicals as a composer, lyricist and librettist, Down to Earth Girl (formerly I Come for Love, NYMF 2008), and Scandalous Behavior! (York Developmental Reading Series 2010). He wrote, produced and performed his song “Forever Mine” as the end title theme of the horror film, Trapped! He also has written songs for his performances in cabaret over the years, and the time he spent pursuing country music in Nashville. Most recently he created a musical revue, Mating the Musical, for the Chicago Musical Theater Festival 2016. In NYC, he has attended the BMI musical theater writers’ workshop, and the Commercial Theater Institute 14 week producer program. He is currently creating a company to develop new musicals online. He still keeps up his makeup chops, working with top doctors in NYC and Chicago as one of the country’s most highly regarded permanent cosmetic artists (www.bestpermanentmakeup.com) and as a member of Chicago local IATSE 476. www.jefferylylesegal.com

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