Local students experience “Hamilton”

More than 125 students from San Juan, Monticello, and Whitehorse high schools joined 40 other Utah high schools for an enthusiastic, all-student matinee performance of “Hamilton” in Salt Lake City on May 4.
“Wow,” said Vincent Saltclah, a senior at Whitehorse High School, after the performance. “I have never seen anything like that before!”
Saltclah – and other students from the area – were among the 2,100 students from across the state who crowded the Eccles Theatre for the performance of the Broadway smash hit. They were able to enjoy the show in person as part of a program designed for students from Title I schools.
The students spent several weeks studying Alexander Hamilton with a special integrated curriculum nicknamed Edu-Ham.
After the classroom work, the students traveled to Salt Lake City, met with members of the Hamilton cast, and watched peers perform works about the Founding Fathers on stage.
After lunch, the students experienced the most popular show on Broadway.
The performance was met with an enthusiastic response, with students cheering every scene and thoroughly enjoying the show.
The cast seemed as excited as the audience. Afterwards, Fergie Phillipe, the actor who plays Hercules Mulligan in the show, wrote: “I met my goal on Edu-Ham, my favorite thing about Hamilton. To lift and inspire future generations with this work is such an honor.”
Students from San Juan and Monticello were numbered among the 15 projects who were selected to perform on the Hamilton stage before the play was presented.
AnnSheri Reay, a junior from Monticello, brought down the house with a rap about Abigail Adams, the wife of President John Adams.
It reads, in part:
“My name is Abigail Adams, now just give me a chance.
“I support the Revolution through my head and my hands.
“My husband John’s a politician, but he uses my plans
“In our relationship, it’s clear, who really wears the pants.”
Sisters Ashley and Rachel Berrett harmonized on the stage with a song they wrote entitled “Remember the Ladies.”
“Hamilton” is the story of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary.
Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, “Hamilton”, according to its creator Lin Manuel Miranda, “is the story of America then, as told by America now.”
With a round trip of more than 700 miles, the students from Whitehorse traveled the farthest to see the show.
And it is not just distance that separates the students from the glitz and glamour of a Broadway production. The spectacular new Eccles Theatre, in the heart of Utah’s capital city, seats 2,400 theatre-goers. It easily swallowed up the three small groups of students from San Juan County.
However, the story of a hardworking man from an isolated place who rises to incredible heights resonates with this diverse audience.
“The story is so relatable,” said Kaia Jay, a sophomore at Whitehorse. “I just loved it.”
The young sophomore said that she has now checked off one of the items on her “bucket list” of things she wants to do.
Special funding through the state of Utah, Zions Bank and other organizations allowed the students to attend the matinee performance for just $10 — a Hamilton bill.
The Hamilton Education Program is one of several history education programs at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Its president, James G. Basker, devised the education program in New York in tandem with “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, producer Jeffrey Seller, The Rockefeller Foundation and the NYC Department of Education.
Basker said, “This project is transformative. ‘Hamilton’ has struck a chord with our nation’s students because it embodies what great history education is all about: bringing the past to life and fostering connections with the exceptional individuals and moments that have made us who we are.
“This program empowers students to reclaim their own narrative and empowers teachers to bridge classroom learning with the stage.”
The Rockefeller Foundation provided an initial grant that funded the educational partnership in New York City, then committed an additional $6 million to the effort to support the national expansion of the program.

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