Last week I finally saw Hamilton: An American Musical on Broadway. With all due respect to the recent touring company production at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre, I have been wanting to see the musical in the seat of the American Revolution, New York City, since the musical opened at the Richard Rogers Theatre in 2015. The show focuses on the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, with music, lyrics, and book by the incredibly talented Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was inspired after reading the 2004 biography Alexander Hamiton by historian Ron Chernow. Jim agreed to go to NYC with me because he is a lover of history. (He knows he was my second choice, but that is another story.)
Like one of my Kent School students studying for an assessment, I prepared for weeks to see Hamilton. With apologies to my next door neighbors for blasting the combination rapped-and-sung musical score, my first step was learning the entire soundtrack. All 46 songs. So that I could sing in the theatre, of course. I also read the synopsis of the musical by scene, which I found online, and felt confident I could easily follow the storyline.
Next, I read about Alexander Hamilton in one of my children’s high school U.S. History texts still on our bookshelf. I also filled in some memory gaps about our Founding Fathers. Yet, it was the reading about our Founding Mothers that really fascinated me. I read with interest about Martha Washington, the first FLOTUS, Abigail Adams, an advocate for education for children, and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, co-founder and deputy director of the first private orphanage in New York City. Their lives and their work inspires me.
Abigail Adams said: “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.” I believe that this is still relevant today, and all of my research made me increasingly excited as showtime neared.
Jim and I took the train from Wilmington for our history adventure. I knew the only way I could get him to the Big Apple was with the promise of seeing the birth of our nation onstage. I also promised him an amazing dinner at my favorite cozy French bistro owned by friends from Paris. Next time you are in New York City, you must go to Cocotte and say hello to Sebastien and Sophie, but I digress.
The Wednesday matinee we attended was spectacular. The show is truly a gift to the history of the United States and, without question, the history of American musical theatre. Contemporary and relevant today. If you have not yet seen this, you must.
At the end of the first act after hearing these words, I suddenly realized, I am like Hamilton. I understood how it must have felt for him to have so much to say with so little time.
“How do you write like you’re
Running out of time?
How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive?
How do you write like you need it to survive?
How do you write ev’ry second you’re alive?”
Hamilton became a kindred spirit to my writer muse and I vowed to put his Federalist essays on my reading stack. But, alas, Alexander Hamilton, left us too soon, something about a duel with Aaron Burr. The final words of the show continue to resonate with me.
“Every other founding father story gets told
Every other founding father gets to grow old
But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?
Who tells your story?”
And, Elizabeth Hamilton, broken-hearted by her husband’s infidelity, claimed she would not help tell his story. Yet, after his death she established his legacy by collecting his letters and writings from others. She added to the narrative of her husband’s life by keeping his flame alive.
Jim and I talked all the way home on the train about who will tell our story. Our children for sure will have one version. And, Jim or I, whoever is last standing, will tell the story of us. I have decided, however, to begin to write that story now.
Who will tell your story…