Hip Hop, History, and Hamilton: How SFUSD students saw the hit musical unhindered by hefty ticket…

Photo courtesy of Johanna Klaiman.

T he Broadway musical Hamilton has been the talk of the town since mid-2015. Hamilton is about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton. With 11 Tony Award wins, it is hailed as the musical to make viewers “feel the unstoppable, urgent rhythm of a nation being born,” according to The New York Times.

Advertisement

Although obtaining tickets for the musical is competitive and expensive, AP Studio Art students, along with teacher Kirsten Janssen, were given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the musical for free on April 12 at the Orpheum Theatre.

“It will get them to want to engage in a cultural phenomena, to feel how the arts can surround you and change you as a person.”

Hamilton’s extreme popularity is due to its diverse cast and incorporation of different music genres such as rap, R&B and hip-hop. This demand has resulted in ticket prices ranging from $200 to well over $1000, making the musical unaffordable for many. However, students from almost every SFUSD high school were given the opportunity to see Hamilton for free through an educational partnership between the musical and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the Hamilton Education Program. Janssen’s students were the only class at Lowell who went because of the limited number of tickets available.

When she heard about the program, Janssen submitted a grant, and although she was on the waiting list, 60 tickets eventually popped up. “It will get them to want to engage in a cultural phenomena, to feel how the arts can surround you and change you as a person,” Janssen said.

Advertisement

“The first time you see it, there’s so much going on. You want to see it all because you’re worried you’re never going to see it again.”

Sophomore Kassandra Ramirez, who would otherwise not have been able to watch Hamilton because of the high ticket price, was extremely excited when she was given the opportunity to see it. “I heard it was a really good play but I didn’t know it was going to be that good,” Ramirez said.

One of Ramirez’s favorite aspect of the show was the rotating stage, one of the highlights of Hamilton, allowed for more flexibility of the depiction of certain scenes and settings. One particular part of the musical really stood out to her. “There was this one scene where it was trying to visualize the characters drifting apart emotionally, so one person stood as the rotating stage was drifting away from the other character,” Ramirez said.

Even before attending the show, Janssen’s students felt excited about being able to see it. “I think [the students] just still giddy from actually seeing and feeling something so extravagant and lush and immersive,” Janssen said.

As this was Janssen’s second time seeing the show, the experience was more impactful. “The first time you see it, there’s so much going on,” Janssen said. “You want to see it all because you’re worried you’re never going to see it again.” Although she has seen it twice, Janssen hopes to be able to watch the musical again because of Hamilton’s ethnically diverse cast and incorporation of different genres in the music number, which is what makes the show a cultural phenomena.