Coming as a surprise to no one, I’ve been listening to the Hamilton cast album since it was released in September (actually since before it was released. First it was streaming on NPR and I listened to it there). Since my amazing husband was really good at picking up my (completely unsubtle) dropped hints, I actually saw the show on my birthday last year. I have not been this consumed by a show since Footloose, and obviously, I was the only one listening to Footloose like this back in 1998.
Hamilton is striking a nerve with everyone from the hardcore theater nerds, to people who have limited experience with Broadway and musicals, to people who are actually in show business—and are maybe a little jaded (but only maybe and just a little). Not only are they listening, we all know all the words. Suddenly, we’re all rappers! Before this, it was impressive if you could sing all of “La Vie Boheme,” now that’s child’s play. Do you know every word that Hamilton sings in “My Shot”? Even that is only noteworthy if you also know all of “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” and “Non-Stop.” Hamilton is invading our psyche and pushing us to think about and see musicals in a different way. Personally, it’s forcing me to view myself in a different way.
I find myself continually inspired not only by the show, but by Lin-Manuel Miranda. When he was interviewed on 60 Minutes, he told a story about how the lyrics to “Wait for It” came to him on the subway while he was on his way to a friend’s birthday party. He got to the party, wished his friend Happy Birthday, and turned right around to go home and work on the song. I was so struck by that story because of how seriously he takes his creative impulses. There have been so many times when I have had ideas for projects or stories that I ignored because they happened to pop into my head at “inconvenient” times. What if I took my creativity as seriously as he did? What if I trusted my artistic ideas instead of dismissing them? It’s something I’m really working on now (even at this very minute as I force myself to write this on the train on my morning commute). Being an artist is rarely convenient, but if you want to actually be one, you have to be willing to veer from what’s comfortable when necessary.
Hamilton has definitely inspired me as a writer, but it’s making me a better performer too. The other day, I was baking cookies and listening to the recording (duh) and the song “Burn” started playing. For a second, I stopped what I was doing to sing along and really listen to the lyrics as I was singing them. I found myself in Eliza’s body, which sounds so ridiculous, but is really the only way I can explain it. I was her. I was feeling her pain and Hamilton’s betrayal. I was experiencing the conflicting love and anger as she said it. Right there, in my kitchen, with flour on my hands and cookies baking in the oven, I was an actor. It’s crazy to say because I used to act all the time. Acting used to be “my thing,” but it never felt like those three minutes and 45 seconds standing in my kitchen.
Now, I’m pushing myself to not be scared of what people will think, or what people will say if I try and put myself out there as an artist. Yesterday, I sat with a group of my students and we rapped all of the song “Satisfied” together. In general, I don’t like to sing in front of my students. I get embarrassed and red-faced and short of breath and it’s typically not the way I want to be seen by kids who are supposed to respect me. And, yet, there I was, performing a little bit. Afterwards, I felt a little anxious. What was I thinking? Do they care at all that I know all the words? But I had to push those thoughts out of my mind. Who cares what they think? Musical theater is where I find my joy, and my inspiration. Why should I be ashamed of sharing that with anyone?
That’s the point of my show, Fangirl, which I’m getting ready to perform again. The show basically lays my “shame” bare for everyone to see. The first time I did it, pre-Hamilton, it was hard to really go for it and let myself just be in the monologues and the songs. This time, post-Hamilton, my approach is completely different. I feel proud of the piece and the work that I’m doing. I feel confident in showing this side of myself, even if it does wake up the butterflies in my stomach. With Hamilton “in my pocket” I feel weirdly supported and ready. So, that’s my plug. Hamilton has made me better in pretty much every aspect of my life and I hope you’ll come see me show it on March 6!
Here’s the link for tickets! It would be great to see you there!
And, hey, are you following me yet? You can have my words delivered directly to your eyes via email! Just sign up in the top right corner of the screen!