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Hamilton Will Be A Field Trip For 20K NYC Public School Students

The teacher in me burst with happiness upon reading the news: history is happening in Manhattan and some lucky students just happen to be in the greatest city in the world. When I first saw Hamilton, I was completely blown away by the production. As I looked around the theatre, I noticed typical theatergoers — older, middle and upperclass white people. I couldn’t help but think how a show like Hamilton could impact the students I teach back in Brownsville, many of whom have never seen a Broadway show in their life. To see all those Black and brown faces on stage retelling America’s past with how America looks presently in hip hop fashion was mind-blowing and something I thought my students would relate to. And now 20,000 NYC public students just might get their shot.

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, producer Jeffrey Seller, The Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin, NYC Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Gilder Lehrman Executive Director Lesley Herrmann announced an educational partnership that would provide 20,000 NYC public school students with the opportunity to see Hamilton on Broadway and integrate the show into their classroom studies. All of this is made possible through a $1.46 million grant by The Rockefeller Foundation.

This endeavor has been something near and dear to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s heart, as he has been asked by many fans on Twitter and at the stage door how Hamilton can be accessed by more students because it’s frequently sold-out and tickets are expensive. Seller agreed to sell the tickets for $70 each; the foundation will pay $60 toward each ticket and students will be charged $10. The logic behind this idea was having students pay a nominal admission fee would encourage them to take financial responsibility seriously.

Miranda added that, “It is a dream come true to have a program like this exist in connection to Hamilton. I can’t wait to perform for a theater full of students who are learning about our Founding Fathers in class and seeing how it still relates to their own lives on stage. They will see Hamilton’s story, and I’m hopeful that the stories will inspire in them; it will change our lives in ways we can’t even anticipate.”

Seller said that about 17,000 students would attend student-only Wednesday matinees starting April 13, 2016, supplemented by educational programming and meetings with cast members at the theater. Another 3,000 would join regular ticket-buyers at other Wednesday matinees, with the educational component presented back in their classrooms. The educational component will include an interactive website for students and teachers, and printed classroom materials will offer students a creative platform for developing and sharing their original ideas in response to what they’ve seen. The first group of participating high schools will be selected by the New York City Department of Education and will include schools across the five boroughs with large numbers of students eligible for free/reduced lunch.

I cannot stress the importance of something like this. As a teacher who sees first-hand how students easily distance themselves from something that doesn’t “fit” them or relate, an experience like Hamilton has the possibility to bring together both a newfound respect for history as well as theatre and the arts. Who knows, it may inspire some students to go out there and change the world.

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