Saturday, September 24, 2016

To Be a Hamilton Fangirl

Sense something big happening in New York.

Overhear your young coworkers raving from the other side of the partition.

Watch a clip on Facebook of the slight Latino man free-styling with Mr. Obama in the Rose Garden. Momentarily wonder who the talented rapper is, then spend more energy scorning the sniffy comment on the post, "How unpresidential!"

Pick up the original cast recording double album and slip the first CD into your car stereo.

Enjoy the driving hooks of the first couple of songs then find yourself reaching one-handed to untangle the lyric sheet from the plastic case. Realize these are not your typical Broadway-style melody-driven ballads to croon along with, this shit is DENSE.

Get hooked by the fourth verse of the first song. Be swept up and away in the coordinated syllable avalanche, each and every word perfect in its precision of meaning and meter:

Then a hurricane came, and devastation reigned
Our man saw his future drip, dripping down the drain
Put a pencil to his temple, connected it to his brain
And he wrote his first refrain, a testament to his pain

Shiver at the line, "Half dead, sittin' in their own sick." Widen your eyes at the brutal and perfect fragment, "the scent thick," then hear the whisper, "And Alex got better but his mother went quick" and know here you are. This is an orphan story, another fellow traveler and guide on your own journey. Suspect you're going to learn something important here.

Moved in with a cousin, the cousin committed suicide Left him with nothin’ but ruined pride, something new inside
A voice saying

“Alex, you gotta fend for yourself.”
He started retreatin’ and readin’ every treatise on the shelf 

Jump on the train, here we go, the pace quickening, the words coming faster, the propulsive doubling of "cousin, the cousin" sucking you in.

Play, replay. Play, replay. Check lyrics at stoplights, stay in the car once you've parked in front of the house just to search for that one phrase you missed.

Play, replay, all summer long. Enjoy the perfect jingly joy of "Helpless" for only a few moments before you hear that discordant smear of sound that changes the tone of "Satisfied" and confirm a lurking question you suspected at the first iteration of

Hamilton: Schuyler? 
Angelica: My sister.

Feel nostalgic already for your innocent first hearing of Eliza's love song. Never stop loving Philippa Soo's stratospheric squeal "Hoo!" right before she chortles, "That boy is mine, that boy is mine!" Hear her smile as she sings.

Study, play, repeat. Go slowly, song by song and dread coming to the end. Delay the deadly ending you know must come.

Be grateful for "Wait for It," as you are for every note, word and idea in this big-hearted show. Decide you would rather have the impulsive, fall-on-your-face temperament of Alexander than the guarded elegance and patience of Burr. I'm not willing to wait for my reasons -- I will make them myself.

Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break

And we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it
I’m willing to wait for it

Wait for it

Kiss your husband when he buys the family New Year's Eve tickets to the Chicago show.

Dive into the book that inspired Miranda to write the show, Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton. Buy the companion book Hamilton: The Revolution by Miranda and Jeremy McCarter and thrill to the annotations and essays detailing the design and construction of this astounding machine of a show. Underline sections you don't want to forget. Shout with triumph when Miranda confirms that his ditty "You'll Be Back" was inspired by the John Adams miniseries scene you LOVED where Adams, as the first representative of the new nation, reopens diplomatic relations with his former king.

Adjust your listening to match the passages in Miranda and McCarter's book about each song. Finally confront the inevitable and read the double tragedy story behind "It's Quiet Uptown." Listen to it twice, a third time, sob ugly and hard each time. Decide no more until the actual show. It's too hard and real, as is Hamilton's death soliloquy.

Use Hamilton and its writing imagery as the structuring theme of the final presentation for your Tech I summer class, "Using Web 2.0 Tools to Teach the Writing Process." Quote Eliza: "You built me palaces out of paragraphs. You built cathedrals" and extend the metaphor to an architectural plan for student pre-writing, composing, revision, editing and publishing. Remind your teaching colleagues that drafting is "Work! Work!" Roll your eyes at your own dorkiness yet be unable to stop smiling with pleasure.


Bring your girls into the fold. Listen to long passages during an August road trip to Door County. Comply with their request to "Play Hamilton!" every time we get back in the car. Let the girls laugh at your singing only the last words of every line, all that you can remember.

Feel your heart swell when Nora asks about that chaotic moment in "The Room Where It Happens" after Burr sings, "Meanwhile Congress is fighting over where to put the capital," because you can tell her from your research that Miranda told the company members each to yell out a different city name at the same time. Be satisfied when you can answer some of their questions: Hamilton died first, then Angelica and then Eliza, fifty years after her husband.

Laugh as the girls murder Peggy's name in the role call of "The Schuyler Sisters," then laugh again as you realize they have anticipated a silly interwebs meme, then halt your mocking with the news that Peggy died young, after a brief but happy marriage. Realize the poignancy of Eliza and Angelica's reunion in Act II, when they call out each other's names and Alexander sings gently, "the Schuyler sisters," telling us with no more words that this duet is all that is left of the original trio. Remember with a jolt Angelica's "And when you said “Hi,” I forgot my dang name" from "Satisfied" when Alexander in "Take a Break" gives her a breathy "Hi." Think, good god, what a flirt dog.

Go back to work in August and hear the altered lyrics in your head all day: "Why do I feel like I'm running out of time?"

Delight in the news that some of your students sang "My Shot" in eighth grade music. Wish to tell each one she is a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal tryin' to reach her goal.

Freak a little on the 9/11 anniversary at a resurrected photo of the Trinity Church cemetery, where Alexander, Eliza and Angelica rest, covered in the grey dust of the towers. You remember this place as green and serene, as you walked by Hamilton's monument and gave it a moment's attention.

Find out that your old buddy Chris Jones is having "a conversation" with Lin-Manuel Miranda for the Chicago Humanities fest and immediately buy a membership to get the first chance for tickets. Go online at 10:00 a.m. sharp the day of ticket sales and get row FF.

The night of, marvel at the huge screaming crowd. Laugh out loud at your buddy's audaciously bad and brave beat-boxing while Miranda gamely free-styles Chicago themes, bringing down the house. Love his gracious and funny stories. Learn he would love playing Angelica if he could. Be moved by the back story to his composing his Tony acceptance Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love sonnet the afternoon after the Orlando shooting.

On your way out, overhear a teenager boy and girl chattering excitedly with their mom (?) about the show. "I can't freestyle as well as he can," says the boy. "No one follows his Twitter feed as closely as me," chimes in the girl. "When he quoted those tweets, I knew exactly which ones he was talking about!" Understand the feeling of being so close to someone you have only met through his art. Love the inspiration and joy he and his co-creators give us. Feel very grateful.