When Hamilton: An American Musical Plays Next Door

Over the last few weeks, Cincinnati has played host to a touring run of Hamilton: An American Musical, the Tony award winning, genre-busting musical about Alexander Hamilton and several other players in the origin story of America as we know it. Like most of America, our office has been in love with the soundtrack and the story for a long time. A few of us were impatient enough to make holy pilgrimages to see the live show in other cities and a few more of us got our shot during this Cincinnati run. Since Hamilton is both an embodiment and a reflection on the power of story, it felt like we should give some blog space to it while it’s down the street.

But Hamilton has so many connections to not only what we do here at Rebel, but what all humans are trying to do all the time, it’s hard to decide what to write.

So here’s a list of what we could write about while Hamilton is playing next door at the Aronoff Theater:

Old stories can have new angles. This is as true for American history as it is for the people in our offices, homes, or neighborhoods. It’s possible for people to accept one version of a story as definitive and done, but it’s also possible to see stories as a way to uncover brand new possibilities. Refreshing a story can connect us to people/characters we thought were estranged. I don’t remember thinking I had anything in common with Aaron Burr when I learned about him in elementary school, but this rewrite lets me see how fear can hold us all in one place for too long.

There are people in the margins of every story who should probably be featured players. Hamilton, through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pen, the research of Ron Chernow, and rotating casts of brilliant actors, gives us the lesser-known stories of foremothers, and their forechildren, along with the known-stories of the forefathers. Eliza, Hamilton’s wife, even sings about what it’s like to be in and out of a narrative. And we are all better for knowing what it’s like to love someone whose work dominates their life, or who agrees to a duel, or who learns how to grieve and forgive. Her story matters and I’m glad it isn’t lost to the flames of those burning letters.

For at least a little while longer, we do get to decide who tells our stories and what they say. The characters in Hamilton are hyper-aware of both their own mortality and the way their stories might live on past them. They know they are living stories that will be told and retold outside of their own control. This causes several of them to live with passion and urgency, to leave behind stories worth telling. Of all the powerful messages in the musical, this is the one that plays you out of the theater, and perhaps haunts you all the way home. And of course, the implication is that someone will tell our stories later, but we get to write them right now. Whether we are considering our personal narratives, or the corporate, communal narratives we are a part of, we can get the stories that last started today.

The beautiful thing about a story like Hamilton is the way it multiplies. When we take in a good story, especially when it’s set to good music, we tend to keep it going. We can’t wait to see what Hamilton leaves behind and gets started in Cincinnati.