The Rockefeller Foundation announced Tuesday at a press conference on the stage of Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre that it has pledged $1.46 million to pay for 20,000 New York City 11th graders, all from schools with high percentages of low-income students, to see the history-laden hip-hop hit at a series of Wednesday matinees starting April 13, 2016 and extending into the 2016-2017 Broadway season.
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Lead producer Jeffrey Seller announced that he has agreed to sell tickets to the Rockefeller Foundation for $70 each — about half the face value. Students will be charged $10 apiece — the bill with Hamilton's face on it. The Foundation will make up the difference.
Eleventh graders were chosen because that is the year they learn American History in social studies. Many who will take part in the program are first-generation immigrants themselves — just like central character Alexander Hamilton.
Author and star Lin-Manuel Miranda said the program has particular resonance for him for two reasons. First, he said his life was changed when he attended his first Broadway musical, Les Misérables, which not only taught him about musicals, but also about history. "I know that show like I know my own family tree," he said. Miranda said he was taken to the show by his father, historian Luis A. Miranda Jr., who was present at Tuesday's press conference. Secondly, Lin-Manuel Miranda recalled his own experience as a 7th grade English teacher in his first job out of college, and quoted the Oscar Hammerstein II lyric, "If you become a teacher, by your pupils you'll be taught."
The Rockefeller Foundation grant includes development of a classroom curriculum by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to help students prepare for the show about Alexander Hamilton and other founding fathers. In addition to printed materials, a Hamilton Study & Performance Guide will feature an online portal that will aim to inspire students to create their own original hip-hop, poetry and storytelling.
Seller said participating students will start preparing weeks in advance, studying the lives of the characters in the show, and how they helped give birth to the United States. The students also will be asked to create Hamilton-style songs, poetry, monologues and rap about what they've learned. On the day of the performance they will arrive at the Rodgers Theatre in the morning and performed their works on the Rodgers stage, followed by a Q&A with the cast. They will then attend the matinee.
Seller said that he plans to continue the program, both in New York City and on the road, once the show begins its national tour. He also said he hopes other Broadway show with historical elements develop similar programs.
The first school that will participate in the Hamilton project will be the Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School on April 13. A complete list of the schools was not announced. New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said preference will go to schools on the Title I schedule, schools with "principals who take this [program] seriously" and schools with teachers who are willing to switch curriculum in the areas of history and English as a second language.