Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

My Shot; All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Musicals


It’s important to note that I was a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda before Hamilton. That may not be important to you, but it is to me. I was obsessed with his first show, In the Heights, long before we heard Lin was planning a hip hop musical about the founding fathers. As the Hamilton hype grew, I was very much like those snooty fans at a concert who are annoyed when everyone sings along to the hit songs and drops out when they play the unknown ones. I’m a connoisseur of quality musicals, so I could often describe myself as “snooty”; I’m okay with that.

I finally gave in and listened to the soundtrack months (not years) after it was released and, of course, I was hooked. Snooty or not, I can recognize genius when I see it.

I don’t have to tell you that Hamilton is a big deal. Even if you haven’t seen it, you know it’s a significant cultural phenomenon. The fact that the recording of a live production with the original cast is coming out on Disney+ on July 3rd has theatre nerds and regular people marking off days on the calendar with a big red Sharpie. My kids are just as excited as I am and it feels like this release is just what we need as a nation to celebrate our independence when most of the normal Independence Day traditions will be put on hold this year. Thanks Disney+!

The title of the series I’m doing this summer is “All I really need to know I learned from musicals”. And I’ve learned a lot from Hamilton. But before I learned important lessons about courage or how to live a legacy, I learned a whole bunch about history from it. My kids know more about the founding fathers and the start of our nation than I ever did at their age because they love this musical. But it’s not just that. The've also learned that history is fascinating. That’s it’s significant to understand why we do things the way we do. That the people we remember weren’t perfect, but they made choices that made a difference. I’m so glad they understand that at a young age instead of as adults because they have a lot more history to learn in school, and Hamilton will make that process an adventure for them instead of a chore. Thanks Lin-Manuel Miranda!

So, other than history, what did I learn from Hamilton? I hesitate to quote the songs in this musical because the lyrics are so exquisite, it’s tough to even write about them without seeing the blaring chasm of wisdom between my words and those of Miranda, but oh well. I also quote the Bible a lot in this blog, so clearly, I’m okay with incongruity.

I learned about courage.

“My Shot”

(Hamilton)

Scratch that

This is not a moment, it's the movement

Where all the hungriest brothers with something to prove went.

Foes oppose us, we take an honest stand

We roll like Moses, claimin' our promised land

And? If we win our independence?

Is that a guarantee of freedom for our descendants?

Or will the blood we shed begin an endless

Cycle of vengeance and death with no defendants?

I think we look at this story with the assumption that these guys had a crystal ball that told the future. “Don’t worry, you’re outmatched in every way possible, but it’s cool. You’ll win this thing.” Nope. They didn’t know how it would end. They did know the risks though. If they lost, they’d all be executed for treason. Game over. Allegiance to the crown for their descendants and no chance for independence. It was a gamble, but they did it anyway. I want to be this kind of brave. The kind that says, “I’m willing to risk it all for something that’s bigger than me.”

I learned about restraint.

“Wait for It”

(Burr)

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 (wait for it)

I'm willing to wait for it

Wait for it

[Ensemble:]

Wait for it

Wait for it

Wait for it

Hamilton doesn't hesitate

He exhibits no restraint

He takes and he takes and he takes

And he keeps winning anyway

He changes the game

He plays and he raises the stakes

And if there's a reason

He seems to thrive when so few survive, then I'm willing to wait for it

There are times to go and times to wait. Who should we emulate? Hamilton -who’s nonstop and never hesitates or Burr who waits, talks less, and smiles more? I think it’s both.

Ecclesiastes 3:6-7 is often quoted because it’s a beautiful paradox.

“A time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

What makes this a compelling story is that we can identify with both Hamilton and Burr -though they’re often in conflict with one another. As much as we love Hamilton, he could have been more effective if he learned to talk less. Burr could have been more effective if he was clearer about his position. And we can learn from both of them. When I think about a person I want as a friend, I want a little Hamilton and a little Burr. Honesty and restraint. Honesty is the result of knowing something, but restraint is the result of maturity. It’s knowing what’s true and but also knowing when to shut up about it.

I learned about sacrifice.

“Nonstop”

[Eliza:]

Look around, isn't this enough?

[Angelica (Eliza):]

He will never be satisfied

(What would be enough)

He will never be satisfied (To be satisfied)

Satisfied (Satisfied)

Satisfied (Satisfied)

[Wash:]

History has its eyes on you

[Together:]

[Burr:] Why do you assume you're the smartest in the room?

Why do you assume you're the smartest in the room?

Soon that attitude's gonna be your doom

[Eliza:] Look around! Look around! Isn't this enough? What would be enough?

[Wash/Mull/Laur/Laf:] History has its eyes on you

[Angelica:] He will never be satisfied, satisfied, satisfied

[All:] Non-Stop! Non-Stop! Non-Stop! Non-Stop

Why do you fight like

[Company:]

History has its eyes on you

[Hamilton (men) {Full Company}:]

I am not throwin' away my shot! (Just you wait!)

I am not throwin' away my shot! {Just you wait!}

I am

Alexander Hamilton! {Alexander Hamilton}

{Hamilton, just you wait!}

I am not throwin' away my shot

People who make history make sacrifices. Whether it’s fighting for what’s right, making a discovery, or serving others, history-makers choose to do something that others wouldn’t. And that requires sacrifice. It makes me think of that old saying, “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” I make sacrifices all the time for things that aren’t worthy and then when something worthy comes along, I don’t have time to do it well. I want to look back on my life being able to say I made sacrifices for things that really matter. Hamilton, Washington, Lafayette… So many of the freedoms we enjoy are a direct result of the sacrifices these men made.

I learned about Reconciliation

“It’s Quiet Uptown”

[Angelica:]

There are moments that the words don't reach

There is a grace too powerful to name

We push away what we can never understand

We push away the unimaginable

They are standing in the garden

Alexander by Eliza's side

She takes his hand

[Eliza:]

It's quiet uptown

[Company (except Hamilton and Eliza):]

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

If you see him in the street, walking by her

Side, talking by her side, have pity

They are going through the unimaginable

I just love this song. It’s heartbreaking, poignant, and beautiful. Though the situation they’re in is well…unimaginable, I love the reconciliation they are able to reach. Hamilton wasn’t perfect. That’s for sure. He was brash and unfeeling sometimes. He wasn’t faithful to his wife and she found out about his infidelity from an article in the paper. On the surface, their relationship looks broken beyond repair, but through the unimaginable pain of losing their son, they are able to reconcile their relationship.

Eliza is remembered for honoring her husband’s legacy. And not as a woman scorned because of her willingness to forgive. And while we’re talking about legacy…

I learned about leaving a legacy

“The World was Wide Enough”

I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory

Is this where it gets me, on my feet, sev'ral feet ahead of me?

I see it coming, do I run or fire my gun or let it be?

There is no beat, no melody

Burr, my first friend, my enemy

Maybe the last face I ever see

If I throw away my shot, is this how you'll remember me?

What if this bullet is my legacy?

Legacy. What is a legacy?

It's planting seeds in a garden you never get to see

I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me

America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me

You let me make a difference

A place where even orphan immigrants

Can leave their fingerprints and rise up

I'm running out of time. I'm running, and my time's up

Wise up. Eyes up

I catch a glimpse of the other side

Laurens leads a soldiers' chorus on the other side

My son is on the other side

He's with my mother on the other side

Washington is watching from the other side

Teach me how to say goodbye

Rise up, rise up, rise up

Perhaps the most significant lesson to be learned from Hamilton is leaving a legacy. “What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” I love that. I want to plant a life-giving garden. One that thrives and gives beauty to those around to see it. In order to plant that garden, it’s going to take courage, restraint, sacrifice, and reconciliation -all the things I’ve learned from this musical.

I hope you enjoy watching Hamilton this week. Whether it’s the first time you’ve seen it or you have every word memorized, take time to enjoy this work of art that has taught me so much. You’ll understand why it’s not just a moment, it’s a movement.

Don’t throw away your shot!

Shannon