Students show ‘Hamilton’ cast what they’ve learned in EduHam
The scene was Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the audience was over 2,500 teenagers from 34 South Florida high schools.
Onstage were their classmates, rapping and singing their original works sparked by the Broadway uber-hit “Hamilton,” the hip hop-flavored stage musical that tells the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
This was the Hamilton Education Program, better known as EduHam, which gets high school students to come up with their own paeans to Hamilton’s time in history. The students spend several weeks studying American history with a special curriculum designed in a partnership with “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
“They were amazing,” says Jaros, who emceed the event on Wednesday. Following the student performances, there was a Q-and-A session with members of the cast and crew. Then, after lunch outside, the students got to see a matinee performance of “Hamilton,” which ends its five-week Fort Lauderdale run on Sunday.
Christian Clarke, a 16-year-old junior at Nova High School in Davie, performed his own rap song titled “A-A-R-O-N,” a reference to Aaron Burr, the man who killed Hamilton in a duel.
“So if I’m saying Alexander Hamilton, hip hop, let me use Tupac,” says Clarke, explaining how he used the late rapper Tupac Shakur as inspiration for his piece. “And Aaron Burr is probably Suge Knight. So let me go in to their perspective of this happened and this happened, like we were good in the beginning, but now we have to end it. We are here.”
Clarke says he doesn’t think of himself as a singer since he’s only performed in front of “...like 30 kids in a classroom for a grade. Nothing like this.”
But Jason Foots and Jevaughn Jean-Gilles are both very much thinking of becoming professional performance artists. The 17-year-old juniors at Dillard High School Center for the Arts in Fort Lauderdale say they are each working on writing and composing music.
“I would like to create music, be a personality, be an [inspiration] to the youth because I’m one of you guys,” Jean-Gilles says.
The two performed “Spilling Tea,” a rap song about the Boston Tea Party that got uproarious applause from the audience. Foots adds that there was support from the other performers sharing the backstage area.
“They’re like ‘Oh, we love this,’” he recalls. “‘We want you guys to do amazing.’ So the support really helps, too.”
The whole EduHam program helps students, according to Broward County School Board member Laurie Rich Levinson. “Many of our students never get the opportunity to come to the theater, to see a show,” Levinson says. “So it opens up a whole new world to them and possibilities. And we believe in educating the whole child and this is a large piece of doing that. They’re going to be able to speak to cast members and that’s how they really connect with the children. It takes it to the next level. Everything we do in education now is giving them real world experiences and hands-on, interactive experiences. And this is in the forefront of what is happening.”
Fellow Board member Dr. Rosalind Osgood adds, “I represent a very urban district where it’s not common that the kids in my community would be able to even afford to come to such an opportunity like this. And I think it just further speaks volumes to the relationship that the Broward County School Board has with the community and the Performing Arts Center where we do many collaborative things together, where we’re starting as early as elementary school in educating our kids about the arts where they … get to practice and participate in it to the extent that many of them come down and do their own shows here at the performing arts center.”
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