Hamilton: Shaping Discourse in Pop Culture and History (For Better or Worse) (Panel)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Lindsay Bryde (SUNY Suffolk County Community College)

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton has captured audiences and critics for its inventive mix of hip hop, history, political relevance, and casting choices. While the show has been pioneering, it does have weaknesses that underpin the framework of the musical. This panel seeks to evaluate the show, the ways it has resonated with audiences, and consider the critical conversation developing outside of traditional theatre scholars.

Songs early in the show establish the Schuyler sisters as educated, independent, and socially-engaged. An example being Angelica’s rap, “When I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’ll tell him to put more women in the sequel." Yet, their characters quickly become diminished to weaker side stories: Eliza as the woman scorned and Angelica for marrying a man “who always pays.”

The show’s multiethnic cast represents a shift from the predominantly white performers on Broadway and commentary on the historical figures being represented. Yet, there has been little attention to paid to how the show mimics a minstrel show in “The Room Where It Happens,” both in orchestrations and choreography.

The show’s Ham 4 Ham mini-concerts, production of The Hamilton Mixtape, rare televised performances (making them event television), and the cast’s presence on social keep the show as a trending topic daily. It is bringing in unlikely Broadway audiences that may be the key to the show’s longevity. The choice to read a statement on diversity and inclusion at a performance to then Vice President-elect Mike Pence fostered a conversation on social media and the news about safe spaces for demonstration, performance, and art.

By working to ensure the success of the Broadway production, the producers and creative team have developed models that future productions could use to integrate themselves further into pop culture. Abstracts can look at the show as written and/or as presented in the media to demonstrate the positives and negatives of Hamilton's critical reception in the future.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton swept the theatre awards season of 2016 for its inventive mix of hip hop, history, political relevance, and casting choices. In the avalanche of accolades that the show was awarded, the critical discourse is only starting to emerge that demonstrates how the show has pioneered many areas, yet does have weaknesses that underpin the framework of the musical. This panel seeks to evaluate the show, the ways it has resonated with audiences, and consider the critical conversation developing outside of traditional theatre scholars. Some possible topics to consider involve the show’s depiction of women, perspectives on U.S. History, casting coups and controversies, perspectives on race, political commentary, the use of varying methods of rap to define characters/time periods, social media campaigning, and its place in pop culture.