This Friday there will be some very happy high school students packing the Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake City. Students from around the state will be traveling to Utah's capital to watch the award-winning musical Hamilton, a hit Broadway production about founding father Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton’s production in Salt Lake is nearing its end. It’s been on stage for three weeks and tickets were near impossible to get. But thanks to the Hamilton Education Program, created in part by the musical’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, a high-school-student-only performance will be held Friday. The program has been used in other major cities but here in Utah is the only place where the state became involved.
“In every other city where they’ve done it, it has been 100 percent privately funded," said Josh Loftin, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts. "When it came to Utah the state stepped forward and said we want to help pay for this.”
Typically each ticket for the high-school-only performance is $70. The state is subsidizing $60 through a bi-partisan sponsorship between Speaker Greg Hughes and Senator Jim Dabakis. Now, each ticket will only be $10 for students.
“Dabakis and Hughes have this whole thing they do," Loftin said, "where they talk about Hughes seeing the play in New York and calling Dabakis because Dabakis is the first guy he thought of as someone who would appreciate theater and basically crying on the phone – that’s what Dabakis said. Hughes said he did not cry – and basically said, ‘We need to do everything we can, when this comes, to really help people engage with it.’”
And not only do the students get to see the Hamilton performance, they also get a chance to participate in a Q&A session with the cast before the performance and perform their own original pieces.
“In the morning, they’ll watch about 16 performances of the best of the best musical performances that were created by the Utah schools," Loftin said. "Those students will actually perform on the Eccles stage in the morning.”
Each original work was created in the classroom in the style of Hamilton, using songs, rap, poetry and the spoken word. There will be 2,100 students and teachers from 40 different Utah high schools at this event. The students qualified for this experience by spending weeks in their classrooms studying American history through a special integrated curriculum about Alexander Hamilton and other founding fathers.