December 10, 2018

EPHS Students See "Hamilton" at Boston Opera House

"An Unforgettable Experience"

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On November 8th, 110 East Providence High School students attended a field trip to the Boston Opera House to watch the musical Hamilton. In addition to the musical, students met members of the Hamilton cast and asked them questions. "This was a unique opportunity to watch Hamilton at the Boston Opera House," said East Providence High School social studies department chair, Michael Silva. "The Gilder Lehman Institute of American History promotes the study and interest in American history. They provide opportunities to teachers and students," said Silva. "In order to attend the musical, the students had to create a one to two minute performance piece, a rap, song, poem, monologue or scene related to the life of Alexander Hamilton. Students performed their work for their class," explained Silva.

The trip consisted of 15 student performances, a question and answer session with cast members and lastly a chance to watch the musical. Student performances were evaluated for the quality of the students' research and the historical integrity and artistic expression in their work. The Hamilton Organization selected EPHS senior Jillian Aronhalt to perform on the stage at the Boston Opera House on the day of the show. "An incredible honor and an incredible performance by Jillian," said Silva. "Jillian was first selected from a group of EPHS students who performed. Her name was then selected by the Hamilton Organization. They selected the 15 best projects from all attending schools and Jillian was one of them."

The Reporter recently sat down with students Jillian Aronhalt, Eliza Vecchiarelli, Alexis Silva and Abigail Schwab to hear about their Hamilton experience:

"The student performances were incredibly chock full of talent," recalled Jillian Aronhalt. "So much talent and all performers were so different. Meeting the actual cast and crew as a student performer was great. I got to meet and talk with some back stage before I performed. They were incredibly talented and talked about all of the tough work it took to get to this professional level. I believe that this musical totally changes the game and for the future of other musicals to come. It has more contemporary music that people today can relate to. Often times when thinking of theatre, people think of classic shows, they think of Les Mis or Phantom of the Opera. Nowadays those shows don't appeal to much of modern day society. Hamilton opens up this doorway for a diverse group of people to enjoy theatre to some extent. I really learned that history isn't always what it seems to be. You learn new things every day about history that we thought we've known for years. It brings this whole new depth to history, we get to learn about the nitty gritty of everyday history. In media and television we hear about a lot of struggles people today have, but when you experience new pieces of history we learn that our founding fathers also experienced some of the same social problems that people today have. That forms this bond between the past, present and the future.

"I also was in awe of all the students who were involved," added Eliza Vecchiarelli. "Each one brought a different attitude to the stage and it was interesting to see audience reaction. As an audience member we got to listen to a stage panel discussion and participate in student questions. It was really cool to see their perspective of how this performance has changed their lives in particular and theatre in general. I felt like this show brings a new side of History forward that people don't generally get to see. Hamilton was buried by his competitors and to see some new facts come back to the stage, it shows a piece of history that many didn't know about. It changed the way that people look at Broadway shows and also their view of history. We learned a lot that was so enriching to us about the founding of our country. We wouldn't get this through just history books. If you stick to the facts, that's where we'll find the interesting parts of history."

"I thought the student performances were critical for kids our age, to see the history unfold on stage can be more interesting than in just text books. It was also important to see what has been left out of the history books," added Abigail Schwab. "It was very interesting to hear the performers stories of what it's like back stage and the experience of being in such a popular musical. The difference between other classic musicals and Hamilton is how different the music and staging is. It brings people to the theatre who would generally never get the experience of a Broadway musical. The audience is so diverse from what we see. The music is very different, including rap, modern, not just the classics. To hear about the influence of some of the women of that era is again not something one always learns in traditional history class. Women often had a big influence on some of the men in that time. I was introduced to this musical in the 7th grade and I've been a theatre student, but Hamilton really grew my interest in theatre and put it high on my list of things I like to do."

"It was interesting to see how every person chose a different historical figure and create an entertaining and interesting performance. Not everyone may find history interesting but the acting and music makes you want to learn, said Alexis Schwab. "It was also interesting to see that some of the cast members were from Boston and New England. They spoke about going from high school like us and eventually to a major show like Hamilton. Hamilton is different because of the diverse cast. The director did a very good job putting together the cast. It is so important to the show's success. The audience loved it and most said that they want to see it again. The whole thing - the diversity, the music the performance, that's what sets it apart from other shows.

Throughout the interview it was very evident that these students have learned immensely from their experience in the field trip to Hamilton. It is also a very expensive field trip. Hamilton tickets at the Boston Opera House are usually $500 per ticket. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History covered the entire cost minus $10 each. Due to an $1,100 donation by State Representative Gregg Amore, there was no out of pocket ticket cost to students. Students paid a $5 fee to provide for the cost of transportation.

"I had a great experience," said Jillian Aronhalt. "It was hard but rewarding work to memorize my parts and monologue. Often before a performance I get a rush of adrenalin and wonder if I'll remember the words when I step out on stage. Once out there and the lights shine in your face and it starts, the adrenalin drops and you feed off that to perform your best. You bring that audience with you to tell a story," she said. "I am interested in pursuing a professional career in theatre. I've been doing this for six years and I plan on attending college for theatre. It's such a big part of my life that I can't see myself never doing theatre in some form after high school."

"I don't think some people understand how big a deal this experience was. The show took 8 years to create and 4 years to reach Broadway. I think all of us have been just waiting to see this. The fact that we got to see this was amazing. Our seats were so close, we'll never forget this. Thank you Mr. Silva our teachers and the Gilder Institute," added a thankful Alexis as the other students nodded in agreement.

"I've been wanting to see this show for so long but never got the opportunity to see it. It was in New York and tickets were so expensive, some can be $700 or $800 each. For kids like us we can't and our parents can't afford that. It's really cool that we got the opportunity to do this for free. I will always be thankful for this," said Abigail Schwab.

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