Return to Headlines

RHS juniors get a shot to see history in action

 RHS Junior performers outside the Orpheum

For more than 200 Richfield High School (RHS) juniors, Oct. 4, 2018 is not a day they will soon forget. They’ll always remember it as the day they got to check out the hottest show in town, “Hamilton.”

“Hamilton” is an American musical about the life of American founding father Alexander Hamilton. The  music, lyrics and book were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow.

Not only did nearly every RHS junior get a coveted ticket to see the show, they came free of charge. Reduced-cost student matinee tickets for $10 came courtesy of the Hamilton Education Program. The rest of the needed funds were raised through a teacher-led online fundraising campaign and a generous donation from the Richfield Spartan Foundation.

The Hamilton Education Program, through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, provides curriculum materials in American history and English classes, and requires awarded students to create performances focused on the characters of “Hamilton.” Students researched primary historical documents in their history classes and created and performed their own monologue, poem, rap, song or short scene as part of their English coursework. Two teaching artists from the Hennepin Theater Trust were made available to assist students with the performance aspect of the assignment.

Days prior to the show, juniors gathered to share their historical performances with one another. A trio of performers was selected to represent RHS on the Orpheum stage in front of an audience of thousands of students. The RHS trio joined students from other schools as they performed their original “Hamilton” inspired works prior to the big show.

The shared student performances and the modern way Hamilton’s story is told along with talented cast of mostly black and Latino actors has led to more young people coming away from the show with a changed view of America and themselves. It instills in them a sense of civic ownership and speaks to them on a personal level.

The Hamilton Education Program in Minnesota was coordinated by Project SUCCESS in partnership with Hamilton producers and The Public Theater, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, The Rockefeller Foundation and Broadway Across America. Local access to performances was provided through Hennepin Theatre Trust are made possible by major grants from Aroha Philanthropies, Target, the Minnesota Vikings and the Wilf Family Foundations.