How lucky we are to be alive right now

Broadway, New York, NY, USA
This time last week, I was in the middle of New York City. A block or two off of Broadway, I was getting ready in my hotel room for something I was anticipating for months: HAMILTON!

And to answer the question everyone asks ("How'd you get tickets?!") -- my dad's thrifty, and he plans waaaaayyyy ahead. Which is why we took the train from Baltimore up to New York for my birthday, sat in the highest balcony with a surprisingly perfect view. I was anxious to finally take in a musical I was not only a fan of, but also envious of. You know when you get that pang of jealousy that someone created something so brilliant before you thought of it? That's quickly becoming me with everything Lin Manuel Miranda touches.

Unsurprisingly, the show was even more spectacular than I could have imagined, and the experience was near indescribable. I'll give it my best effort to describe it anyway.

Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.
In short, it's everything you'd think it would be and more. Not only is the writing complex, and the characters beautifully played, but the mechanics of the show were incomprehensible. The choreography was simple but powerful, and the goddamn set! Now there was a character in and of itself. It was sparse in design, yet everything had a severe purpose. Watching the show, it was hard to remember that the writing came first, and that the stage came second. It almost seemed at times that pieces were written specifically to interact with the stage mechanics.

When I left the theatre that night, other than buzzing with the excitement of 1) being in New York for the first time 2) seeing my first show on Broadway and 3) HAVING THAT SHOW BE HAMILTON, I remember the extreme sense of admiration at Lin Manuel Miranda's talent. On the one year anniversary of the show opening at Richard Rodgers' Theatre, though LMM himself did not make an appearance, his presence -- his passion and precision -- could be felt. This man is reinventing the game, and not just musically speaking.

That night after the show, I wanted to write. I was literally fidgeting with the need to create, to make something that lasts, that matters. My Gilgamesh crisis, all over again. Anyway, I wasn't going to get sleep anytime soon because, you know, I still couldn't believe that had all just happened, that it was real, and Hamilton was stuck in my head. The songs, the incredible framing of the story... I was inspired to take a second look at all of my work and take what I had learned from the near perfect execution of Hamilton and somehow apply it to my writing. Here were my major takeaways.

Less is more. There's an underlying theme in Burr's character that underlines this fact. "Talk less, smile more." The production of the show seemed to agree with this sentiment. The stage was minimalistic yet dynamic. If you haven't seen pictures (Google it!!!) I'll explain briefly: Blank stage with wooden walkways around sides. Centerstage was a turntable set up, with a bullseye that allowed for the floor to be spun together or in opposite directions. Set dressing was all but nonexistent. Props were rare. The effect? Each change, each transition of scenery allowed the audience to fill in the blanks. We didn't need our hands held to understand what was happening. Less was more; it allowed the story to do the explaining.

Layers, layers, layers. Within the simplicity, there needs to exist complexity. Because the set allowed the book to take the spotlight, there needed to be power behind those words. Characters couldn't be flat and perfect. No one was wholly good, or wholly bad. Hamilton is a musical that can be dissected for years, with how many layered messages Lin Manuel Miranda managed to squeeze in. And yet never once does anything feel preachy or the slightest bit disingenuous. We watch as Burr becomes a relatable villain through a series of small, understandable failures. We see Hamilton's drive take him to the top, and then cross the line. Angelica is outspoken throughout, and we see Eliza grow into her strength in a quieter way. I could go on, but I think my point has already been made.

Be smart while still having a heart. The story is smart, in both what is told and the way Lin tells it. It is history, revived in a way that can be impactful, exciting, and understood in today's frame. "The story of America, in the language of today," and all that. But what truly makes Hamilton shine is not just the historical aspect of it; it's the heart it has. These characters were people that lived hundreds of years ago, and yet we feel for them. We cry for them, we laugh with them. We care about them, and even though we know the ending (both from history and the opening song of the musical), we still are heartbroken. It's a powerful thing, to be able to still twist those emotions out of an audience fully aware of the characters' arcs. Like I said. Lin knows what he's doing. He's a master, and perhaps it is because of how much he cares about his characters that allows us to do the same. That empathy translates in spades.

Hamilton was an experience of a lifetime. I cannot wait until the filmed version of the show comes out, because I know it is something I will watch time and time again -- to both learn and enjoy. I will count myself forever blessed to have had such an amazing experience. Now all I want to do is create something even a fraction as impactful. That would be enough.



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