2,700 Arizona Kids Got To See 'Hamilton' Thanks To EduHam Program

By Scott Bourque, Cronkite School
Published: Monday, February 26, 2018 - 10:57am
Updated: Monday, February 26, 2018 - 5:34pm

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This story was produced in cooperation with Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

(Photo by Kaleigh Shufeldt - KJZZ)
"Hamilton" stage at ASU Gammage.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical "Hamilton" is wrapping up its run at ASU Gammage. Since its opening night in late January, hundreds of well-heeled spectators have gone to great lengths to get tickets.

To bring her family to the musical, Stacey Sullivan, who purchased her tickets at a relatively inexpensive rate, still paid a lot.

“$600 for the four of us,” she said. “About $150 each.”

Sullivan said the lessons from the musical, and the cultural experience itself, are worth the money.

“They’ve heard of [Hamilton], they like the music, they've already listened to the soundtrack.” So, Sullivan said she saw an opportunity to "learn a little about history.”

For a large number of Arizona’s lower-income students, tickets to an expensive musical are out of the question.

“A $200 ticket to go see 'Hamilton' at Gammage would be out of reach for most of these kids,” said Ashley Yap, an English teacher at ASU Preparatory, a Title I school in central Phoenix.

“When it's a choice between going to see a musical or, you know, paying your rent for the month, rent kind of takes priority,” Yap said.

Until he learned he had a chance to see “Hamilton,” Joseph, a sophomore at ASU Prep, flatly said history class isn’t exciting. 

He did say history for him is one of his favorite subjects, but admitted until recently, “I could only recite the Declaration of Independence and the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre. Everything else I didn’t know.”

Fortunately for him and some 2,700 other Title 1 students, Hamilton’s director, Lin-Manuel Miranda, comes from a family of educators, and wanted to give students like Joseph an opportunity to see the musical and learn about history face to face.

“Lin-Manuel Miranda’s father, Luis, is involved in education in New York City,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, ASU-Gammage executive director.

When the show first hit it big with tickets running as high as $1,600 in New York, Manuel-Miranda hatched a plan.

(Photo by Scott Bourque - ASU)
Title 1 students waiting outside ASU Gammage before the start of "Hamilton."

“He went out and raised $2 million, and that sort of started it," Jennings-Roggensack said.

The birth of EduHam was picked up for funding by the Gilder-Lehrman Foundation on the national level, with local foundations filling in the void as the program moves city to city. In the Phoenix area, the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation took the lead on fundraising.

“We stepped up, along with one other family foundation, to support the cost of the production here in Tempe for those 2,700 students,” said Laura Mitchell, the foundation’s executive director.

Filling every seat at ASU Gammage with students can be extremely expensive, Mitchell admitted. “It isn’t free, but we’re happy to support it.”

When Yap told her students that EduHam was looking for local students to perform on stage at ASU Gammage, they ran with the idea. Isabel, a senior at ASU Prep, wrote a rap:

“With some of us that serve the people today … without the right to religion would we be allowed to pray? Without the right to the press, we could be oppressed … That makes us feel less.”

Although Isabel’s rap wasn’t selected to go on stage with the "Hamilton" cast, EduHam’s way of making history class more interesting helped her see the lessons in a different way.

“I think this makes it more personal to me, because, well, I am part Mexican-American,” she said. “'Hamilton' was an immigrant so I think this is more personal than just talking about immigration. He was able to do so much as an immigrant, like become one of the founders, so I think that’s really amazing.”

EduHam found Khaelan Crank’s performance stage ready. The junior at Casa Grande Union High School performed for her peers on Gammage stage.

The whole process started months ago.

“We had to do some assignments and that took us through history and it allowed us to experience things on a deeper level and gain knowledge,” Crank said.

Just getting a shot to perform for her peers and "Hamilton’s" cast and crew was appreciated.

"It’s been a whole dream of mine. And it’s like once these things finally happen you step into a new reality of, ‘Wow, this is possible and I can do this,’ and it was just such an emotional thing for me,” Crank said.

It’s not only sparked his imagination to perform on stage, but it’s also lit a fire for many students knowing they had a chance to perform.

In the end, only a handful of students were ultimately selected to perform their interpretations of the musical hit, yet everyone of them were awarded with an exclusive matinee to see the award-winning musical.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to withhold Isabel's last name.

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