SHS students watch history come alive after seeing 'Hamilton' in Chicago

SHS students watch history come alive after seeing 'Hamilton' in Chicago
Posted on 01/10/2018

Not only are Scottsburg High Schools students learning American history in the classroom, but they are also learning American history from a Broadway stage in Chicago through the Pulitzer Prize-, Tony Award-, and Grammy Award-winning musical, “Hamilton.”

Less than one month ago, 100 SHS students traveled to Chicago to see an afternoon matinee performance of  “Hamilton” as part of the Hamilton Education Program. SHS was selected to participate in the Hamilton Education Program, where students learn about the Founding Era through a hands-on curriculum, complete a performance project, and spend a day in Chicago watching student performances, eating lunch at the Palmer House Hilton, and seeing a matinee performance of "Hamilton."

“This was not just names in a history book. ‘Hamilton’ gave them a personality,” said Anne Noble, a student at SHS. “It really supplemented our learning in American Studies.”

“I’m a big fan of ‘Hamilton” and the history behind it,” said Katelynn Langley, a student at Scottsburg New Tech High School. “It sends a powerful message.”

Jordyn and Megan Johnson perform at CIBC Theatre

Along with watching 13 other schools performing on a Broadway stage in the morning session, the SHS students were able to see two of their classmates on the stage. Jordyn and Megan Johnson, sisters and students at SHS, performed on the CIBC Theatre stage, home to “Hamilton” in Chicago. The sisters wrote a catchy, one-minute song on a key moment in American history — the Boston Tea Party — for their required performance project. The Johnson worked together on harmonies and letting Megan take the lead. The students created a video, which was selected to send to the Gilder Lehrman Institute. The Gilder Lehrman Institute who oversees the educational program and partners with private donors and organizations to make the program possible.

Scottsburg High School was one of 14 schools selected to perform, but 24 high schools from Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana were invited to attend the program on Dec. 13.

“I used to write songs all the time. It was pretty easy. I chose something I knew about,” said Jordyn Johnson, who is a member of the SHS Drama Club with her sister Megan. “It took me 25 minutes to write it. I wrote it first and made a tune to it.”

“When we were actually out there, it wasn’t that nerve wracking. It was cool for everyone to cheer for you. People stopped and said good job afterward. It helped boost my confidence,” Megan Johnson said. “It is an experience I will never forget. We are super thankful to be part of this.”

In addition to performing their original song on the Broadway stage, the Johnson sisters were given backstage access to see how “Hamilton” operates behind the scenes. They were able to look at costumes and meet some crew members and actors. They also had an opportunity to meet the other students performing that morning before the seeing the matinee performance of “Hamilton.” The Johnson sisters met “Hamilton” actor Colby Lewis, who served as the emcee for the Hamilton Education Program.

“It was really cool seeing a part of a play no one sees,” Jordyn Johnson said.

After the morning session, the students were able to watch the matinee performance of “Hamilton” with the Chicago cast. By watching a Broadway version of Alexander Hamilton’s life and the creation of a new nation based on primary historical documents, the students were able to experience American history in a new way.

“I have always been into musical theatre,” Noble said. “It was cool how people who typically would not like theatre get into it.”

“Overall, it was powerful experience watching it,” Langley said. “It helped me learn history. It gave me more of the meaning toward history.”

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