With community support, Sandra Williams is enabling 200 young adults and leaders to experience Hamilton live

click to enlarge Band of Brothers, Revolutionary War editition. - JOAN MARCUS PHOTO

Joan Marcus photo

Band of Brothers, Revolutionary War editition.

Malachi Davis was at the end of a stressful food-service shift when his mother called with unexpectedly great news: He’d be attending Hamilton as part of an evening organized by Sandra Williams of the Carl Maxey Center and the Black Lens newspaper.

“When she told me, I was freaking out. I was at work, and I’d had a rough day. That just made my night so much better,” he says.

While Hamilton has undoubtedly achieved a remarkable degree of name recognition even among non-theatergoers, for Davis the musical needed no explanation. The Rogers High School senior describes himself as “the ultimate musical theater nerd” and had watched Hamilton every way he could — whether it was on streaming services or as YouTube clips. It easily ranks among his all-time favorite shows, although he does have a soft spot for Heathers and Mean Girls, too.

“A lot of musical theater, it falls into the same old, same old. I feel like the music is alive in this show,” Davis says. “Lin-Manuel Miranda really did an amazing job with the creative process. And, honestly, I work a lot because I’m saving for college. So this is giving me the perfect opportunity to take time off and really breathe.”

Davis is one of 200 local participants — mostly high school and college-aged students — to be taking part in this one-night group outing to Hamilton.

“Typically, when there’s a production of some sort that comes to town with a majority Black cast or the story is Black, I try to work with whoever’s hosting the event to see if there’s a way to create community connections,” Williams says. She recently organized a similar event around the classically trained hip hop duo Black Violin at the Fox Theater.

But Williams recognized Hamilton as something extra special, not least “because it makes history relevant for kids of color who don’t typically see themselves in history.” She herself has watched the filmed performance on Disney+ no fewer than three times.

So she started asking around for donations with the hope of funding 50 tickets. Local organizations like Canopy Credit Union, GESA Credit Union and the Providence Foundation quickly agreed to chip in. Avista offered to support a virtual Q&A session with some of the Hamilton cast. WestCoast Entertainment also contributed some funds from its ShowKidz program, which is largely sponsored by IATSE Local 93.

That’s how 50 tickets became 200.

“Everybody was really eager to help out, and I think they see the relevance of it, too, which is why we ended up with four times as many tickets as we thought we were going to get,” she says. “And we’re excited to have 200 people, predominantly from the Black community, at the same event on the same night. That’s just super cool.”

Williams is especially looking forward to many of her fellow audience members experiencing Hamilton live for the first time. Along with the show’s more representative casting, it has themes that tie into her ongoing efforts to create more inclusive public decision-making processes.

“I’ve been talking about ‘being in the room where it happens,’ which is from Hamilton, ever since I saw it. Part of what we’ve been trying to do with a lot of our social justice work is to get ourselves into the room where it happens. It felt like Hamilton was speaking our language. And so I’m excited for other people to experience a similar reaction.”

As for Davis, being in the very room where Hamilton happens is a memory he’ll take with him when he matriculates at AMDA College of the Performing Arts in Los Angeles this autumn. He’s majoring, of course, in theater and film. ♦

Article Source: Inlander