Students Experience History Through Hamilton

By Nefretari Powell ’19 and Xin Zhen ’19

Nothing bores students more than a typical classroom setting. They yearn for something more intriguing than just reading and analyzing documents. Aiming to broaden their minds and interests, Ms. Melissa Pentangelo and Mr. Joseph Peters took their classes on a trip to see the play Hamilton on May 9 at the Richard Rodgers Theater.

Mr. Peters said, “This was a great opportunity for the students to be exposed to the best of New York’s cultural offerings and it showed them American history in a way that they probably never thought possible.”

The purpose of the trip was to enlighten students about Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers in order to further their understanding of how America came to be. In planning the trip, both teachers were thrilled as they wanted their classes to witness an informative and entertaining first-hand account of the material learned in class.

“I’m very excited for my students to have this wonderful experience,” said Ms. Pentangelo.

Selected from a lottery, she brought her English class, while Mr. Peters brought his Culture of Sports class for the time of their lives.

“It was really an incredible show,” said Jodens Monereau ’19. “You could really feel the emotion being portrayed by the actors.”

Many of the students were grateful to watch such an expensive performance for only $10, as the tickets usually cost hundreds.

Atif Gujar ’19 said, “A lot of people would’ve never had the chance to see a Broadway show if it wasn’t for this trip and I’m so glad that I got to experience a play like this.”

Marie Landy Derival ’19 said, “I didn’t think that I would enjoy the play as much as I did. I got to watch and learn a more in-depth version of a history lesson for cheaper than what it really costs.”

Although the trip was meant to be laid back and satisfying, students had to complete a project as well. They had to incorporate what they learned in the form of poems, songs, and skits from historical research upon analyzing primary documents from the play and Alexander Hamilton himself.

Ms. Pentangelo said, “We altered the ELA curriculum in one of my classes to give students time to research and create their group projects.”

Two students, Monereau ’19 and Joseph Zakharov ’19, collaborated to create a rap about the battle at Valley Forge in the American Revolution. Bringing this event to life, they described a conversation between General George Washington and an American soldier. Washington wanted to motivate the remaining soldiers to continue in the war since they were losing and many died from smallpox. After writing their pieces, students had to make a video performing it to send to the Hamilton cast for a chance to have their work showcased at the theater. Luckily, Monereau ’19 and Zakharov ’19 were selected.

Monereau ’19 said, “I was so shocked because I was chosen out of everyone else. I did performances in the past, but it was nothing huge like this so I was extremely nervous plus it was Broadway.”

Students in the crowd were very supportive of the work of their fellow Hornets, greeting their performance with laughter and applause. 

“You could tell that there was a lot of practice behind their performance,” said Ydeline Michel ’19. “There was humor involved and the audience was laughing. They were really enjoying themselves.”

Aside from getting to experience a Broadway play through creating and performing their own skits, the students were also able to learn and dive deeper into history.

“It was fascinating to see how a story that not everyone would find interesting got turned into this huge Broadway musical,” Michel ’19 said.

The production of the play also contributed to the enthusiasm of the viewers. The moving stage and use of various props influenced the feeling of being present during the time that Hamilton and the Founding Fathers were alive. It gave feeling and understanding as the narrator explained each act before it began.

“Words cannot explain how amazing and informative it was,” Derival ’19 said.

The teachers were also appreciative of such a great production, and they were glad that their students came along.

Mr. Peters said, “Musicals aren’t really my thing, but American history is. And I love that this city is a place where something like Hamilton can be conceived and created and thrive.”

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