It’s Wednesday morning. I’ve had a double cappuccino and a banana and I’m hoping that wakes me up for my day. So my post might seem dreamy or reaching into a netherworld that only I am connecting but hear me out anyhow.
I live in an area of sometimes pretty extreme isolation–especially in winter months. Most event planners around here avoid January because the weather is too unpredictable. Indeed our variety show was canceled two weeks ago due to snow storm but rescheduled for last night when we had a balmy 42 degrees going for us.
We are one of those rural communities that suffers from suicide attempts and sadly some follow through. The local high school last Thursday was the site of two kids of color–including one of my own–being jumped. I watch as the social workers and school admins try program after program that look great on paper. Whether it be Friday Night Live events in which only the non marginalized kids attend or forced sports togetherness that only increases isolation. I have my suspicions that these things are designed by people who don’t spend time with real students.
Perhaps by real I mean, kids who have souls and who recognize and see through the bullshit but aren’t old enough to navigate out yet. The kids who are vulnerable are those that feel. That know the world’s depths and the fakeness too that surrounds them–they aren’t numb yet to it. They know something is wrong. Pinpointing takes time.
Enter our tiny theatre troupe—Pachuca Productions. Back last year we had an idea. Tina and I are big Hamilton fans (we saw the production at the Pantages 2017). Lin-Manuel Miranda released that instrumental version of the show–last summer? What if we got some kids together to sing Hamilton songs with us?
They came from all over the county: Portola, Indian Valley, Quincy, Sattley–5 different schools. A couple of kids from each school. Shy kids. Kids never having been on stage before. Kids who didn’t know whether they could sing or not. We roped one of their principals into it and asked him to sing Right Hand Man as George Washington. We got the women who usually sing and act with us to sing a song or two. We created a costume contest. A kid made trivia quiz. A challenge to write a Ben Franklin wrap. We got the local theatre to rent us a kid friendly space. And we rehearsed them on two sides of the county a couple times a week since after Thanksgiving.
And now the shy and the isolated have taken to the stage and we couldn’t be prouder.
I’m not saying that theatre solves all the problems in the universe. And if someone wants to sue us for singing Hamilton songs in public know that we didn’t make any money off of the venture. Like donations just barely covered the cost of the building for a night. We are divorced moms with kids–please don’t sue us. And I donated the prizes for the contests.
But there was joy on shy faces. There was some serious confidence building. There was a break in January’s oppressively cold hold on this region. There was light. And it was beautiful.
Here’s some photos:
Pre-Show Green Room Selfie.
Bree — the shyest one who loves Dear Theodosia.
Sarah the King.
The audience sang along and laughed and cheered on the students. A kid from the audience won the trivia quiz getting 9 out of 10 Hamilton questions correct. We gave them pencil sets with Hamilton quotes on them.
For a moment the town hall theatre was warm and it wasn’t the bleak mid-winter anymore. Thanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda for your words and music. I hope you don’t mind. And Happy 264th probably Birthday, Mr. Hamilton.
I’ll post more photos as they trickle in…