Sarah is my oldest friend’s daughter. Before the pandemic, I would get reports and pictures of the whole family at the ballet or the theater, the Metropolitan Museum or the Guggenheim. I know what a huge hole in all their lives the closing of theaters and other arts institutions has meant for them, and for so many others. I am sure that this family is not the only one whose summer was made more bearable by the July release of Hamilton.
Hamilton Summer – A Letter to Lin-Manuel Miranda
by Sarah Hiatt, Westchester County, New York
Dear Lin-Manuel Miranda,
I don’t know if you realize it, but releasing the movie version of Hamilton on Disney Plus in July 2020 was a tremendous public service.
I have two daughters, ages 10 and 6, and like all other children around the world, their lives were turned upside down in an instant in March 2020. They went months without seeing friends; they could no longer see extended family; they had to live through the nightmare that was “remote learning.” We had no idea what the summer would bring when the school year ended.
While some people may forever think of the summer of 2020 as the Covid Summer (masks at the beach and pools, camps shuttered, the virus raging in much of the country), I will forever think of the summer of 2020 as the Hamilton Summer. My 10-year-old and I watched Hamilton on Disney Plus the night it was released, and we were hooked, like countless others, by the story, the music, the staging. My 10-year old insisted her younger sister and father watch and listen too.
Together, the girls not only listened to and sang to the soundtrack over and over, they discussed Hamilton and Burr and their motivations and which one they each most resembled; they developed a “Know Your Hamilton” quiz for friends and family; they reenacted scenes from Hamilton with ten dollar bills (my younger daughter said recently, “It’s really too bad Aaron Burr isn’t on any money”); they played endless rounds of “guess which Hamilton song I am thinking of.” Hamilton provided hours and hours of entertainment throughout a long, quiet summer.
When I took my younger daughter to the adult dentist for a check-up (a smaller practice than the pediatric practice the girls previously went to, her first time in an indoor space that was not her home in five months), the hygienist, decked in all the PPE you can imagine, asked her what she wants to be when she grows up. She responded, “A singer.” The hygienist said, “Do you want to sing a song?” What else did she sing but You’ll Be Back in its entirety, perfect accent and all? The hygienist had tears in her eyes.
Hamilton didn’t just provide us with fun – it got us through some of the most challenging moments. I drove the girls to their first day of school when it opened after Labor Day. My ten-year-old was wearing her new favorite shirt – a Hamilton shirt, of course. We pulled up to a long, slow-moving line of cars all waiting in the rain. The girls had their masks on, ready to go. All of us felt incredibly anxious about what was to come and I could barely contain my own tears. What else was there to do but play My Shot on the car stereo? As the drop-off line inched along, we all listened and sang and relaxed, a little.
I have never before witnessed first-hand and to this extent the power of the arts to provide comfort, relief, distraction, and most importantly joy – even in the darkest of times. So thank you, and thank you to Disney Plus for making Hamilton available to families who were not fortunate enough to see it live and on stage. Of course, the girls have already been promised that when we are able to do so safely, we will make the trip to Broadway to see Hamilton.
About the songs, for the uninitiated
You’ll Be Back is sung by King George III in Act I. Lin-Manuel Miranda has described it as a break-up letter from King George to the colonies. It is meant to be (and is, the girls especially think) funny.
You’ll be back, soon you’ll see
You’ll remember you belong to me
You’ll be back, time will tell
You’ll remember that I served you well
Oceans rise, empires fall
We have seen each other through it all
And when push comes to shove
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love!
My Shot is the most well-known song from Hamilton. Hamilton raps to other revolutionaries about his ambition and desire to fight for the revolution, even if it means dying.
I am not throwing away my shot
I am not throwing away my shot
Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I’m not throwing away my shot