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This is a post I've been mentally planning for the better part of a week, mostly trying to crystallize thoughts in a meaningful way, but also getting postponed because of travel and political outrage. So here, have some messy unvarnished thoughts:

I saw Hamilton last week. Like other art I partook of during Herr Gropenfuhrer's ascendance and first vollies, it managed to be comforting, inspiring, and galvanizing all at once. Having spent the better part of a decade at this point writing literary and historical criticism, I think it's no mistake and even indicative of our times that we have this powerfully political piece of art rallying us to RISE UP even as we have a Cheeto-in-Chief who is doing his best to tear us all down. And likewise, I think it's no mistake that if Americans were torn 50/50 over the Revolution itself, we have to remember that now, today, our current political balance is at *least* 60/40 if not 70/30--the Resistance is on point, we are gathered, we are prepared. Our greatest danger is the fatigue of it all, having to be aware and ready at all times. Per a friend and also Mad-Eye Moody, CONSTANT VIGILANCE. But here are some things that give me hope: The Mosque that was burned in Texas outpaced its rebuilding goal of $850k in donations in two days; the ACLU received $19 million in donations in just the single weekend when it usually gets $3mil in a year; people are showing up in droves to protests on campuses, at airports, at federal buildings. We have energy and anger and determination, and those are something.

As for Hamilton itself: I saw a wholly new cast, with an alt playing Hamilton. Black men played Burr, Washington, and Hamilton; Hamilton in particular had very dark skin, which highlighted the "I'm a shiny piece of coal" line from "My Shot" in a way I thought very interesting. LMM has written how he went back and forth on whether to play Hamilton or Burr when writing and workshopping, and it made me wonder when he composed that line which role he was playing at the time. The Hamilton actor also played young Ham as a combination of "angry young man" and "socially awkward" that was very interesting--it also made the whole sequence of "My Shot" extra emotional because "I've never had a group of friends before, I promise I'll make ya'll proud!" and the physicality of the group's interactions so neat to me--and especially because throughout the number and show Burr is distanced from the other actors; his line "Can I buy you a drink?" is bewildered confusion and social flailing as well. The whole sequence echoed their positions in "Story of Tonight Reprise" after Ham's wedding--Lafayette is handing out glasses and he makes like he's going to give one to Burr, who reaches out for it, and then he is bypassed with "You are the worst, Burr." So when Ham shooes them out, part of that is being kind/protective to Burr, which I thought was great characterization.

I brought tissues with me, because listening to Act 2 makes me cry, so I knew I was in for it with human beings, and yeah, yeaaaaaaaaah. The emotions were so powerful. The Hamilton actor in particular got, I think, "mature Hamilton" in a way that felt completely organic and impressive and in a way that seemed more so with his interpretation of young Ham. When he totally breaks down during "It's Quiet Uptown" it was truly impressive in a way difficult to describe, except that to see tears slowly coming down when talking to Eliza and then become absolutely streaming and shaking in a way that was moved and moving. (I can hear someone now say "And that's why it's called 'acting', Cait!" but still!) The actor who played Washington likewise made "Teach Them How to Say Goodbye" incredibly moving, and okay, yes, that song makes me tear up but this time I was close to sobbing. I'll admit part of it may have been the emotional hysteria of last week's politics, but still.

Lafayette/Jefferson was played by a light-skinned man. One of the things that visually struck me with images of Daveed Diggs's Jefferson was the visual hypocrisy in the scene with his slaves in "What Did I Miss?" I didn't feel like that sequence was as visually grabbing with a light-skinned man in the role; it made me wonder if we have normalized the image of "light person surrounded by dark servants" and how fucked up of itself that is. (SIDEWAYS: I love Legends of Tomorrow, and they did an episode where they went back to the Civil War to fight confederate zombies and hijinks ensued, but there's a scene when Jackson, the African-American part of Firestorm, opts to save some slaves with historical consequences/"aberrations" be damned: "This is the REAL aberration to history," he said, and I cried because yes.)

The actor who played Burr was absolutely incredibly and my favorite by far. He worked in a lot of humor into the role with certain vocal turns and body language; I'd love to know how that contrasted with Odom's performance, which always seemed very "straight man" to a mercurial Ham on the recording. It also made his bromance with Hamilton more interesting to me--like, it seemed like if Ham's rage was all externalized, Burr's was internalized, and that's a good deal of why he explodes into violence at the end. Somehow that interpretation had never occurred to me, but having read it that way I can't unsee it. Also, his "Sweet. Jesus." to Ham's "itemized list of thirty years of disagreements" was so frustrated and exasperated in a way that I felt absolutely encapsulated their love/hate relationship.

Finally, because I'm so shallow at the end of the day: We were second row center which meant we were RIGHT THERE when characters came to the edge of the stage--like they were four feet away and a few inches higher than us. Which also meant that like when Burr came up for the end of "Wait for It" I was kind of close to his junk. I mean, I could have looked up his nose I guess, but it was RIGHT THERE. *covers face in awkward embarrassment* "Aaron Burr, sir!!" (Sideways--where DO you look when that happens????)


Anyways. Feels. They were had. I'm trying to post helpful/thoughtful things on FB, and this has become at least two people calling me "Pollyanna" which irks me, though I don't deign to respond. Like, I feel like I can either boost the signal or collapse in despair, and I choose the signalboosting. So, that's me, I guess. I was rereading some of my old journals recently, and I had forgotten how scared I was when Bush was re-elected, and how I promised myself I would always stay and fight, no matter what, and I have recommitted myself to that promise. And I guess if my biggest sin is hope, well, there's worse, isn't there?


( 1 comment — Add your .02 )
Feb. 2nd, 2017 07:34 am (UTC)
This is actually a placeholder comment because I want to print this out and read it on the train and savor it.
( 1 comment — Add your .02 )

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