On Sunday, July 10th, the lights on Broadway won't shine quite as brightly. Not because someone's died -- but because someone by the name of Lin-Manuel Miranda will have moved on from his title role in Hamilton. Saturday marks Lin's final performance as Alexander Hamilton, the American forefather whose name we're now destined to forever remember.
Miranda's impending departure gives me pause -- not only as a lover of theater, but also as a parent.
None of my four kids have had the good fortune to see Hamilton. My oldest is only 9 and the youngest is just 4. They're too young, my husband and I have decided, to shell out the money we've paid to see the show (twice). But that's not stopping me from expressing my gratitude to Lin-Manuel Miranda for what he's done for my kids and their entire generation. What he's done -- what he's created -- will extend way beyond his final curtain.
So as a parent, I say to Mr. Miranda, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. In no particular order, here's what I'm grateful for:
Thank You for Thinking (Way) Outside of the Box: In a day and age in which it seems everyone wants to play it safe and, instead of going in a new direction, chooses to rehash old material (um, did we really need a revival of Les Miserables just a few years after it exited Broadway? Do we really need another middling Hollywood film turned into a middling Broadway musical?), Hamilton stands out for being so absurdly, brilliantly original. Miranda showed kids of all ages that it's ok to have an idea that no one's thought of -- to combine a couple of themes that no one has put together before (like founding fathers and hip hop) and to make it into something that everyone can get behind. The idea that this crazy concept of taking our forefathers and having them rap their way into theatregoers' hearts was way, way outside of any box. And the result was beautiful and magical. Miranda's daring leap gives hope to so many young people who have been taught (ordered!) to color (very carefully) inside the lines that yes, there is room for new ideas and new visions and big risks on the Great White Way and beyond. What's more, his creativity sends a powerful message that nothing is too crazy or "out there", provided it is backed up by passion and heart and, yes, copious amounts of hard work and talent. And that mention of hard work brings me to my next point of gratitude:
Thank You for Demonstrating the Importance of Persistence: Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was Hamilton produced overnight. Like any great work of art, it had a journey. And it was a journey Miranda never gave up on. There was a book to write, lyrics to construct. There was a team to assemble. And above all, there were people in the producing community to convince of the merits of providing the financial backing to bring history to the stage in a decidedly unconventional way. Thank you for putting yourself out there, Mr. Miranda, for taking the time to convince the naysayers you were on to something. Like Hamilton, you weren't going to miss your shot. What a powerful message that sends to young people to press on, even when others are invariably going to tell them at various turns, 'It can't be done.'
Thank You for Making History Come Alive: How great is it that the coolest show on Broadway succeeded in not only generating some great music -- but also in teaching Americans more about the rich history of our nation? How great is it that Revolutionary America has become an exciting new chapter to discover young people everywhere? Thanks to Miranda's creation, the renewed interest in Alexander Hamilton resulted in keeping our first Secretary of the Treasury on the $10 bill. It also sparked renewed enthusiasm for the Declaration of Independence, for the Constitution and for thinking long and hard about what it means to be an American. Hamilton has additionally made Thomas Jefferson and the Federalist Papers household names and terms and popular Google search terms. Kids in my 9-year-old's school performed Hamilton songs for their young peers at the school's recent talent show. And -- get this! -- little ones in my 4-year-old's preschool class regularly request the Hamilton soundtrack at snack time (and these tiny kids actually know the words to the songs). I'm so grateful that my kids are going to gain from this kick-in-the-pants of a history lesson Hamilton provided -- to be reminded of the importance of paying attention to our nation's rich history and learning its considerable lessons.
Thank You for Making Broadway (Really) Cool Again: Finally, Mr. Miranda, thank you for making the Great White Way cool again. Not only for kids, but also for people of all ages that needed to be reminded of the magic of live theatre. There is an electricity that's palpable in the dark of a Broadway theatre that exists no where else. There are issues that can be explored -- probed deeply -- that never feel quite as intense or real or life-altering when viewed on a television or movie screen. There are human connections that take place in the theatre. Lin-Manuel Miranda has made finding and doing something about those connections incredibly cool and relevant again. He's reminded folks of the literal power of theatre when done right. And that cool factor he's reignited is not going to go away any time soon. Just as Miranda wrote about the room where it happens, he reminded the public of the place where the magic happens: the stage.
So thank you, Lin-Manuel Miranda. For everything. Your legacy will go far beyond Tony and Grammy Awards. It will be found in my kids and their entire generation's enthusiasm for history and for big ideas. It will be found in the considerable number of young people you have inspired, both directly and indirectly, to pursue careers in the arts, in law, perhaps even in politics.
Thanks to you, Lin Manuel-Miranda. I am confident that the future generation is not only not going to miss their shot. Thanks to you, this up-and-coming generation has more shots than ever before.
Mary Pflum Peterson is a multi-award-winning television journalist. Her recently-published memoir White Dresses -- which chronicles three generations of women in a decidedly complicated Midwestern family -- talks in part about her family's lifelong love of Broadway.