“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” Reinventing a National Narrative and Its Political Meaning in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’

Stéphanie Verbrugghe
Het musicalfenomeen van 2016, 'Hamilton' biedt niet alleen geschiedkundig entertainment aan de vele bezoekers (waaronder president Obama), maar ook een verdoken politiek commentaar op de toekomst van Amerika.

Musicalfenomeen mengt Amerikaanse geschiedenis, rassenrellen en de presidentsverkiezingen

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Let our legacy be about ‘planting seeds in a garden we never get to see.’” (Laat ons nalatenschap als zaden zijn, geplant in een tuin die we nooit te zien zullen krijgen). Hillary Clinton leek een politiek gemeengoed uit te spreken op de Democratische Conventie in Philadelphia, waar zij als eerste vrouwelijke presidentskandidate voor de VS werd verkozen, ware het niet dat ze een zin uit het nieuwe musicalfenomeen ‘Hamilton’ citeerde. Dit werd onmiddellijk opgemerkt door de bedenker en acteur van de musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda. “Ik sta achter haar. #AndShesBeenListeningtoDiscTwo!” twitterde hij. (#EnZeHeeftGeluisterdNaarCD2) Het is overigens niet de eerste keer dat Clinton naar de musical verwees. Eerder al reageerde ze met een zinsnede uit de musical op een Republikeins debat: “And if anything's clear from last night's #GOPdebate: "They don't have a plan—they just hate mine.”” (En als er iets duidelijk werd gemaakt in het GOP-debat gisteren: “Ze hebben geen plan – ze haten gewoon het mijne.”)

De inhoud van de musical lijkt echter op het eerste zicht weinig tot de verbeelding te spreken. Het verhaal volgt het leven van de omstreden Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, die zich vanuit een armoedig bestaan op een Caraïbisch eiland opwerkte tot rechterhand van generaal George Washington tijdens de Amerikaanse Revolutie en tot eerste secretaris van de schatkist van de jonge VS, maar die zijn politieke carrière vergooide door het eerste seksschandaal en in 1804 stierf in een duel met zijn rivaal Aaron Burr. Een bewogen leven, maar het bleef voor vele studenten een droge brok geschiedenis, tot Hamiltons levensverhaal door Lin-Manuel Miranda in een schitterend nieuw jasje van rap en hip-hop werd gestoken. De musical groeide razendsnel uit tot een fenomeen, vooral toen bleek dat ook de Obama’s fan waren. In maart van dit jaar nodigde hij de cast nog uit op het Witte Huis en sinds 2015 bezocht hij de musical tweemaal, net zoals Bernie Sanders en, ja, Hillary Clinton. Wat maakt deze musical zo opmerkelijk dat politieke zwaargewichten (en andere sterren) staan te drummen voor een ‘acte de présence’?

Kort gezegd, ‘Hamilton’ is geen doorsnee musical. Niet alleen het muziekgenre is opmerkelijk, ook de casting trok heel wat aandacht. Alle acteurs, met uitzondering van de Engelse koning George III, zijn zwart of latino – een weloverwogen keuze, en één die de musical ook een berisping voor discriminatie jegens blanken opleverde. Hoewel het verhaal zich tijdens en na de achttiende-eeuwse Revolutie afspeelt, wil bedenker Miranda vooral een nieuwe Revolutie uitbeelden, een Revolutie die zich in deze eeuw zal voltrekken en die een nieuwe, multiculturele Amerikaanse maatschappij zal inluiden, met gekleurde Founding Fathers (en Mothers), niet de blanke, dode mannen die we zo goed kennen. Miranda wordt in zijn visie gesteund door schattingen die stellen dat uiterlijk tegen 2044, blanken niet langer de absolute meerderheid in de VS zullen vormen.

Om deze boodschap te onderschrijven, strooit Miranda in zijn musical kwistig met politieke commentaren. Heden en verleden worden voortdurend door elkaar gegooid. In de (bi-raciale) George Washington kan men (de eveneens bi-raciale) Barack Obama herkennen, de Democratische Republikeinen van Thomas Jefferson dragen grote gelijkenissen met de hedendaagse Republikeinen, en het thema van immigratie is nadrukkelijk aanwezig – of wat dacht u van de uitspraak “Immigrants – we get the job done!”, (Immigranten – we krijgen de klus geklaard!) die in het theater steevast op luid applaus wordt onthaald? Ook verwijzingen naar pijnlijker kwesties worden niet geschuwd. Miranda herinnert zich dat, toen Hamilton vroeg ‘if we try to fight in every revolution in the world, we never stop – where do we draw the line?’, (als we proberen in elke revolutie in de wereld in te grijpen, houdt het nooit op – waar trekken we de grens?) één man een hartgrondig “Oh, shit,” uitstootte.

Het moge duidelijk zijn, de musical neemt een duidelijk politiek (Democratisch) standpunt in, al doet ze dit op een omfloerste manier. Het publiek wordt niet gedwongen om parallellen met de hedendaagse situatie te leggen, maar wordt er wel toe uitgenodigd. Deze aanpak wordt gesmaakt. De vele reviews zijn bijna unaniem jubelend en betitelen het nieuwe stuk als ‘revolutionair’, en de tickets vliegen de deur uit. Binnenkort wordt reeds een nieuwe productie in Chicago opgezet, en in 2017 zou de musical ook in Londen te bekijken moeten zijn. Het is niet verrassend dat ook Clinton, in een poging haar populariteit op te vijzelen, openlijk naar de show verwijst.

Dat, om dit effect te bereiken, de historiciteit van Hamilton geweld moet worden aangedaan, wordt door velen nauwelijks opgemerkt. Genoeg details (tot straatnamen toe) kloppen om het geheel een schijnbaar historische authenticiteit te geven. Slechts weinigen wijzen erop dat de historische Hamilton, voor zover wij die kennen, vandaag veeleer een Republikein zou geweest zijn, die economische ongelijkheid met zijn financiële systeem in de hand werkte en helemaal niet zo’n fervent abolitionist was als de musical wil doen uitschijnen. Meer reviews bemerkten wel terecht dat de musical zelf, ondanks de casting, nog steeds een blank discours onderschrijft. De acteurs mogen dan wel kleurlingen zijn, hun personages zijn nog steeds de blanke Founding Fathers. Slavernij wordt als een af te schaffen kwaad voorgesteld, maar de slaven zelf, of andere opmerkelijke niet-blanken, worden niet aan het woord gelaten. En klinkt het niet een beetje cynisch als de aristocratische zusjes Schuyler opgetogen zingen hoe gelukkig ze wel niet zijn tijdens de Revolutie te mogen leven, terwijl hun voorouders vermoedelijk slaven waren in de stad die ze zo bejubelen?

In de herfst van dit jaar zal PBS een documentaire over de musical uitzenden als deel van de reeks ‘Great Performances’. Of ze erin zal slagen nog enkele kiezers over te halen naar het Democratische kamp voor de presidentsverkiezingen, valt af te wachten. Zeker is dat de musical nog even zal nazinderen in het politieke veld, vooral als Hillary Clinton verkozen wordt. Tot nog toe heeft Donald Trump nog niet gereageerd op de musical.

 

 

Bibliografie

1. Consulted Songs
 

Act 1.
 

‘Alexander Hamilton’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 03:57.
‘Aaron Burr, Sir’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 02:37.

‘My Shot’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 05:33.

‘The Story of Tonight’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 01:32.
‘The Schuyler Sisters’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 03:07.
‘Farmer Refuted’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 01:53.
‘Right Hand Man’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 05:22.
‘A Winter’s Ball’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 01:10.

‘Helpless’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 04:10.

‘Satisfied’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 05:29.

‘The Story of Tonight (Reprise)’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 01:56.
‘Wait for It’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 03:14.
‘Stay Alive’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 02:39.
‘Meet Me Inside’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 01:24.
‘That Would Be Enough’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 02:58.
‘Guns and Ships’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 02:08.
‘History Has Its Eyes on You’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 01:37.
‘Yorktown (the World Turned Upside Down)’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 04:03.
‘Non-Stop’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 06:25.

 

Act 2.

‘What’d I Miss?’, ‘in Hamilton: an American Musical’, 03:57.

‘Cabinet Battle #1’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 03:35.

‘Take a Break’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 04:46.

‘Say No To This’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 04:02.

‘The Room Where It Happens’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 05:18.
‘Cabinet Battle #2’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 02:23.
‘Washington On Your Side’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 03:01.
‘We Know’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 02:22.
‘Hurricane’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 02:24.
‘The Reynolds Pamphlet’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 02:08.
‘Burn’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 03:45.
‘Stay Alive (Reprise)’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 01:52.
‘It’s Quiet Uptown’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 04:30.
‘Your Obedient Servant’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 02:30.
‘The World Was Wide Enough’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 05:02.
‘Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story’, in ‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 03:37.

 

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http://www .nytimes.com/2015/11/11/us/politics/supreme-court-immigration- obama.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0 (consulted May 15th, 2016)

SIEDE (C.). ‘George Takei and Lin-Manuel Miranda Shift the Historical Lens on Broadway’, in A.V.Club, May 11th, 2015, sf http://www.avclub.com/article/george-takei-and-lin-manuel-miranda-shift…- 227516 (consulted May 15th, 2016)

S.N. ‘HAMILTON to Hold Broadway Auditions This Month; Read Lin-Manuel Miranda's Character Descriptions!’, in Broadway World, March 12th, 2016, sf. http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/HAMILTON-to-Hold-Broadway-Auditions- This-Month-Read-Lin-Manuel-Mirandas-Character-Descriptions-20150312# (consulted May 9th, 2016)

S.N. ‘Hillary Clinton Drops in at Inner Circle Show, Needles Mayor’, in Newsday, April 10th, 2016, sf. http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/hillary-clinton-drops-in-at-inner-…- show-needles-mayor-1.11673400 (consulted May 14th, 2016)

S.N. ‘Oscar nominees discuss diversity in Hollywood amid the #OscarsSoWhite Backlash’, in Los Angeles Times, February 25th, 2016, sf. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-oscars-so-white-reaction-htm… (consulted May 9th, 2016)

SMITH (J. F.). ‘’Hamilton’ Takes a Road Trip to the White House’, in New York Times, March 14th, 2016, sf.
http://www .nytimes.com/2016/03/15/theater/hamilton-takes-a-road-trip-to-the-white- house.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0 (consulted May 15th, 2016)

SOKOLOVE (M.). ‘The C.E.O. of ‘Hamilton’ Inc.’, in New York Times, April 5th, 2016, sf.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/10/magazine/the-ceo-of-hamilton- inc.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimesarts&smtyp=cur&_r=2 (consulted May 7th, 2016)

SULLIVAN (L.). ‘#Bam4Ham: Check Out Lin-Manuel Miranda & the Hamilton Cast's White House Visit’, in Broadway, March 14th, 2016, sf. http://www.broadway.com/buzz/184135/bam4ham-check-out-lin-manuel-miranda- the-hamilton-casts-white-house-visit/ (consulted May 15th, 2016)

SULLIVAN (T.J.). Redrawing Party Lines: New York State and the Rise of Modern Conservatism, State University of New York Press (2009), 247 pp.

TEASLEY (M) and IKARD (D.). ‘Barack Obama and the Politics of Race: the Myth of Postracism in America’, in Journal of Black Studies, vol 40, n° 3 (2010), pp 411-425

TEPPER (J.A.). ‘Rapper Daveed Diggs Gets Real About Getting His Shot in Broadway’s Hamilton’, in Playbill, January 4th, 2016, sf. http://www.playbill.com/news/article/rapper-daveed-diggs-gets-real-abou…- shot-in-broadways-hamilton-377247 (consulted May 15th, 2016)

THOMAS (E.). ‘Founders Chic: Live From Philadelphia’, in Newsweek, July 9th, 2001, sf.
http://europe.newsweek.com/founders-chic-live-philadelphia-154791?rm=eu (consulted May 7th, 2016)

VIAGAS (R.). ‘Chicago Will Get Its Own Hamilton Production in Fall 2016’, in Playbill, December 8th, 2015, sf.
http://www .playbill.com/article/chicago-will-get-its-own-hamilton-production-in-fall- 2016-com-374631 (consulted May 7th, 2016)

WAXMAN (O.B.). ‘Watch Emma Watson Beatbox While Lin-Manuel Miranda Freestyles About Equal Pay’, in Time, March 17th, 2016, sf. http://time.com/4263187/emma-watson-lin-manuel-miranda-hamilton-musical/ (consulted May 9th, 2016)

ZOONEN, VAN (L.). Entertaining the Citizen: When Politics and Popular Culture Converge, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc (2005), 181 pp.

3. Movies

‘Found in Translation by Lin-Manuel Miranda for MovimientoHispano.org’, 00.53. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WujDcO1OQu0 (consulted May 7th, 2016)

‘Hamilton: an American Musical’, 04:34. https://www.facebook.com/HamiltonMusical/videos/1188852887808253/ (consulted May 10th, 2016)

‘Hamilton: Lin-Manuel Miranda On The Play's Historical Inaccuracies’, 1:57. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRJEOsyCfvQ&list=RDFHX- BYBnEc0&index=7 (consulted May 10th, 2016)

‘Hamilton Wins Best Musical Theater Album’, 01:16. http://www.grammy.com/videos/hamilton-wins-best-musical-theater-album (consulted May 7th, 2016)

’Hamilton'; Zalmay Khalilzad’, 53:58. https://charlierose.com/videos/26494 (consulted May 13th, 2016)

‘Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail on Hamilton and Burr (April 21th, 2015) | Charlies Rose’, 02:13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TarYyihspdc&list=RDFHX-BYBnEc0&index=12 (consulted May 13th, 2016)

‘Lin Manuel Miranda Hamilton In Conversation Part 1’, 07:57. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHX-BYBnEc0&list=RDFHX-BYBnEc0#t=12 (consulted May 8th, 2016)


‘Lin-Manuel Miranda Hamilton in Conversation Part 2’, 07:12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqpXRR9Qk2c (consulted May 8th, 2016).

‘Lin Manuel Miranda Hamilton In Conversation Part 4’, 08:11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59Y2DwS20_I&index=4&list=RDFHX-BYBnEc0 (consulted May 15th, 2016)

‘Lin-Manuel Miranda Performs at the White House Poetry Jam (8 of 8)’, 04:26.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNFf7nMIGnE (consulted May 7th, 2016).

‘Lin-Manuel Miranda Talks “Hamilton,” New York and His Influences’, 08:21. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7YTPuEMgaE (consulted May 15th, 2016)

‘Panel – Hollywood’s Diversity Problem’, 06:15.http://www .cc.com/video-clips/vd9ata/the-nightly-show-with-larry-wilmore-panel--- hollywood-s-diversity-problem (consulted May 15th, 2016)

‘Sixty Minutes: Hamilton’, 43:59.http://www .cbsnews.com/news/hamilton-broadway-musical-60-minutes-charlie-rose/ (consulted May 8th, 2016)

‘The making of the "Hamilton" cast album’, 12:34. http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/the-making-of-the-hamilton-cast-album-2/ (consulted May 8th, 2016)

‘Why History Has Its Eyes on Hamilton’s Diversity | TIME’, 01:55. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWrRP6vRGhQ (consulted May 14th, 2016)

4. Tweets

GLAMOUR (@Glamourmag): “Watch the women of @HamiltonMusical sing and rap feminist quotes for #WomensHistoryMonth.” March 3th, 2016 – 14:13. Tweet. https://twitter.com/glamourmag/status/705516503295066112 (consulted May 9th, 2016)

MIRANDA , Lin-Manuel (@Lin_Manuel): “Dije Spanglish. Lo estoy inventando aqui on the spot contigo.” February 24th, 2016 – 09:22. Tweet. https://twitter.com/Lin_Manuel/status/702544137669754880 (consulted May 7th, 2016)

MIRANDA, Lin-Manuel (@Lin_Manuel): “Grateful these Justices are in the room where it happens.” March 4th, 2016 – 07:32. Tweet. https://twitter.com/Lin_Manuel/status/705777830919974913 (consulted May 9th, 2016)

MUSICALS, French (@FrMusicals): “New Musical Alert ! NDP is back on stage in Paris !” February 18th, 2016 – 03:52. Tweet. https://twitter.com/FrMusicals/status/700286826330763265 (consulted May 7th, 2016)

5. Online Sources

‘Sit Down, John!’ Lyrics. http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/1776originalcastrecording/sitdownjohn.htm (consulted May 8th, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘This is not a moment, it’s the movement (...) I’ve been readin’ and writing’’, in ‘My Shot’.

http://genius.com/7872985 (consulted May 09, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘So listen to my declaration (...) Work!’, in ‘The Schuyler Sisters’. http://genius.com/7857740  (consulted May 10th, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘Where’s your fam’ly from? Unimportant’, in ‘Satisfied’. http://genius.com/7910122 (consulted May 10th, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘I’m erasing myself from the narrative (...) ‘They don’t get to know what I said’, in ‘Burn’.

http://genius.com/7863117 (consulted May 10th, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘Time’, in ‘Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?’ http://genius.com/7905813 (consulted May 10th, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me’, in ‘The World Was Wide Enough’. http://genius.com/7932237 (consulted May 12th, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘There would have been nothin’ left to do (...) started workin’, clerkin’ for’, in ‘Alexander Hamilton’.

http://genius.com/7888910 (consulted May 12th, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘But someone’s gotta keep the American promise’, in ‘What’d I Miss?’. http://genius.com/7958946 (consulted May 13th, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘And it’s too many damn pages for any man to understand’, in ‘Cabinet Battle #1’.

http://genius.com/7929836  (consulted May 13th, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘But they don’t have a plan, they just hate mine!’ in ‘Cabinet Battle #1’. http://genius.com/7932423 (consulted May 13th, 2016)

Annotation to: ‘Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am (...) Of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers’, in ‘One Last Time’.

http://genius.com/7855800 (consulted May 14th, 2016)

Blog post, February 19th, 2016. http://littleredloki.tumblr.com/post/139640579555/the- story-of-tonight-schuyler-sisters-rewrite (consulted May 10th, 2016)

Blog post, February 20th, 2016.
http://ghzerny.tumblr.com/post/138577420402/what- they-say-im-fine-what-they-mean-lin-manuel (consulted May 10th, 2016)

Blog post, January 9th, 2016. http://allexanderhamilton.tumblr.com/post/136959249825/alexander-hamilt…- have-torn-donald-trump-to (consulted May 13th, 2016)

Blog post, January 31th, 2016.http://alexandrhamilton.tumblr.com/post/138418153880/i-had-this-dream-l…- where-donald-trump (consulted May 13th, 2016)

Blog post, April 7th, 2016. http://evil-bones-mccoy.tumblr.com/post/142433638467/me-in-high-school-…- jefferson-was-the (consulted May 13th, 2016)

Blog post, December 20th, 2015. http://ciphereye.tumblr.com/post/134497084816/good-things-thomas-jeffer… (consulted May 13th, 2016)

Blog post, October 25th, 2016. http://dolohkov.tumblr.com/post/131879408060/i-think-its-great-that-now…- of-young (consulted May 15th, 2016)

CHROME, ‘I’ll Make the World (Safe and Sound for You)’, in: Archive of Our Own, March 8th, 2016. Fanfiction. http/::archiveofourown.org:works:5380469:chapters:12427175 (consulted May 13th, 2016)

Universiteit of Hogeschool
American Studies
Publicatiejaar
2016
Promotor(en)
Ken Kennard
Kernwoorden
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