After eagerly waiting for more than two years, I finally got to see Hamilton on Broadway in Chicago. I’m not going to tell you how good it was (because it was amazing), my political criticisms (because the musical does have its flaws), or even how revolutionary I thought it was (because I do love puns). Instead, the lasting impression I was left with was how it managed to make history interesting, entertaining and relevant in the 21st century.
Why is Hamilton still so hot? Why did Lin-Manuel Miranda feel compelled to adapt an 832-page biography of a Founding Father into a hip-hop musical? I think his answer would be similar to why we at ThoughtMatter decided to give the U.S. Constitution a redesign: We both wanted to utilize the power of art to increase awareness and understanding about a significant piece of history that might otherwise be ignored or overlooked because of its inaccessibility and misconstrued irrelevance.
Whether you like it or not, we live in a world where news is delivered in 140 characters, groups communicate with 10-second videos that immediately disappear, and pretty much every picture you see has been Photoshopped or Instagrammed. The world is fast, flashy and filtered – but that doesn’t mean it has to be fake or foolish.
The true brilliance behind Hamilton, and selfishly, our Constitution project, is that taking history and making it more accessible and digestible for the 21st century does not mean dumbing it down. Rather, it means going beyond what we know to be true, deciphering it from a different lens, and expressing it in a way that’s never been done before. The thing that seems so obvious when it’s in front of you and makes everyone else go, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Right now that means demonstrating a cabinet meeting as a rap battle between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, and redesigning the Constitution with modernized typography and beautiful millennial pink pages. But that’s just what fits for right now, in this moment. I wonder how we’ll talk about these points – and other overlooked points – in history years down the road. What will be the interesting and relevant way to express it then?
I don’t know the answer now, but if we stay, in Hamilton’s words, “Young, scrappy and hungry,” we’ll create it.