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Grant helps students experience ‘Hamilton’
PHS Hamilton
Pitman High School seniors Emerson Smees, Sarah Bergman and Zoe Wichman perform their “Hamilton”-inspired piece on Wednesday (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

The musical theater production “Hamilton” is one of the hottest Broadway tickets right now, and next month a group of Pitman High School students will see the show in San Francisco for free — and do some learning along the way.

“Hamilton” shot to worldwide fame by telling the stories of America’s Founding Fathers in a hip-hop context, bringing infamous tales of the Revolutionary War era to life through beats and rhymes. When PHS history teacher Isaac Farhadian saw the chance to help his students experience the once-in-a-lifetime show, he jumped at the opportunity.

Farhadian applied for the competitive Hamilton Education Program grant about two months ago, which aims to bring the Founding Fathers and other historical American figures to life beyond textbooks and assignments. Through a partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the musical created an interactive educational experience that gives high schoolers access to a database filled with resources on historical figures.

Given that “Hamilton” fans have to win a special lottery just to get tickets to the show, Farhadian knew if PHS was accepted for the grant, it would be something his students would never forget.

“Obviously, if your school gets into this program it’s a big thing. It’s really competitive; countless schools apply and only a number get accepted,” he said. “This was something I was really pushing for.”

The three to five-day course also requires students to create and perform “Hamilton”-esque pieces of their own, like a skit, poem or rap. The 120 PHS students participating in the Hamilton Education Program performed their pieces in the school’s library on Wednesday, which ranged from a short play about King George III, a reenactment of George Washington’s Farewell Address and even a remake of the song “Old Town Road” that revolved around the Boston Tea Party.

Even though seniors Zoe Wichman and Sarah Bergman have seen “Hamilton” before, they’re still ecstatic to be seeing the show again on Jan. 29.

“It’s such a blessing to go for free and learn more in-depth about the topics,” Wichman said. “Hip-hop and history are two things that don’t necessarily go together, but they work so well in this piece of theater.”

“Original tickets can range from $350 to $1,000 which is so much money, and we get to go for free without the hassle of having to go on eBay or buy them through a secondhand seller. It’s a really great opportunity,” Bergman added. “This work really stands out because it’s so different than anything you see on Broadway. It’s not only good music-wise, but it teaches kids who are interested in musical theater about our history as well shows how much America has grown.”

Prior to watching the musical, the PHS students will partake in a special morning student matinee where they can ask the cast questions. The best student performance from Wednesday’s showcase will have go up against performances from other schools and have the opportunity to perform on the “Hamilton” stage if selected.

According to Farhadian, “Hamilton” ties into much of what he’s taught during his AP Government and U.S. Government courses this year.

“It’s essentially more or less a mirror of what I’m already doing in many respects. It’s super relevant,” he said.

Senior Ellie Carlson agreed.

“We have talked about Hamilton, his works and how he shaped the government into what it is today,” Carlson said. “It will be interesting to see what we’ve learned play out on stage.”

Along with Farhadian and the 120 students, a group of 12 chaperones from the history and drama departments will also attend the musical. Already, the experience has been one that both the teachers and students will never forget.

“This gives them the ability to express themselves artistically — it’s not one dimensional like sitting down and taking a test. Learning can take so many shapes and forms, and I feel like this is a good opportunity for kids to express themselves,” Farhadian said. “It gives them an opportunity to practice a skill they may not have practiced before and gets them out of their comfort zone. I hope this helps them appreciate the founding era and that they enjoy an awesome Broadway show.”