Not Throwing Away Our Shot: A Dialogue on Hamilton

In preparation for first-year and transfer students’ upcoming trips to see Broadway in Chicago’s production of Hamilton, Residential Services and One Book One Northwestern presented an hour-long discussion of the show on Monday featuring Assistant Professor of History Caitlin Fitz and Lecturer in Theatre John Haas.

Students who attended this open event at the new 560 Lincoln Street Residence Hall weren’t just provided with free food and a chance to see excerpts from the show’s acclaimed Broadway run-- they were treated to an engaging, far-reaching conversation on the show’s role in the American musical theatre canon, as well as its take on the early chapters of American history.

“The opening number, when you think about it, is really a twist on the convention of an overture,” said Haas, while Fitz focused in on the show’s individualist portrait of an America where “you rise because of your own choices, your own talent, and your own hard work.”

Caitlin Fitz (l) and John haas (r) answer questions from students

Caitlin Fitz (l) and John haas (r) answer questions from students

After an in-depth discussion of four of the show’s most famous songs, attending students were able to pick the brains of Fitz and Haas on a variety of topics relating to the show. One student questioned the accuracy of the show’s villainous portrayal of Aaron Burr, while another probed Haas on the implications of King George’s similarities to effeminate theatrical stock characters.

As students filtered out of the event, the professors lingered for a few extra minutes, answering even more questions. Thanks to Residential Services’ collaboration with One Book One Northwestern, these students will walk into the CIBC Theatre with a broader perspective on a cultural phenomenon that only a place like Northwestern can give.

As the university’s housing master plan proceeds, more university-wide programs are being integrated into the undergraduate residential experience. Among other features, 560 Lincoln, which recently had a ribbon-cutting celebration, boasts a state-of- the-art multi-purpose room that can host events like this one, receptions, advising fairs, classes, and more.