Give yourself the hypothetical indulgence of time travel, for a moment. Send yourself back roughly eight years, and imagine that you have an idea to develop a musical, with a hip-hop score, cast with a predominantly non-Caucasian company, that centers around a pivotal point in American history during the post-Revolutionary War. Your main character? Not a president, nor a decorated war hero...not even a romanticized spymaster or infamous traitor. Your titular hero is the first Secretary of the Treasury. Sounds thrilling, right? Well, actually...
Back in 2008, librettist, lyricist, and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda was riding high in the theatrical scope on the successes of 'In the Heights', when he started reading a Hamilton biography while vacationing. The life, energy and passions of the American forefather spoke so clearly to him that he immediately set to work on the libretto and lyrics for what we now know as 'Hamilton', the Broadway musical that is seeing such an immense success that the run is effectively sold out for the foreseeable future.
The show has passionate fans who immerse themselves in the music, the history, the accuracies and inaccuracies of the text, and the characters; the vast majority of whom have never seen the production. Schools have developed entire curricula around the show. Devoted followers put on tribute performances in public parks. People just wanting to be on the lottery for held tickets grew in such massive crowds that the "Ham4Ham" process had to relocated online for public safety.
Where does this massive fanaticism develop from, and what 'perfect storm' of successful craft, timely message, and breadth of audience came together to make Hamilton such an unstoppable force?
With thanks to our guests Joy Piedmont (of Inquiring Joy), Deb Stanish (of Verity! and Uncanny Magazine), and Alyssa Franke (of Whovian Feminism), we discuss the musical itself, and its devoutly committed fan base...whom we're now dubbing HAMSTERS. (Sorry we're not sorry. We're included in it, anyway.)
It's simply not fair to anyone involved that, to this day, if you mention the reading of graphic novels to a random cross-section of people, a large number of them (if not a majority) will simply assume that you've said that you read oversized comic books. End of statement; move on. The discouraging result of this assumption is that, in many cases, the idea of "comic entertainment" couldn't be farther from the intent, and in addition to the story material, to generalize the artwork into something of cartoonish categorization does a huge disservice to some of the incredible artistry, and literary merit, demonstrated in some of these publications.
So how do we dispel these preconceptions? As we always do here on IDO -- by breaking down prejudice by educating the common opinion.