Hamilton as your American history, theater or American theater history research topic

On July 9, several of the Hamilton cast members made their final bow—but two weeks prior, two performances were filmed. What’s happening to that footage? That’s still uncertain, though a PBS Hamilton documentary, Hamilton’s America, is set to broadcast October 21.

Learn more about Hamilton for your research paper. (Credit: TwoCentsTV)

Learn more about Hamilton for your research paper. (Credit: TwoCentsTV)

Consider delving into any of the number of research paper topics presented by Hamilton, including: issues of representation on Broadway (or in American history); how the American founding fathers have loomed large as legends and how pop culture representation affects the audience’s ideas about those figures; or even the idea of an original Broadway cast receiving profit-sharing on a show’s success.

How Hamilton came to be

Lin-Manuel Miranda got the idea for Hamilton when he read Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton, which digs into the life of the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton was born in the Caribbean before coming to the mainland and ending up in New York, where he fought in the Revolutionary War and became aide-de-camp to then General George Washington. “I fell in love with Chernow’s version of Hamilton,” Miranda told Suzy Evans in “The Room Where It Happens: Hamilton Is Retelling American History and Remaking the Broadway Musical” for American Theater, September 2015. “I recognized the relentlessness. I recognized the self-destructiveness. I recognize the ‘no one in the room’s realized it yet but I’m the smartest guy in here’ of Hamilton, that energy.”

While many colonists of the day were not born in the United States, the musical focuses on Hamilton’s identity as an immigrant, latching onto that in a way that appeals to a multi-cultural multi-ethnic audience. The musical also features a multi-ethnic, multi-racial cast representing the predominantly white founding fathers, which creates political commentary within the musical that is beyond the script. The music also borrows the language and feel of hip hop, packing the lyrics so densely that there is always more to hear the more times you listen.

The parallels drawn between the young revolutionaries and modern neighborhood rappers give revolutionary America a very modern, accessible feel. For your research paper topic, consider looking at how a style of music can create a bridge between history and a modern audience—or set modern events against a more historical atmosphere.

What will be featured in Hamilton documentary

Before Hamilton became a sensation on the stage, it was a musical being developed, and the team developing it had no idea just how big it would become. Recording part of that journey since 2013 was director Alex Horowitz, who is behind the PBS Hamilton documentary, Hamilton’s America. But rather than just cataloguing the journey of the musical, “This is sort of where Hamilton intersects with history,” Lin-Manuel Miranda explained on Vulture in the June 16, 2016, post, “The Hamilton PBS Documentary Has a Name and an October Release Date, Just Like the Founders Intended” by Nate Jones and Karen Brill. The documentary will feature not only behind the scenes footage, but also interviews with politicians and celebrities, including the Obamas, George W. Bush, and Jimmy Fallon.

While this won’t be the same as watching the musical, showing those intersections between history and pop culture can help you explore some interesting research paper topic ideas. The documentary will be part of PBS’s “Great Performances” series.

See Hamilton live or watch on PBS

But what about that footage of the live performances? It isn’t the same as being in the room where it happens, but watching the filmed version of the stage show might be the next best thing. “There is some irony in the fact that this cultural juggernaut about a ‘young, scrappy, and hungry’ hero is off-limits to most young, scrappy, and hungry types,” wrote Angie Han in “Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’ Getting Filmed With Original Cast” June 16, 2016, for Slash Film. Han expressed hopes that the filmed performance might make the musical accessible to a wider, less well-off audience.

While there’s no news about what will happen with the live footage, it could be possible it will be used for a Fathom Events screening or, eventually, a run on American Playhouse on PBS. In the meantime, the show is touring nationally and internationally and is still running on Broadway, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you haven’t thrown away your shot.

For more on American history, Broadway or American theater history, visit Questia.

What do you think about Hamilton being created into a documentary? Tell us in the comments.

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