By Darya Worsell
“And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, Imma compel him to include women in the sequel!” Thomas Jefferson has come back to life in the form of a jazzy, crazy man on Broadway, singing and dancing his way through 18th century America.
The musical Hamilton, which features Angelica Schuyler directing that line at Jefferson while talking about her ideas, is an example of art directing the political conversation.
When referring to the arts, I mean music, dance, theater, spoken word, poetry and many more forms of expression. Theater, in particular, has emerged out of the darkness of obscurity into the light of popularity – and a heavy influence on politics. On Nov. 18, 2016, actors in Hamilton spoke to Mike Pence, our new Vice President. It blew up all over social media. You can find the video here.
Now, more than ever, people have gained a strong interest in going to the theater just because they wish to see what the hubbub is about. Because theater is such a revered ancient art, it is a great outlet for artists who wish to pursue another career on stage when there are too many pop songs and not enough dance shows. Theater ties all art together.
Talking to Summit Prep Dean of Students Aukeem Ballard about theater and its influence on politics really opened my eyes. I should mention that I interviewed Mr. Ballard because he has had a career in spoken word, or slam poetry. You can find some of his videos at this link. I asked Mr. Ballard how the current political issues have affected him. “It’s affected my job. It’s helping students navigate personal problems, but it’s moved into helping them navigate the violent political climate,” he said. “It’s personally hard to see people getting angry to those they don’t know just because of that person’s beliefs.”
Mr Ballard said that social media plays a “huge role” in the arts. “One era wanted to see powerful art, and they had to go to a website or a museum. Now they can see the art everywhere with social media. It allows ideas to spread faster. You can post easier and people can see that automatically.”
When should the world become more involved in the issues described by arts like poetry and music? According to Mr. Ballard, the time is ripe. “Now. Yesterday. A hundred years ago! Our world is suffering from a plague of our own ignorance and people are dying because of it.”
We are dying from our own ignorance and selfishness because we aren’t caring about others anymore. We don’t want to lose anything, but we are losing so much because we are so self-absorbed.
The basis for writing this piece on the influence of politics on arts stems from an essay that I wrote recently to snag tickets to Broadway’s hottest show, Hamilton. I found a certain fascination with the subject, and thus I am writing more on it.
“People were stopped! From coming to a place that welcomes all with open arms! To quote the poet Emma Lazarus, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…’ If we still can’t say that with pride, then are we really upholding Lady Liberty’s cry? This country is founded by immigrants. If we take the immigrants out of America, is America still there? One of those who were stopped at our borders could be a relative, a mother, or a brother to maybe one of our upcoming presidents.”
The quote above, from my essay entitled “Past Patiently Waiting,” was the tree that grew from the seed. The little seed was the idea that immigrants founded our country, and everyone is somehow an immigrant. If we take the immigrants, all of them, out of our country, then who will be left?
“The arts — music, theater, dance, poetry and spoken word — have contributed to the ongoing national and international conversation by pulling people who would normally not be involved into the mix. For instance, because of Hamilton, the author has discovered a hidden passionate anger at all that has been going on in Washington, D.C. Because of that, the author went marching in the Women’s March, chanting along with all the passionate souls in the downpour in San Francisco. Because of that march, aclu.org has been followed on Instagram and Twitter, something the author wouldn’t have thought about before.”
The above information is true. This wasn’t just the conclusion of my essay, it was the idea that I wanted to carry forward. I am now making good on my progress. I discovered a passion to stand with my fellow women and march because I didn’t agree with the current political climate. On International Women’s Day, many of us wore red. Think about it. If Hamilton had not become as big as it is, where would the rest of the world be at this point?
I then watched Hamilton myself and was blown away. The dancing, acting and singing pulled you into the 18th century and the feeling of “you can do it” washes over. For a show currently performing in three places at the same time, still having a huge boom in ticket sales is impressive.
What’s even more impressive is that it is inspiring so many people to stand up and to “not throw away their shot.” I highly encourage you to go see Hamilton, not only because it it perfect for our times in politics, but because it is a quintessential musical about going for what you want and not giving in.