By: Rebecca McGregor
On April 3, Theatre Department Chair Bernadette VanPeters met with other theatre professors to discuss the possibility of putting on “Hamilton” next spring. The meeting occurred a day after Hope College President John C. Knapp announced that Hope plans to increase minority presence on campus by 100 percent.
“Nothing is set in stone,” Dr.VanPeters said. “But President Knapp wants to make diversity on campus much more prominent. We hope that this will provide the Theatre Department with even more talent and a broader range of ethnicities and races. Because of that, we could tackle a show like ‘Hamilton’.”
The smash hit musical “Hamilton” has entertainedBroadway audiences since opening in 2015. Now more than 10years later, it still remains a phenomenon, as it has found homes in Chicago, Los Angeles and London. It has also had seven touring companies perform it around the world.
Creator and original star Lin Manual Miranda also announced last January via Twitter that the show is in works to become a movie. However, no release date has been set, as Miranda’s schedule remains busy. Having recently won a “Best Song” Oscar for his original music in Disney’s “Maleen,” based on a the Grimms’ Brothers fairytale, Manuel is set to compose music for three more Disney movies. Also, Manuel has hinted on Twitter that he will soon announce a new musical he has written.
When it comes to students performing “Hamilton,” though, Miranda has been clear about its purpose. “I want the show to be accessible to young artists,” Miranda said. “However, I want it to be accessible to all young artists. This means that I strongly encourage directors to follow in the original production’s footsteps by casting diverse actors to portray characters.”
Hope’s Theatre Department heard Miranda’s request loud and clear. “Hope hasn’t necessarily been the most diverse school,” Dr. VanPeters said.“Therefore, we didn’t want togo against Miranda’s wishes and perform a mainly white production of ‘Hamilton.’ However, we’re hoping that President Knapp fulfills his vision and a larger range of students enrolls in our school.”
A performance of “Hamilton” on Hope’s campus would not only symbolize inclusiveness and celebrate diversity, but it would allow student actors to experience the process of putting on a difficult musical show.
“This musical is full of incredibly fast raps, tricky melodies and intricate choreography,”VanPeters said. Everyone–student actors, costume designers,light designers and assistant directors–would be tested. It would make for a great learning opportunity.”
Hope students expressed mixed emotions after the news of the Theatre Department meeting circulated.
“It’s not my favorite show,”theatre major Riley DeJazzSquare (’29) said. “I’d honestly rather do something a little bit more classic. I like old musicals better.”
Some students disagreed, however. “I really hope it gets the green light,” Philip Soo (’28),another Hope theatre major,said. “It’s always been one of my favorite shows, and the theatre department could use more diverse members. I hope President Knapp’s plan helps.”
However, VanPeters emphasizes that nothing is for sure yet.“We’ll still have to wait and see,”she said. “But for now, we’ll just plan for our upcoming Fall 2027performances.”
Hope’s Theatre Department is set to perform “Hamlet” sometime this Fall in hopes that Hope visiting writer the ghost of Shakespeare will be in attendance during his stay on campus. VanPeters also confirmed that a number of Hope seniors will write and direct their own pieces this upcoming academic year. Musical theatre lovers may check the Hope Theatre Department for more information on the upcoming season. News on a possible “Hamilton” production will be posted there as well.