The day is Dec. 13, and a month dedicated to learning all about the Broadway musical, Hamilton, has brought Madison Christenson here: the real Hamilton stage. Backstage, she is handed the mic, her whole body shaking with nerves. In the week leading up to her performance, Christenson had practiced finding a focal point, so as to not focus on the 2,000 people staring at her. She walks on stage and into the spotlight, opens her mouth and begins reading her poem.
According to Christenson, a graduate of the class of 2018 from Glenbrook Evening High school, the class she took was specifically about Alexander Hamilton, one of our nation’s founding fathers, and the era in which he lived in. According to Christenson, students learned all about the Constitution and revolutionary ways of the time period throughout the course.
According to Melissa Defrenza-Israel, guidance counselor at Glenbrook Evening High school, the school applied to be recognized as a “Gilder Lehrman, Institute of American History, affiliate school.” The school was then accepted and taught approximately five hours of curriculum about Hamilton, according to Defrenza. Each student had to complete a project, incorporating what they had learned in the form of a rap, poem, or monologue, according to Christenson.
Defrenza said, “The teachers chose Madison’s to be performed on stage as the best reflection of our school.”
According to Christenson, for her project, she constructed a poem from the perspective of Hamilton’s son, Philip. Throughout the process, there was a lot of re-writing, rough drafts, going back and fact checking, Christenson says. According to Christenson, looking through a lot of primary sources such as letters also played a large role in producing the final product.
“It was a long process,” Christenson said. “It was taking everything that you learned from everything, like this big chunk of history and all the emotion that goes into it and then trying to condense it.”
Christenson says she was shocked when she found out her poem had been selected. According to Chistenson, It took the school a month from when they sent in the video performances until they finally got back to her saying she had won.
“It was really shocking, especially because they gave me like a week and a half to prepare to go on this stage in front of 2,000 people,” Christenson said.
According to Christenson, the performance was a surreal, out-of-body experience. Defrenza-Israel says how proud she was of the hard work and determination Christenson had put into her poem and the courage she had to get up onstage in front of such an audience and perform. According to Defrenza, Christenson was unbelievable, and she has accomplished something she never knew she could.
Defrenza said, “The whole audience was captivated. [Christenson] used a tremendous amount of emotion when she spoke on stage, and I felt like, through this experience, she’s learned what her gifts and talents are.”
According to Defrenza, there are only 25 students in the school and 18 of them attended the show. For a lot of the students, it was their first time attending a play, and they left that experience with a newfound appreciation for the arts, according to Defrenza.
“I’m really happy to know that the institute provides these experiences for high school students,” Defrenza said. “I think it was a very special performance for the students to attend.”