So I finally followed all of the buzz and listened to Hamilton the musical.
Let’s just say it was like listening to Rent for the first time, and that defined part of my college years. It’s brilliant.
For those who’ve been living under a rock (or in Switzerland) like me, it’s the story of Alexander Hamilton told through hip hop. The writer did a brilliant job of telling this story in verse — the entire musical is like a villanelle with the repeated phrases and themes gaining new layers and resonance with every repetition. Parts of it is absolutely hilarious — like the cabinet meetings that are structured as rap battles (oh how I wish!) — and others are heartbreaking. Don’t listen to the last few songs in public.
There’s also so much about writing in the musical. Hamilton was a writer, of course, who wrote a majority of the Federalist Papers. There’s something about cross-pollination in the arts — actors and singers share the drive and need to create and interpret, and that passion comes through in this show. I think that’s part of why I also loved Rent so much when I was in college. It expressed the need to create and the fear of not getting there.
If you need any other motivation — the writer Lin-Manuel Miranda just got a MacArthur Genius Grant. Another recipient? Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’m so thrilled about that one. I’ve mentioned several of his essays here and believe he’s one of the best writers on race today.
Another one of my favorite contemporary writers, Teju Cole, spent 6 months in Switzerland and wrote about it for the Times. The landscape here seems to have affected him as it does me, and he touches on many of the ideas I’m currently exploring. It’s one of those pieces that simultaneously delighted and depressed me — yes! I’m onto something. And wow, imagine if he were to write what I’m attempting. How good would that be?
Only one thing to do about it: keep working. Get better.
And finally, switching over to pop culture, I watched the premier of Quantico, which is usually described as a cross between Homeland and Grey’s Anatomy. It’s entertaining and plotwise pretty similar to a lot of procedurals, but! The lead is a Bollywood star, and the cast is actually diverse. From the start, they confront and flip stereotypes about gender, race, and religion. I actually laughed aloud in delight at several of Priyanka Chopra’s moments because you don’t usually get to see women own their stories the way she does, let alone Indian women. I hope the rest of the series keeps this up because the premier was pretty fabulous.