Our theme for the month of July is “stunt journalism.” Writers were asked to try something new, take on a challenge, or perform some other interesting feat strictly for the purpose of writing about it.
I went to Hamilton and tried not to cry.
I did well, initially. There were no tears on the car ride from Holland to Michigan City, not even as we listened to the first act, belting out lyrics in fits and starts as we caught up on life and what’s good. The train from Michigan City to Chicago went well, too. We acknowledged our excitement for the show a few times, but we mentioned it in short blasts, not willing to admit that it might be a reality, that we might actually be seeing this show we’d been listening to for at least a year. We laughed, we talked about church work. We did not cry. I did not cry.
Our arrival in Chicago was similarly tear-less. La La Land played for free in Millennium Park; we tried to watch, but thousands packed the park to the point that security closed off the amphitheater space. We found some friends and said hello, and marveled for a few minutes at the collaborative power of humanity. Not many were actually watching the film. Instead they sat on blankets and in circles, drinking one refreshing drink or another, eating food, smiling, laughing. Not normally one for crowds, I expected to feel quiet and closed-in at the park. But with our faith in humanity restored, we moved on to Wicker Park, to a bar called Mahalo, to a wistful and humid night. I almost cried, but held it together.
The next morning we woke rather early, eager to see the show later in the day. I was restless from the start, so I bought too many donuts and too much coffee to mitigate the nerves. The donuts were incredible, but they didn’t bring me or anyone else to tears. We Ubered into the Loop for brunch and all secretly agreed not to mention what came next. Our breakfast finished, and still there were more than two hours until the show so we wandered aimlessly in the cook-an-egg sun. I perspired, but did not cry.
An hour before Hamilton, we marched circles around the theater, trying to hold off seeing the Hamilton marquee (not Lafayette) till the exact right moment (“Should we walk one more block or go to the theater now?” “One more block!”). When we couldn’t stand it any longer, we turned the corner onto Monroe, and there it was, bright and shining, inviting us in, inviting me to weep. I held it together because I’m an adult man.
We took pictures in front of the theater, making sure to snap selfies with the best of them. We touristed and waited for the doors to open. And when they did, we entered in a weird silence, all of us probably holding Hamilton up on a too-reverent pedestal. Sill, here we were, our ears popping with the pressure change. I was stoic, unemotive, keeping my excitement in my body, and preparing myself not to cry. I won’t cry. This is a musical about a founding father. I won’t cry.
An announcement: please turn off your cell phones. The lights dim. The first notes fill the auditorium.
How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot
In the Caribbean by providence, impoverished in squalor,
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?
I cried. I cried through the whole show.