Conversations at the Washington Library
Conversations at the Washington Library is a weekly podcast about early American history and the people who teach it.
Admission is free on Feb. 22 for George Washington’s birthday. Admission tickets will be distributed on-site upon arrival.
Sabrina Sloan (Angelica Schuyler) and Nicholas Christopher (Aaron Burr), cast members of Hamilton musical U.S. tour, explore their roles in bringing history to life.
Below is a transcript of only part of their interview with Dr. Joe Stoltz. You can hear the full interview in an episode of Conversations at the Washington Library.
Christopher: It's huge. It's really beautiful and it's emotional because it grounds these mythical creatures in a certain way and really humanizes him. Going to see his tomb. Going to see where the slaves were working. Going to see his party room that he loved so much and the fact that he decorated so much of the house. You really get to know the inside of this man, his inner workings.
Sloan: Gorgeous! It was stunning. I really enjoyed hearing that he wanted it to be a symbol of America by bringing plants and trees from all over making his estate representative of the country that he loved so much. You can see his dedication to his countrymen, even in the landscape and the beauty of his home.
Sloan: I've been acting since I was young. I studied at Northwestern and moved to New York to pursue acting. I've been doing mostly Broadway shows. I probably didn't have the greatest interest in history in my early years. I certainly have an appreciation and a little bit more of an obsession with it now. I think as you grow up and you realize how much the past matters to the present and the future.
Lin (Manuel-Miranda) did a lot of research. Everybody did so much research going into this show that they give you so much just in your rehearsal process to really live and breath these people.
I actually live in New York right outside of the grave site for Hamilton. The Trinity Church is right outside my window. I've looked at it a million times. When I booked the show, I took my son and we walked around and there never was a grave marker for Angelica before. But now there is. There is a whole tour that goes through there. Now, there's a flux of people in there that wasn't there before going to see Hamilton's grave, going to see Eliza and Phillip. It's cool to be part of that movement.
Christopher: I became an actor because my dad's an actor in Bermuda, which is where I'm originally from. My brother's an opera singer. My sister was the head of her gospel choir at Boston College. So it's just kind of in our bones.
I went to the Boston Conservatory for one year then I transferred to Juilliard for one year and then I started working with Lin and Tommy on a show called “In the Heights.” A couple months later, as they were writing Hamilton, I'd get different calls: "Hey, we have another song. Would you mind coming in and working with us on this?" And then it went to the public. And then it went to Broadway. During that time, I had been doing other shows. When they were in Tony season I covered George Washington and later came back to play Aaron Burr here on the road.
Christopher: The good thing about these people is that there's so much written about them; whether it's their own writing or writings about them. So there are a lot of different tools you can use, but there are no voice recordings. There's no video footage of these people. So we're not tied down to anything, which is what the show is about. It is about the essence you bring to it rather than trying to look or sound or act in a certain way.
Sloan: What's really cool about the show, and what I think really draws people to it, is not only are we telling a story about historical figures but they are people. There is a humanity in the show that is very accessible and real. At the end of the day, I'm a sister, which I can relate to. I'm a wife and a mother. I am a daughter. I am a thinker. At the same time, the words we're saying are very contemporary and modern. We're rapping. We're telling the story in a different way than these people lived it. It's a very cool and unique combination of trying to emulate someone who really lived and bringing yourself into it and making it new.
Christopher: It gets me emotional. For me, being a person of color in this country often feels like you are borrowing and you feel like a guest in your own home. Being able to portray these people, allows us to take ownership of our history. To see little boys and girls of color coming to the show dressed as Alexander Hamilton is exciting. They're not thinking about him as a white man. They are thinking about the essence of the person, what they did for our history. So that's what's exciting.
Sloan: It's exciting to think that this is just the beginning. When I saw the show on Broadway, I told Lin I don't know how you top this. Whether it's Lin or it’s somebody else, this does set a precedent and make a demand for more of this. I'm so excited every time I see the girls and the boys. A lot of times it's girls in a Hamilton costume or a King George. I love seeing that. What is the next story that’s going to be told? What else could be learned this way? I'm excited to see what this does.