Hamilton is the most exclusive show on Broadway, yet Cheshire English teacher Dawn DeMeo was able to join a couple hundred other teachers to not only see the show, but talk to its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, earlier this summer.
Both opportunities were thanks to the Broadway Teachers Workshop, which aims to inspire teachers and directors of school theater productions with “new teaching methods, enhanced production skills and an exchange of ideas with peers and professional Broadway artists.”
DeMeo took part in three days of workshops and master classes including vocal workshops with actors performing in The Color Purple and a dance workshop with ensemble members from On Your Feet! The teachers also got to watch On Your Feet!, Fun Home, and Shuffle Along, as well as Hamilton.
DeMeo attended the workshop with Cheshire High School theater teacher Taryn Chorney, who directs theater productions at the school. DeMeo, who directs the high schools’ musicals in addition to teaching 10th-12th grade English classes, said she learned a lot she’ll take back to her students.
“Being able to see all of the different shows, looking at the sets and the production quality, and having time to think about how we’ll prepare our shows this year—it’s not the type of experience teachers typically have the time for or the access to,” DeMeo said.
While she enjoyed all of the shows and workshops, the highlight for DeMeo was definitely the conversation the teachers had with Miranda.
“He had been a teacher and talked to us as teachers,” DeMeo said. “He talked to us for a good hour about the importance of theater for kids.”
Miranda perhaps identifies with his young fans so strongly because of his own deep involvement in school theater productions as a child and adolescent.
He told the teachers, “I think a part of me is always trying to write the ideal school show. So much of my life, from elementary school, was ‘What’s going to be the school play?’ So there’s a part of me that’s always trying to answer that calling in my work now. That’s my ideal for what a great show is.”
Many of DeMeo’s students are big fans of Hamilton and Miranda, and many follow Miranda on Twitter. “He’s an excellent role model for the appropriate use of social media,” DeMeo said.
Like many educators, DeMeo keeps busy sharing her gifts as a teacher over the summer. This summer she supervised college students teaching New Haven middle schoolers in an intensive five-week summer program, taught four weeks of a workshop on how to write college admissions essays, and also tutored privately.
She’s a prime example of the live life “like you’re running out of time” ethos embodied by Miranda and his show.
Talking about Hamilton, he told the teachers,
“We get 1,360 kids to see the show a few times a year. They’re not all going to become theater teachers, they’re not all going to write musicals or songs. But what they do have to reckon with when they see Hamilton is that Hamilton made the most of his time, he made the most of his less than 50 years on this earth.
“Charge your kids with that, the notion that life’s a gift, it’s not to be taken for granted, it’s not to be taken lightly. You’re born with gifts and you’re born with an honesty that can never really leave you. What are you going to do with your time? What are you going to do with your time on this earth?”