“Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton.”
When Hamilton writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda ‘02 sang his first line to an audience packed to the rafters with Wesleyan alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends, the crowd erupted in thunderous applause.
Even Miranda couldn’t stifle a smile.
More than 1,300 members of the Wesleyan community descended on the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City on October 2 as Wesleyan hosted a sold-out benefit performance of Hamilton, written by and starring Miranda (who just last week received a MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as a MacArthur “genius grant”), and directed by Thomas Kail ‘99. Miranda and Kail are giving back to the university that helped launch their theater careers. The two previously collaborated on the hit Tony-winning musical In the Heights. (View all photos of the event here.)
For this special Wesleyan evening, the house was bought out by Tony award–winning producer and mother of two Wesleyan alumni Carole Shorenstein Hays. Through additional sponsorships and ticket sales, Wesleyan raised more than $1.6 million for financial aid.
After the show, Miranda, Kail, and Wesleyan University President Michael Roth shared their feelings about the purpose and specialness of the night.
“We’ve raised $1.6 million dollars for financial aid tonight, because of you,” said Roth to an elated audience. “And because of the great things that Wesleyan grads do, bringing together creativity, inspiration, delight and joy for an exuberant, learned and incredibly powerful show.”
Most of the proceeds from the show will go toward establishing four Hamilton scholarships, and part will enlarge the existing Gilbert Parker Endowed Wesleyan Scholarship. Parker, class of 1948, Wesleyan’s first theater major and a fabled agent at William Morris who mentored Miranda, Kail, and many other aspiring theater professionals, was in attendance.
“The accomplishment of the show is nothing if we can’t share it,” said Kail, who sported the Hamilton/Wesleyan t-shirt given to attendees. “Look at you all. There is a hurricane outside and here are 1,300 of you—and you don’t know me and you don’t know Lin personally, but the connection that we have because of Wesleyan is powerful and it was palpable all the way through the show.”
Kail then introduced Miranda, who bounded onto the stage clad in a Wesleyan sweat jacket that he unzipped to reveal a purple Neon Deli t-shirt, much to the crowd’s delight.
“People ask how do you do this show every day and every night and keep it fresh,” said Miranda. “And the honest answer is that it’s the audience that keeps it fresh. If I have a friend in the crowd,” Miranda paused, scanning the audience. “So many friends in the crowd. Tonight was a sensory overload!”
After the show, Wesleyan alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends made their way to the 1831 Society’s after-show event at the Edison Ballroom, where a crowd of more than 800 celebrated with Miranda, Kail, and members of the cast while dancing to the rhythms of Kinky Spigot and the Welders, a Motown-funk-R&B band featuring Wes grads Yoni Rabino ’07, Marlon Bishop ’07, Lillian Ruiz ’08, Vlad Gutkovich ’07, and Jon Hutchinson ’07.
More photos of the event are below. The full Hamilton photo gallery is hosted in this Wesleyan Flickr set. (Photos by Robert Adam Mayer)