New Year’s resolutions are great, especially when you make them with a group of creative and talented friends.
As the last minutes of 2015 disappeared we talked about our hopes for the coming year, including a hope for inspiration. The result: Creative Collaboration.
Here’s how it works: At the start of every month one of us sends out a piece of inspiration including, but not limited to, a story, a quote, or a photograph. What comes next (after the inspiration) is up to the collaborators. Each of us brings to the table a variety of talents – from sketch comedy to music, dance to cooking and a vision for how we see the world around us.
For January we kicked things off with this photograph by Robert Cannon. A gorgeous vista of the National Mall on a snowy morning evokes all kinds of imagery. The result of the first collaboration had the added inspiration of an East Coast blizzard. The result are fun, soothing, witty, introspective, and comforting (and one makes you really, really hungry). So without further adieu here is the Creative Collaboration for January. Continue reading “Creative Collaboration: Snow “→
In every story that you read,
a heroine or hero fills a need
and the day is saved—not with luck,
but with courage, heart, and a bit of pluck.
The story of The Heart of the River begins with a family announcement. A little over three years ago I learned I was going to become an aunt for the first time. Excited by just the idea of her existence I put pen to paper and after a few months had a first draft of what would turn out to be a little girl’s journey of discovery.
A quick anecdote. While on a road trip last week to Charlottsville I helped introduce my high school history teacher to the magic that is Hamilton. A few days later I received a Facebook message where he asked me if this was in retaliation for the forced repeated listening of Gary Owen when I was in his class.
My response: I do what I can.
Seriously though, everyone has an opinion about this musical, and I thought it was high time I shared the feelings of others (you know how I feel – in both parody and essay form). I also promise this will be the last post about Hamilton until I see it in August, because I got tickets that didn’t break the bank – Huzzah!.
In November of last year I asked some co-workers, and friends (one of which is an eleven year old) for their thoughts on this theatrical masterpiece. The responses I received were nuanced and introspective. So, on this blizzardy day here in Washington, DC here are the collected thoughts of Iris, Alison, Sarah H., Sarah F., Rob, Monty, Megan, Mike, Alex, and Renee. [Then read this great interview on Vulture.]
As we closeout this second day of the new year I have to say that 2015 sped by. There were marriages and babies. Trips and a lot of theatre, and perhaps more importantly, I spent the year doing exactly what I had resolved: In 2015 I took control.
At the start I decided to let my choices and needs dictate how I spent my time-challenging myself to say yes (and at times no). We can say, for the most part, that I was successful.
But what about 2016? Well from a pop-culture standpoint I can’t wait to watch Downton Abbey’s last season (in the UK this is so 2015 already), the X-Files reboot, Hamilton the musical in August and yes, more Star Wars.
Beware! [Channeling Yoda] Beyond first paragraph, spoilers there be….
“The bee in his bonnet was that history and myth are two aspects of a kind of grand pattern in human destiny: history is the mass of observable or recorded fact, but myth is the abstract or essence of it.” From The Manticore, Book 2 in the Deptford Trilogy, by Robertson Davies (p326)
Overwhelmed. That was the prevailing emotion I felt when I walked out of a theatre in downtown D.C. on December 17th. I can’t say it was because I was immediately blown away or that I had just witnessed cinematic perfection, but rather that I left my first screening of The Force Awakens with a sense of immense satisfaction jumbled up with a continuous stream of questions and ideas.
In starting an essay on Hamilton it might be best to state my bias upfront. A work of genius, Hamilton soars for a variety of reasons including the hip hop allusions, the allegory to modern life, and the purposeful diverse casting, all of which have already been covered extensively elsewhere. But while I yet to have the privilege of seeing it in person there is one very large reason why I think the musical is fantastic:
Hamilton is an almost perfect example of public history.*
Public history is about meaning. It’s not always 100% accurate and is rooted in how various publics perceive their own past. Hamilton the musical plays with that idea while engaging with the very real themes of legacy and memory.
But it’s about more than that. A few weeks ago, at the PastForward conference Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative spoke eloquently about the need to open up the narrative of our history to achieve social justice, he states “I believe that the opposite of poverty is not wealth….I believe that the opposite of poverty is justice. And we do an injustice when we tell stories about our space, our history, our identity that are incomplete.” Continue reading “Hamilton & Public History: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”→
While in the process of trying to pull together a reflective piece on Hamilton as public history, my friend Sarah H. had a dream where she saw me rewriting the lyrics to “Ten Duel Commandments.”
What follows is the first of three completely different posts on the musical. You should be aware I wrote “Ten Ham Commandments” on a five-hour bus ride between DC and Newark, and in doing so I now have a reinforced appreciation for Lin Manuel Miranda’s skills. Seven was ridiculously hard to re-write (internal rhymes!), and refers to a response Miranda gave during his recent interview at the National Museum of American History about what he wanted his own legacy to be. You can listen and read the original lyrics here – with annotations. Thanks to Sarah H. for helping me edit. In the end this parody is really about how much Hamilton connects with a more inclusive view of the past. Continue reading “Ten Ham Commandments”→
It’s been over a week and I’m still thinking about the Slate Academy symposium “How Do We Get Americans to Talk Honestly about Slavery.” Why? It’s not just because the subject matter resonates with a lot of current events on race and class. It’s not just because the panel mimicked how I think about public history i.e. through a broader lens of objects, oral histories, literature, and popular culture. Rather, it is because the conversation presented to us represents a lesson on how to talk honestly about the entire past, period.
A culmination of a podcasting series for Slate Academy the live symposium brought together experiential historians, museum professionals, divers, authors, critics, and a pop culture icon to investigate the process of myth-making surrounding slavery. The strength of the symposium lay in participants ability to delve beneath the surface of history to identify ways to encourage a dialogue in the face of resistance. To investigate, as culinary historian Michael Twitty says, how “slavery is not a blip, but a chronic condition.” Continue reading “Talking Honestly About the Past”→