Riverbank High School students were recently treated to a field trip, attending a production of Hamilton at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. The 100th anniversary of the showing of Hamilton was celebrated at the theater. Through the Gilda Lehrman Institute and their Hamilton Education Program, students attending a Title I high school were invited to see the musical. The Institute’s mission is to stimulate the knowledge of American history.
AP US History Teacher Davina Cipriano applied for the grant and her students had to complete a performance piece and other course work to be eligible for the opportunity to see the play. There were 22 students that attended the Hamilton performance and over 2000 students from schools throughout California.
Three RHS students, Yara Choeb, Yasmeen Alsamiri and Marissa Cabrera were chosen to present a historical event to a live audience on stage at the Orpheum. After the performance Jazmine Pantoja had the unique opportunity to ask the Hamilton cast “How their understanding of history and the founding fathers has changed since participating in Hamilton.” The questions had to be submitted in advance and only certain questions were selected.
“Only 14 schools were chosen to perform,” said Cipriano. “Riverbank High School was one of those schools. I had to submit information online and then we got entered into a lottery basically to see if we would get chosen to go see the performance.”
RHS Teacher Mary Lopez said that “there were thousands of students in attendance from throughout the Bay area, Sacramento and Stanislaus County. Some students even drove from Fresno. RHS students were the only students from Stanislaus County who were asked to perform or question the cast.”
According to Davina the students created a performance that was no longer than two minutes that reflected the time period during which Alexander Hamilton lived in the 1700s.
“My class voted on their favorite performance from the class and that is how we chose the group from our class to send in as a submission,” she added.
The students raved about the experience and Cipriano shared some of their comments, “I enjoyed attending Hamilton because it was a different way of learning about a historical figure and their journey. I think it’s amazing how they were able to interpret hip hop and rap into a history lesson. The actors had good voices and I found it impressing how they were able to sing and dance at the same time without heavy breathing. I loved watching Hamilton, it was truly a once in a lifetime experience. The cast was very fun and they were all such great actors and singers. They had the whole crowd entertained the entire show, definitely the best play I have ever seen. I learned that watching the performance allowed me to have a better understanding of what happened during this time in history.”
Cipriano was very thankful to Lopez and Mark Hernandez for their assistance in the process and being chaperones. She was also appreciative of RHS Principal Greg Diaz’s support in making the experience possible for the students.
“I thought it was an amazing experience and grateful that I was able to attend,” expressed Cipriano. “I learned even more about history and it was so interesting. I am so grateful for Gilder Lehrman to give students this experience. The whole production was outstanding. And I really appreciated how well they treated all of my students but especially the student performers. They practiced and worked hard so it was nice to see them get a little extra special treatment.”