Juniors at Ceres High School will be receiving a rather unorthodox lesson in history later this month when they board two buses to go see the musical production of "Hamilton" in San Francisco. The experience is being entire underwritten through a grant snagged by CHS teacher Derrick Saenz-Payne.
The grant is being awarded by Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in partnership with the Hamilton Musical Foundation since Ceres High School is considered a Title 1 School.
"Hamilton" is a popular musical that tells the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, starting with him being orphaned in the Caribbean to his role in the American Revolution to his death by duel in 1804.
"They gave me access to 100 student tickets and 10 chaperone tickets," said Saenz-Payne.
"This is a big deal. As a history guy, I've been studying and following Hamilton myself since it was released on Broadway in New York. It's a revolutionary performance in the fact that it's a cross genre play where people who normally aren't necessarily into Broadway plays are now kind of turning into that. It's a combination of hip hop mixed with classical Broadway scores all based on historical context. It's a very popular and demanded play where it sold out all of its shows in a matter of nine minutes. So, that the fact that our school is going to be able to go with a hundred students is pretty phenomenal, actually."
The students will have an opportunity to meet and interact with the cast of the production.
The only stipulation, he said, is the students must be instructed in a two- to five-day mini-unit on the era of the American Revolution. Students will evaluate primary sources and use them for a one- to two performance consisting of solo to a trio. Hard copies of all performances will be submitted to the Institute with the best performance to be videoed and judged.
"There's a whole curriculum that's going to be incorporated where students are going to have to create a performance piece based on primary sources and do a question and answer with the cast and submit their best performances with the chance to possibly perform that piece in front of the other schools that are going to be there and the cast of Hamilton that day."
Saenz-Payne teaches history in Ceres High's Manufacturing and Green Technology Academy. Originally the idea was to send only academy students but has been expanded to include Advanced Placement History students and other history classes.
Considering that tickets have sold from $300 to $400 per seat, Saenz-Payne said "this is going to be a pretty expensive endeavor they're funding."
After the San Francisco run, Hamilton moves to Los Angeles.