Studies in Drama

Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as eleven Tony Awards, Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical (2015) is a critical and commercial smash hit. Justly praised for its innovative rap battles and nontraditional casting, this musical also builds in brilliant ways on the work of past creators of musical theater whose work has too often been undervalued and overlooked. To enrich our understanding of Hamilton, we will begin by studying forms of drama that routinely go untaught, including burlesque, minstrelsy, all-black revues, and the classic American book musical. In the process, we will celebrate the groundbreaking yet often forgotten (or appropriated) achievements of artists of color, including Master Juba, the Black Swan, Buck and Bubbles, Gladys Bentley, and many others. By the time we get to Hamilton, our deep understanding of how popular songs and musicals are structured will enable us to tackle critical questions about how artistically innovative and politically progressive Hamilton is or isn’t from a new perspective.