With midterms and exams coming to a close, the last few weeks have been a little more relaxed for me, which, after a very stressful semester, has been a relief. I’ve been doing more fun LA things with my free time, mostly because I missed photography and needed some space from campus. Last Friday, a friend and I drove out to Venice at 5am for sunrise, and watched the sun rays fill the sky over the beach as surfers cruised the waves. Sunrise was at 6:15am, and around 7am we headed over to Abbot Kinney, a really cool road in Venice with great coffeeshops and random boutique stores. We got some aMAZING coffee and donuts, and wandered for a bit, taking photos and hanging out. Reasons to live in LA– cool spots to explore and making friends with cars to get you there.
ANYWAY, the main purpose of this post, as you can probably tell by the title, is that this past Tuesday, I got the chance to see Hamilton, the musical that’s taking the world by storm, live at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. FOR FREE, thanks to USC. How exactly did that happen you ask? Well, let me fill you in on one of my favorite “perks” of being a USC student: Visions and Voices!
For the last 10 years, Visions and Voices has been USC’s “arts initiative” for students. Basically, there’s a whole office of people that find shows, artists, speakers, musicians and performers that are willing to come to campus and show off their craft. While Visions and Voices obviously pays the performers, USC students get to see all of these shows and performances for FREE. How crazy is that?!?! There’s often smaller performances where you can meet with the actors/actresses/artists as well; there’s at least one or two events going on every single week spanning every possible genre you could imagine. Freshman year I actually volunteered with this initiative, helping out with ticketing, managing programs and backstage at a few events. It was a ton of fun, and I got to see firsthand how much work gets put into these programs (let me tell you, it’s a LOT).
As part of this iniative, Visions and Voices takes students off campus once in a while when there are big shows or symphonies that happen to be in town. This semester, Hamilton was playing at the Pantages as part of the 2017 traveling tour, and USC bought up blocks of tickets for two shows. Naturally, with these tickets being worth a TON of money (hamilton tickets are usually at LEAST $200 for the nosebleeds), Visions and Voices incorporated a lottery system to allow all interested students a chance to get tickets. I signed up for the lottery for the first show and didn’t get it, but somehow, I managed to grab a spot for the second show. I remember when I found out I won a ticket– I was studying in the library and almost screamed out loud. Almost.
This happened about two weeks ago, and the show itself was this past Tuesday. Hamilton, to give context, is a musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of America. It’s been all over the media for the last year and a half or so, because of the modern style of the music– composer/writer/director Lin-Manuel Miranda wanted to “tell the story of America then through America now.” To accomplish this, he created songs with hip-hop, jazz and R&B influences to appeal to the modern audience while essentially re-enacting a historical biography. If you haven’t listened to the entire soundtrack yet, please go do that literally right now, it is absolute genius. The Hamilton Mixtape, a version of the soundtrack performed by top 40 artists, is also absolute fire. While watching the show, I was 100% engaged the entire time, and laughed, cried and got shivers pretty much the entire time. I was never a superfan before, not really having enough context about the show to enjoy the songs, but while watching it live, I felt myself becoming emotionally invested and soo inspired by the characters’ stories. I’ve always loved art and musicals and theater, and this show really reminded me of how much I missed seeing performances like that.
While the musical itself was life-changing, the best part of the night was actually the end– after a standing ovation and several casting calls, the actor for Aaron Burr grabbed the mic and said “Los Angeles, you picked a great night to come out to see Hamilton– we have a special guest here today” and out walked, LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA. I REPEAT, THE GENIUS HIMSELF, LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA. This time, I definitely screamed out loud. It was truly an unreal night, and one I will never forget (I also have been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for the last 3 days, no shame).
I know this blog got a little bit longer than I wanted, but hopefully I was able to shed some light on how hard USC tries to get students engaged in the arts. Sometimes that means free slam poetry shows on campus, jazz performances in Bovard or stand-up comedy around Thornton, and sometimes, that means a free trip to the most incredible musical where the literal creator walks onto stage.
Final words, this past weekend was Viterbi EXPO!! If any of the brilliant high schoolers I got to meet last Saturday are reading this, it was so so much fun getting a chance to talk to you all about why USC rocks!! Hope to see you all on campus again in spring 🙂