Quality Time With Pete and Deb — Going to See “Hamilton”
Peter Grosz and Debra Downing are alums of The Second City theater, writers, actors and also husband and wife. This piece was composed on their home computer exactly as you see it. One person would write and the other would respond. The content of this “conversation” was not preplanned. They just decided to talk about them going to see “Hamilton”. They wrote it on September 23rd 2016.
PETE: Well, we finally did it. After buying tickets 9 months ago we finally saw “Hamilton” last night. After waiting this long and listening to the soundtrack countless times and securing our babysitter 2 months in advance it actually feels like a major accomplishment. But don’t worry, we won’t spend the whole column bragging about having disposable income, we’re actually going to use the show as a springboard to bigger issues. You know, like Race and History and Singing about Race and History.
DEB: There was so much buildup and expectation I was nervous it wasn’t going to be as good as everyone said (like Avocado Toast or Bocce Ball). Well, it was even better than that. Now we need to book a sitter for the next time we go somewhere 9 months from now when we see Charlie Rose’s one man show, “Alone, Under My Big Table, With A Bottle Of You”.
OK, so now back to Race and History and Singing. When slaves were working in the field and they were quiet, many times the overseer would say, “Make some noise.” That meant he didn’t want them in their heads thinking. Thinking about escaping or talking to each other about the free states or anything else. He wanted to control their minds as well as their bodies. So people began to sing and that was where some of the old spiritual songs come from. But singing and music can be so inspirational, maybe the overseer couldn’t control the soul. The music, performances and writing in Hamilton are the best you’ll see on Broadway. The idea of casting it with people of color is meaningful and it does bring to light the issue of continued slavery after the war. And slavery is still an issue to be discussed today. Some people believe your DNA has memory, what happened to your ancestors is in your memory and is part of you. You can believe it or not, but if it’s true, the pain of that may never go away. I guess I should say something funny here… Oh yeah, there was a really long line for the ladies bathroom at intermission and everybody was freaking out. It was like a bread line during the depression, except everybody had $400 to buy a theater ticket. To be fair, there was no bread in the bathroom, which is probably a good thing.
PETE: All I can think about is Bathroom Bread, which sounds gross. Ooh, but it could be used to make amazing Avocado Toast. Great, now I’m hungry…
Anyway, wow. Lots to unpack there (Ha ha! I used your least favorite phrase again!) I think what’s amazing about the casting is that instead of telling the story of Crispus Attucks or someone else of color from that time, “Hamilton” asks us to look at the founders we know to be white as see them as black men or Latino men. And honestly, I’m shocked Americans are into it. Maybe not everyone is going to be. We’ll see if President Trump allows there to be touring productions.
DEB: What will he allow? I wonder what his favorite musical is? I think of Camelot and that song “What Do The Simple Folk Do?” I bet he likes that. I think he’d be more King Trump than President Trump. King Trump sounds like a Checkers move. And I’m not talking about Nixon’s dog. Which also sounds like a show on TV Land. I just want everyone to know that Peter and I have been watching The Golden Girls and it’s amazing. Sorry if I am damaging your macho TV watching persona.
PETE: “Coming up next on ‘Nixon’s Dog’, Checkers and his buddies break into Cat Party campaign headquarters but when they get caught by a security guard, their plan really goes to the dogs.”
And thanks for telling everyone I like musicals and the Golden Girls. On an unrelated note, would you like to go see Barbara Streisand in concert? But for real, what do you think is more likely, me going to see Babs or someone who thinks Obama was born in Kenya going to see “Hamilton”?
DEB: How about we see Babs in Kenya? See, I can compromise. Ooops, I’m trying to stop saying “See” at the beginning of a sentence. My son says it is mean and I think he’s right.
PETE: See? You did it again. Oops. Now I did it. See, me? Shit, now I did it to myself. This is hard.
I think it’s interesting that “Hamilton” has come into the national consciousness at the end of the Obama presidency and (dear God, please no) possibly the beginning of a Trump presidency. If Trump is elected it will be a backlash against the pendulum swinging left in our culture over the last 8 years with legal gay marriage and women and gays in the military and yes, a black Washington, Jefferson and Madison in “Hamilton”. Going to see “Hamilton” in Obama’s American is a celebration but in Trump’s America it would be an act of defiance.
DEB: You are really bumming me out right now. I’m going to have to sell a kidney to buy another Hamilton ticket to get inspired again. Do you have a song that personally inspires you? You know like, “I’m Every Woman” or anything from Yentl?
PETE: I like “The Promised Land” by Bruce Springsteen. It really gets me going. It’s all about being present and living with intent. I also like “Broken Down Old Hobo Gutter Trash Blues” by Tom Waits. Uplifting story about a drifter who drinks himself to death inside a boxcar full of poorly tuned pianos.
DEB: It’s got a catchy hook. I think “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel is beautiful.
Also the theme song from the Golden Girls is pretty darn good. Are you secretly preparing yourself in case King Trump takes the throne? I am in denial about it. I can’t even imagine it. Kind of like I can’t imagine Angelina and Brad breaking up.
PETE: Oh boy… I got bad news for you, honey… Yes, I am preparing myself for King Trump. Like Trump and the upcoming debate I’m trying to create low expectations. As low as possible. I expect Trump to win, the Republicans to get 100 Senate seats and 435 House Seats and Trump somehow fires all the Supreme Court Justices and replaces them with the last 9 winners of The Apprentice. I used to think “Hamilton” was an inspiring harbinger of a more diverse, tolerant future but with Trump’s success and, to be honest, all these police shootings of black men and women that are tearing America apart I’m lowering my expectations for America as a whole. But I think that could be good. If I expect America to descend into a Mad Max-esque hellscape on January 21st and it doesn’t happen until early February I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN ENTERS SINGING AND PLAYING GUITAR.
BRUCE: On a rattlesnake speedway, in the Utah desert,
I pick up my money and head back into town…
PETE: Holy Shit! Bruce Springsteen. This is awesome. And you just happen to be singing my favorite song that my wife knows the words to and didn’t look up on the internet when it was her turn to write. Well, whaddya know, Deb? My favorite singer has come in here and…
JUST THEN BARBARA STREISAND ENTERS HOLDING A MICROPHONE AND SINGING.
BARBARA: Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you see me?
Papa can you find me in the night?
DEB: What’s say we all get outta here and go do Karaoke!
BRUCE: I’m in but I have to go as my undercover persona, Buce.
DEB: Your undercover name is Buce?
BRUCE: What? You come up with something. PS — Thanks for not coming to my last concert by the way.
DEB: You don’t have to say “PS” and “by the way”, by the way.
BARBARA: What is it with you two? Are we gonna go to that Japanese place? I have a Giesha outfit in my purse just in case.
JUST THEN A BLACK BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND A LATINA BARABRA STREISAND ENTER.
BLACK BRUCE: On a rattlesnake speedway, in the Utah desert,
I pick up my money and head back into town…
PETE: Um… Hi. Yeah, we already have a Bruce Springsteen here. And a Barbara Streisand actually. Don’t need other ones, thanks.
BRUCE: Who’s Bruce Springsteen? I’m Buce… Buce Sprongstone.
BLACK BRUCE: Oh, I get it. You don’t want me here cause I’m black.
PETE: No, that’s not it at all.
LATINA BARBARA: Wow. Did you learn nothing from Hamilton?
PETE: Deb, help me out here…
LIN MANUEL MIRANDA ENTERS PUSHING A KARAOKE MACHINE.
LIN: Oh hey Buce.
BRUCE: Hey Lon.
LIN: I was just passing by with this Karaoke machine and I thought it’d be fun to have a little party here.
DEB: We need a good party. Everybody is a bit down.
LIN: The Doctor is in.
HE PLUGS IN THE MACHINE AND THE SONG “I WILL SURVIVE” STARTS TO PLAY. LIN SINGS ALONG INTO THE MIC.
LIN: At first I was afraid, I was petrified. Kept thinking I could never live with out you by my side…
BRUCE: But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong…
BARBARA: And I grew strong. And I learned how to get along…
LATINA BARBARA: And so you’re back, from outer space,
LIN: I just walked into find you here with that sad look upon your face.
PETE: I should’ve changed that stupid lock, I should have made you leave your key…
BLACK BRUCE: If I’d known for just one second you’d be back to bother me..
ALL SINGING TOGETHER: Go on now go, walk out the door, just turn around now, cause you’re not welcome anymore…
DEB TO PETER OVER THE JOYOUS SINGING: See? We will survive.
PETE: Well you really shouldn’t say, “See”, but I get your point.