Hamilton: A Library Event About an American Musical

Today we have a guest post from Cate Weber from the Vienna Public Library talking about her Hamilton Throwdown Party


Hamilton is engaging people across the country, especially teens. The teens at my library are no exception and they looooove Hamilton. I wanted to throw them a Hamilton party because

  1. They’re great and should be able to do cool things
  2. I’m the only person I know who loves Hamilton as much as I do – except the Teens in my library and I needed someone to nerd out with.

Basic Premise:

Hamilton Throwdown – Do not throw away your shot to prove who is top Hamiltonian. Answer trivia questions and play games to win points. Top three win prizes!

Prep (How does a…)

Knowledge: Learn/know about Hamilton. Have a favorite song, a favorite character, a favorite moment – something that you can celebrate and love about the story because it will be so much more fun for you to lead a Hamilton event if you can have an emphatic exchange of “OHMIGOD I love that tooooo!” with someone who attends.

Advertising: I sent posters to the high school and middle school teachers of English, Drama, Music, and History. I posted flyers in the Teen room and by the Circulation desk and made a facebook event.

Prizes: Prizes are 100% optional for this event. Bragging rights would have been more than enough. I purchased prizes from the Hamilton shop on Broadway. I got a t-shirt and a pack of buttons. The shirt was expensive and accounted for the majority of my budget. The buttons were inexpensive, and they have other small items available that would make awesome prizes. Order at least two weeks early – fast shipping is pricey.

Questions: I broke the questions down into two categories, trivia and lyrics. I made a list of trivia questions that covers the musical, US history, and Broadway trivia about the cast and production process. I created a list of lyric excerpts from songs in Hamilton.

Games:  It took a lot more time to get through the one game we played than I anticipated so I opted to play just one, but I had another prepped. The game we played was a variation on the card game Mafia/Werewolf, but instead of Mafia or Werewolves being the bad guys, I made them Loyalists. If you are familiar with the game, this makes sense to you. If you are not, check out the Wikipedia summary of this game (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mafia_(party_game)). The basic idea is you have a minority of people (Loyalists) who are trying to eliminate the majority (Rebels) and you have a couple of people who are spies who have the ability to find out who’s who, and try to convince the group to throw people out based on this knowledge. It was fun, but honestly the trivia and lyrics were so fun, the game was unnecessary.

A couple of other suggestions for games include a ‘Powdered Hair, Don’t Care” challenge, in which teams race to see who can completely powder someone on their teams’ hair a la 18th century wig fashion and ‘A Winters’ Ball’, which is glorified musical chairs to the Hamilton songs “A Winter’s Ball” and “Satisfied”.

Supplies: I bought 2 yards of muslin fabric, tea, and different breads (I raided the “we baked too much/this expires soon” rack at our wal-mart) and cookies to have a tea party. I debated doing themed snacks for this, but decided it would be too expensive. Food was there in case anyone was hungry, and they liked it that I served tea. I also had legal pads, pens, and Sharpies that I took from the general library supply closet

Set-Up: I cut the muslin into ~18 inch strips. I had chairs out and a table to the side for food. Other than that, the room was empty. The set of Hamilton is very sparse and adaptable, andI wanted the room to reflect that.

The Event: (Wait for It)

6:00 pm – Arrive, make nametags. Every participant received a muslin strip that they wrote their Hamilton name on. They could wear it as a bandana, bracelet, or whatever else they wanted. I had a bunch of Sharpies available to write and decorate, and this gave those who arrived early/on time something to do while people showed up. Some used their real names and others made Hamilton-esque names. We sat in a circle and made introductions (I was MC Library).

hamilton

6:20 – Trivia! I broke the group (26 teens!) into 3 teams, let them pick a team name, and gave them each a legal pad. I read the question and each group had time to choose an answer and write it down. They then held up their responses and received a point for a correct answer.

6:50 – Rebels Vs. Loyalists: A card game in which the Loyalists try to get rid of all of the rebels before being found out by the spies. The Loyalists won our game! Each player that was a Loyalist received 5 points.

7:10 – Lyric Throwdown: I read a portion of a lyric and they had to finish it the end of the rhyme. This was seriously the most fun part of the entire evening. There was So. Much. Singing! It was amazing. I broke them into three (different) teams. I went in the order of the show to help with any confusion about which version of the song I was quoting (there are several repetitions of theme/lyric in the score).

After each contest was over, they wrote their scores on their headbands. At the end of the evening, they added the 3 scores together. I had a 3-way tie for first place, so we went into the tie-breaker round.

Tie-Breaker: There is a song in Hamilton called “Guns & Ships” with a notoriously difficult set of verses. For the tie-breaker, I recited the beginning of the song and then had the 3 winners fill in as much of the song as they could remember from the point where I stopped. As I started to do the intro, all of the other kids started singing/rapping it with me and I had a moment of awesome disbelief as I stood in the meeting room in my small library in Vienna, West Virginia and performed a rap about the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War with 23 teenagers. AH-MA-ZING! The winners got their prizes, everyone talked a bunch, and went home. Fun was had by all!

If I did it again… (Look around, look around, at how lucky we are…)

I would…plan more sing-along opportunities. I was afraid to make it performative because I didn’t know if that would isolate more shy attendees, but there were enough kids there who wanted to shout lyrics at the top of their lungs that it wouldn’t have mattered.

I would…take pictures! I was so busy hosting, I have no pictures. I still wouldn’t have been able to share them here, because I didn’t do a photo waiver before the event, but it would have been nice to have a visual record of that many teens at an event at one time, just to bolster my self-esteem the next time I do a program and 0 people show up.

I would…not play the game. It took too long and interrupted the more Hamilton focused energy.

I would…definitely do this or something like it again! People thanked me for having an event and commented throughout the evening that they were so happy/glad/surprised that something like it existed in our town. It was fun, easy, and affordable.

Here is a PDF of the timeline, questions, and lyrics used: Hamilton-throwdown.pdf

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