Education

This Coast high school took a shot with hit song from Hamilton. The payoff was $10,000.

Students in Amber West’s theater class in Gautier found inspiration from the musical “Hamilton” for a video submission that won the school $10,000.
Students in Amber West’s theater class in Gautier found inspiration from the musical “Hamilton” for a video submission that won the school $10,000. Courtesy Hamilton: An American Musical

At first it seems like an unlikely pairing — one of the most critically acclaimed Broadway productions of the last decade and the drama department at a small high school in South Mississippi.

But Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s musical “Hamilton” is bold, with its revisionist telling of the story of the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, complete with a multi-ethnic cast and a hip-hop soundtrack. And Gautier High School theater teacher Amber West knew her class would have to be bold to stand out — and win a grant of $10,000 for the theater department from NBC.

So she had her class submit a video of them doing their own version of Miranda’s “My Shot.”

“We chose that song because it talks about ‘not throwing away my shot,’ and the kids can really relate to that,” West said. “They see this grant as a shot because you never know what may become of it, so we had Michael Rauch, or teacher of the year, rewrite the lyrics and we made a video of our students performing it.”

West’s gamble paid off as the performance was selected as one of NBC’s R.I.S.E. America grants. Gautier High’s theater department was the only grant winner in Mississippi. Alfred Bonnabel Magnet Academy High School in Kenner won the award for Louisiana.

Jennifer Scrimpshire prepares show choir for competition.

The grant program coincides with the debut of NBC’s “Rise,” which premieres Tuesday. “Rise” is a drama about a teacher who takes over a fledgling high school drama program. It is produced by Jason Katims, executive producer and showrunner of “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood,” and “Hamilton” producer Jeffrey Seller.

West said the grant money will allow the school to stop storing costumes in her office.

“Right now, we are storing our costumes in my office because it is climate-controlled,” she said, “and this will allow us to get some storage as well as make some repairs to our theater, which is the Singing River Academy Auditorium.”

Fans of both the theater department and “Hamilton” are in luck.

The Gautier High School Theater Department will present “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” on April 20-22 and “Hamilton” opens at the Saenger Theater in New Orleans on March 12, 2019.

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