Graduating Glenbrook Evening High School (GBE) student Madison Christenson was recently presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
She and 14 other Chicago-area students were selected to take the stage of the Tony Award-winning musical “Hamilton” on December 13, 2017. They all presented their own original works such as poems, raps and monologues.
“It was shocking [to be chosen],” Christenson said. “We are a smaller school.”
Last year, GBE applied to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to obtain discounted tickets for all GBE students to attend a performance. Qualifying schools were selected to attend a performance once all application guidelines and criteria were met.
GBE was recognized as a Gilder Lehrman Affiliate School in November 2016, and students began the process of completing the academic requirements in September 2017. All students were required to complete a five-hour classroom curriculum and submit questions for the “Hamilton” cast, in addition to submitting their own projects in the form of a poem, rap or monologue.
GBE teachers co-taught the “Hamilton” curriculum and assisted students with their projects prior to submitting them to the program. When asked to designate a top submission from the students, GBE teachers chose the one who they felt captured the best work of all students – which was Christenson’s. In total, 18 GBE students were able to attend the special show presented for high school students, as well as attend a private Q&A with cast members.
Capturing the audience
Christenson wrote a poem told from the perspective of Alexander Hamilton himself. In order to overcome her stage fright, she practiced both at home and at school with her English teacher, Lauren Berk, and GBE principal, Dr. Jim Shellard, in the weeks leading up to the show.
“My arms and legs were shaking… there was so much talent on that stage,” she said.
Christenson said she really became interested in poetry last spring and listened to the musical “like 40 times” to prepare her piece.
GBE guidance counselor Melissa DeFrenza-Israel describes Christenson as a “creative, talented and dedicated student.”
“During her performance on stage, Madison captivated the audience with her lyrics and emotion,” DeFrenza-Israel said. “I am very proud of her determination and courage to pursue her goals.”
Berk said that she thinks Alexander Hamilton and Christenson have a lot in common.
“They share a strong work ethic and a passion for the pen,” Berk said. “Both of them used words as a way to get what they were after. Madison wrote her way to where she wanted to be, and she came full circle up there on that stage with all eyes on her.”
Now that Christenson has captivated the student audience of a best-selling show, she says the experience has only grown her love of theatre. She enjoys reading and writing, and would like to get on stage more often.
“If I’m not able to be on stage, I think I would enjoy playwriting,” she said. “Writing seems like the perfect opportunity for me.”
Madison Christenson’s “Hamilton” performance