Things to Do

Colonial Williamsburg May Hire Actors to Play Hamilton

Photograph by Joan Marcus via Atlantic Records.

Just how far-reaching is the influence of Hamilton, the phenomenally popular Broadway musical about the life of the first US treasury secretary? The show, which grabbed 11 Tony Awards on Sunday night, including Best Musical, is so popular, even Colonial Williamsburg—that bane of high-school field trips—is not throwing away its shot at capitalizing on Hamilton.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, Colonial Williamsburg is considering hiring actors to play Alexander Hamilton. “We hear about people who are interested in Hamilton and our connection to Hamilton all the time,” Stephen Seals, the manager of Colonial Williamsburg’s interpretive program, told the paper.

Seals also pointed to a rising number of teens visiting the park while wearing Hamilton T-shirts.

Southeastern Virginia figures largely in Hamilton’s first act, of which the decisive Battle of Yorktown—in which Hamilton led several hundred troops—is a major set piece. Other major figures in the battle, which brought about the end of ground hostilities in the Revolutionary War, are regular characters at Colonial Williamsburg, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette.

But cashing in on Hamilton wouldn’t be Colonial Williamsburg’s first attempt to stay hip. Tourism in Williamsburg has been leveling off for years. The historic site collected $181 million in revenues in 2014, but spent $223 million, while hotel-occupancy rates and restaurant sales in the surrounding town dropped off.

In recent months, Colonial Williamsburg has rebranded itself to attract millennial crowds. Chowning’s Tavern, an 18th-century tavern, has been rebranded as a brewpub, while the site has started a marketing partnership with nearby Busch Gardens, pairing musty history lessons with roller coasters and waterslides. It has also purchased sponsored content on BuzzFeed, a website staffed largely by people who won’t stop tweeting Hamilton lyrics.

Of course, one does not need to drive hours to see a tourism-dependent city flail about in hopes of latching onto the prowess of Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s show. There are at least ten things one can do in Washington to take the legacy of Hamilton, the economist, that have almost nothing to do with Hamilton, the musical, while waiting until 2018, when the national touring production of the show comes to the Kennedy Center.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.