Two Scott County students did not throw away their shot when performing on a Broadway stage in Chicago — the same stage used to perform the 11-time Tony Award-winning, popular musical, “Hamilton.”
Jordyn and Megan Johnson, sisters and students at Scottsburg High School, performed on the CIBC Theatre stage, home to “Hamilton” in Chicago through the Hamilton Education Program. SHS was selected to participate in the Hamilton Education Program, where students learn about the Founding Era through a hands-on curriculum, complete a performance project, and spend a day in Chicago watching student performances, eating lunch at the Palmer House Hilton, and seeing a matinee performance of “Hamilton.”
As part of the education program requirements, the Johnson sisters had to create an original performance piece using primary source documents on an event, person, or document from the Founding Era. Jordyn and Megan Johnson chose the Boston Tea Party as their project topic.
“I used to write songs all the time. It was pretty easy. I chose something I knew about,” said Jordyn Johnson, who is also a member of the SHS Drama Club. “It took me 25 minutes to write it. I wrote it first and made a tune to it.”
After writing the catchy, one-minute song on a key moment in American history, Jordyn and Megan Johnson worked together on harmonies and letting Megan take the lead. The students created a video, which was selected to send to the Gilder Lehrman Institute. The Gilder Lehrman Institute who oversees the educational program and partners with private donors and organizations to make the program possible. Scottsburg High School was one of 14 schools selected to perform, but 24 high schools from Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana were invited to attend the program on Dec. 13.
“When we made the video, we made jokes about performing at Hamilton,” said Megan Johnson, who is a SHS Drama Club member and works with her sister backstage in the makeup crew. “I had the biggest fear of singing in front of people. When I found out we were chosen to perform, I was freaking out. It really helped me get over my fears.”
“It was terrifying, and it was exciting because it was a unique experience,” Jordyn Johnson said.
In addition to performing their original song on the Broadway stage, the Johnson sisters were given backstage access to see how “Hamilton” operates behind the scenes. They were able to look at costumes and meet some crew members and actors. They also had an opportunity to meet the other students performing that morning before the seeing the matinee performance of “Hamilton.” The Johnson sisters met “Hamilton” actor Colby Lewis, who served as the emcee for the Hamilton Education Program.
“I thought I would be a lot more nervous than it was. People who worked backstage were super nice,” Megan Johnson said. “We got to meet the guy who played George Washington [Colby Lewis]. He got us in a huddle and pumped us up.”
When it came time take the stage in front of 1,800 people, including 98 other students from Scottsburg High School, the Johnson sisters felt a little more at ease. They performed in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I expected it to be. I was worried about tripping or forgetting the lyrics,” Jordyn Johnson said. “It was really cool seeing a part of a play no one sees.”
“When we were actually out there, it wasn’t that nerve wracking. It was cool for everyone to cheer for you. People stopped and said good job afterward. It helped boost my confidence,” Megan Johnson said. “It is an experience I will never forget. We are super thankful to part of this.”