San Antonio got a double dose of Alexander Hamilton last night, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
While the smash hit musical was playing to sold out crowds at the Majestic Theater, 'historical impersonator' Dr. Hal Bidlack was performing his one man show, 'Hamilton Lives' before a similarly enthusiastic audience at Trinity University.
Bidlack has been portraying Hamilton on stage, complete with powdered wig, ruffs, and breeches, before groups for twenty years, well before the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical turned the founder into a 21st Century pop culture icon.
"Before the musical he was kind of the forgotten founder," Bidlack said. "He made the mistake of dying before his enemies, so they wrote his history instead of him writing his own history."
Bidlack says he isn't surprised that Hamilton's reputation has soared in the 21st Century, and continues to thrive at a time when statues of slave holding Founders like Thomas Jefferson are being taken down.
He says Hamilton speaks loudly to Americans today. As an immigrant, raised by a single mother, who came to what as then the British colony of New York and succeeded by virtue of his hard work and intelligence, he is largely a model for the new America.
And Bidlack says many of the issues that Hamilton wrestled with in the 1780s are now resonating louder than ever across our divided country.
"He points out that since the Constitutional Convention of 1787, we have really solved nothing," he said. "We still have issues of big states, small states, north south, gender issues, race issues, issues around economic welfare."
In the character of Hamilton, Bidlack answers questions from the audience. Apart from questions about Aaron Burr, who famously killed Hamilton in a duel in 1804, Bidlack says one thing that intrigues audiences is the fact that Hamilton was not a big supporter of the Bill of Rights. Not because he didn't believe in rights for the people, exactly the opposite. He was afraid that a future despot would use the fact that the Constitution includes Enumerated Rights, to claim that all rights which are not 'enumerated' don't exist.
"The Bill of Rights says you have the right to free speech," he said. "But it doesn't say you have the right to carry a protest sign. He was afraid that a future dictators would then say 'you don't have the right to carry that protest sign, I am going to throw you in jail.'
But at the end of the day, Bidlack says Hamilton, more than any other Founder, had a clear vision of the future United States as an industrial, vibrant, capitalist, and trend setting country, at a time when founders like Jefferson had very much an 'agrarian' view of the future of America, ruled by a 'gentry class' much like the House of Lords in Britain.
"History shows that while people cling to a Jeffersonian veneer, we are a thoroughly Hamiltonian nation."
PHOTO COURTESY: DR. HAL BIDLACK
FOR MORE INFORMATION: hamiltonlives.com