Fordham alumni and friends made their way through a harsh autumn downpour for dinner and a Broadway show on Oct. 29. In spite of the rain, there was 100 percent turnout.
But, then, the show in question was Hamilton.
“It’s so difficult to get tickets, but I found them on the alumni website,” said Ellen McGee, PhD, GSAS ’69.
Over the past few years Fordham’s Office of Alumni Relations has been offering a variety of cultural events with an intentional focus on the Fordham connection to the event. The Hamilton event was no different: Hamilton playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda’s wife, Vanessa Nadal, graduated from Fordham Law School in 2010. Also, two of the show’s dancers, Seth Stewart and Ephraim M. Sykes, attended the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program.
The series of events is called the Fordham Alumni Culture and Entertainment.
In a short talk following the meal, Nadal provided background on the creation of the play, including a few morsels beyond what may have already been covered in the media.
In particular, she noted much has been made of the strong female roles in the play. History has often neglected the women behind the founding fathers, but the show, based on the Ron Chernow biography Alexander Hamilton (Penguin, 2004), places women front and center. Nadal said she encouraged her husband to ensure that a female lead got a rap of her own in the hip-hop musical.
“Lin is attuned to the female roles, but I did push him a little bit,” she said. “He’s very empathetic and good at putting himself in other people’s shoes and I think that’s why he can write women in a way that other men can’t.”
She added that Lin-Manuel’s empathy extends beyond the feminine to fatherhood. When he wrote a ballad about Hamilton’s’ first son, however, many assumed that it was because the two were expecting their first child, said Nadal. But at the time he wrote the song, she wasn’t expecting. In actuality, the couple had just adopted a dog. (They eventually did have son after the play was produced. Sebastian is now 1-years-old.)
A native New Yorker, Nadal said she chose Fordham because she wanted to attend a top law school in the city so that she could remain close to her family. She said that she still deeply admires the work of Fordham Law’s Leitner Center, and does similar pro bono work in international law and justice.
For regulars of the cultural events, the evening marked the high point in a string of outings that have brought Fordham experts and alumni together. Edward Winkler, FCRH ‘67, and his wife Carol have been coming to the events for several years.
Both mentioned an event with Kinky Boots star and Fordham alumnus Kevin Smith Kirkwood, FCRH ’99, who plays one of the angels in the Tony Award-winning musical. Kirkwood was going to drop out of Fordham because of financial problems until he spoke with Stan Pruszynski, FCRH ’73, president of the Fordham Glee Club Alumni Association.
“Stan said ‘we have money saved up for a future scholarship and we decided that you’ll be the first recipient,’” said Kirkwood, of receiving the Fordham University Glee Club Alumni Memorial Endowed Scholarship in Honor of Father Theodore T. Farley, SJ. “It’s an example of an act of kindness that can make a huge difference.”
“One of the things that’s great about these events is you learn about so many different aspects of the University,” Carol Winkler said.