History on Broadway! Outreach Series
A New Program for Middle School Students
This five-session residency uses songs and clips from musicals to promote students’ interest in and deepen their understanding of American history. Students unpack primary documents to corroborate or question the version of events presented in these shows, learning to use historical evidence and theatrical elements to examine and express opposing points of view from important debates in history. A residency can be delivered within one week or over several weeks and each culminates with student performances in historical character.
The Declaration of Independence: 1776
Should the American colonies declare independence from Great Britain? How did a fledgling country founded on ideals of freedom and equality wind up supporting slavery? Analyze songs from the musical 1776 alongside primary sources to explore different perspectives on these two important debates of the revolutionary period.
Songs: “Sit Down, John!” and “Molasses to Rum to Slaves.”
Antebellum Slavery: Big River
Use this musical adaptation of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to explore the hypocrisies of Antebellum society in the border states. Then, build upon runaway slave advertisements to depict the difficult choices faced by enslaved people hoping to escape to freedom.
Songs: “Do Ya Wanna Go to Heaven?” and “The Crossing”
The Gold Rush: Paint Your Wagon
Investigate the stories Paint Your Wagon tells, and the stories it leaves out, in its portrayal of the California Gold Rush. Then use primary sources to explore the experiences and perspectives of groups threatened by America’s Manifest Destiny to claim the West.
Songs: “On My Way” and “Rumson Creek.”
Reconstruction: Show Boat
Investigate the successes and failures of Reconstruction with selections from Show Boat that depict southern, African American life. Then use primary sources to explore African Americans’ heroic efforts during Reconstruction to achieve freedom and self-determination.
Songs: “Cotton Blossom” and “Ol’ Man River.”
The Progressive Era: Fiorello!
Analyze this musical biography of Fiorello LaGuardia to understand the political climate during LaGuardia’s early years, including the rise and fall of Tammany Hall. Then use Progressive era primary sources to depict some of the social problems faced by working women, immigrants, and African Americans, groups that demanded progressive change.
Songs: “The Name’s LaGuardia” and “Little Tin Box.”
The Great Depression: Annie and Street Scene
Use selections from Annie and the opera Street Scene (lyrics by Langston Hughes) to explore the causes and effects of the Great Depression. Use primary sources to understand the various solutions proposed at the time, then create short propaganda plays to advocate for one of these plans over the others.
Songs: “We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover” and “Let Things Be Like They Always Was”
World War II: On the Town, South Pacific, This Is the Army
Post-World War II New York: West Side Story
To book a History on Broadway! unit please call : 212-485-9293