Why I Paid Too Much for Tickets to Hamilton, and Other Musings on the Fragility of Life

an actor and dancers on stage
The hip-hop infused musical is based on a biography of Alexander Hamilton, played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, center, who also created the show. Photo by Sara Krulwich for the New York Times.

My finger hovers over the “Purchase Now!” button. It’s the third time I’ve been to this page. I review it again. Row S, Center Orchestra. My Discover card information has been entered. Hamilton. The word rings like a magic spell. $850 each. I press cancel and go back into rehearsal.

All week I have been hearing the propaganda. Two different talk shows (on NPR!) featuring the musical. Two different auction items at two different fundraisers (a Pair of Tickets to The Musical of the Century!) Saturday Night Live references the show, as does Kimmy Schmidt. Last week, my daughter was singing in the shower. I couldn’t recognize it. Some new pop hit? I ask her about it on the way to school. “It’s Hamilton, Mom.” After school, she shows me the YouTube videos, the iTunes link, the photos of Lin-Manuel in the frock coat (and that hair!) I can’t look away.

We have a tradition, my daughter and I, girls weekend in the last days of August. Zip lining and the spa. Puerto Rico. Spelunking. Disney. Something extravagant, but short. A temporary escape from the pressure of the world, an extension of summer, a time when we are still young and still friends. An investment in future stories. Something we can look back on and remember only happiness. I never tell her where we are going, just what to pack. (Hiking boots and a fancy dress. Bathing suits, at least three. Sunscreen and bug spray.) I treasure the look on her face when we get to the gate at the airport.

Theatre is temporary. You have to show up. You have to experience it live.

All through rehearsal, however, I’m in a panic.

“You’re being manipulated. No piece of theatre is worth that.”

I’m going to lose the tickets. Those perfect seats will be gone by break.”

“The money for resale tickets doesn’t even go to the playwright. Just to faceless corporate scum.”

Give the money to a shelter. Or your preferred theatre. Put it in your IRA!”

My cynical friend, jaded New Yorker friend tells me he wept like a baby when he saw it. I go back to the website. Tickets are still there. Our break lasts ten minutes.

Theatre is temporary. You have to show up. You have to experience it live. I used to run marathons, and the only way I could get through training was to make running the most important part of every day. That's how I write plays. If I don't write like it's a blessed sacrament, the most important thing every day, I can’t complete a play. Going to the theatre should be like that. I missed Soho Repertory Theatre’s Blasted because stuff got in the way. I missed the original production of Ruined, and Meryl Streep in Mother Courage. I meant to go. I wanted to go. They were seminal events in the history of Western theatre. But life kept me busy. I can’t recall what kept me away. Just ordinary things. I didn’t make time for the ecstatic experience of being there. There are always a million reasons not to go and to save the money for something more important.

In the last month of my mother’s life, we spent a lot of money on Home Health Aides. As she declined, we spent more. For a while it was a grand a month. Then two. In March we spent 5K, and in April, when she started hospice, $7,000. The last month of her life, she spent over $9,000 on home health aides. It went on the Discover Card. I was her Power of Attorney, and I signed all the checks. My last days with her were all about showing up. Being there. Learning to sit next to her hospital bed, and not clean or cook, or make phone calls, or play endless rounds of Solitaire. The Lesson was to be there. A lesson that I am sad to say, I did not master entirely. Sometimes being present is just too hard.

I paid my mother’s last Discover Card bill, and wrote the check for $9,367. At that point money just didn’t mean anything any more. When she died in May, she had enough money left for about two more months of care. Instead this became a small inheritance for me and my sister. Who cares? It means nothing, that money. My mother is gone.

three women on stage
(Left to Right): Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones as the Schuyler sisters in Hamilton. Photo by Joan Marcus/Shane Marshall Brown.

Theatre is temporary. You have to show up. You have to experience it live.

Today my daughter sang Hamilton in the shower. Today, we are still best friends. I could wait until the show comes through Boston on tour. I could wait until my grandchildren perform it in some distant uncertain future. But. Row S. Center Orchestra. With additional tax and fees (“Fees? Fees for what?”) the total for two tickets comes to $1,951.12. I press “Purchase Now.”

My heart is pounding. I feel sick. I’ve never spent that much money on anything, especially something that doesn’t last. I blurt out a confession to my husband later that night. He tells me that all his regrets are sins of omission, not commission. He regrets the things he didn’t do.

I’m taking my daughter to Hamilton. On August 25, we’ll wear fancy dresses and comfortable walking shoes. We’ll park in Midtown. We'll stroll past the marquee. Stop. She’ll look at me. I’ll smile, and hand her the tickets. The musical will become part of our history. We’ll make a memory. We'll be there.

Or maybe I’ll tell her and we can get the soundtrack tonight…

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Thoughts from the curator

A series of blogs discussing the impact of Hamilton on the Latinx community.

Hamilton’s Latinidad

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There are many consequences to spending "too much" on anything, especially theatre. You raise the prices for all of us. My cousin spent $1500 on the first Sony Walkman and six months later it cost $500, then $200, then $50. Money is not everything, of course. But as wonderful a show as Hamilton is (I saw it with $40 Standing Room tickets), I think you're first impulse was right. Plan 6 months ahead and buy tickets are the box office regular full price. Sorry, but I don't think you made a wise choice. Enjoy the show. It is wonderful.

This was a great piece Melinda. I shed some tears too upon reading this. Thank you for reminding us that sometimes we need to indulge in a life experience more than tangible belongings. The memories of the experience will far out last the tangible things.

I'm also crying at my desk on a Friday, reading your piece. Tell her and get the soundtrack. I was privileged to see Hamilton last July 14th (2nd night of Broadway previews), when a ticket was still $100. My original experience has been magnified a hundred times over with the soundtrack, the book, the hundreds of Lin-Manuel's posts, their trip to the White House, their work with NYC schoolkids etc. But it started with showing up and being in that theater live. At the center of the whole Hamilton phenomenon, is a commitment to the kind of diversity and inclusion I want for this country. And I want it for my two bi-racial sons, now in their twenties, so they can believe in themselves and aspire to their own greatness. Thank you for your work and your words. From an Emerson alum ('72)

I promise you will not regret this. Had a similar experience with buying last-minute tix for Wicked and seeing it with my daughter--most expensive tix I ever bought until Hamilton, but having done the Wicked thing and gained a lifetime memory with my daughter, I didn't hesitate. I took an 87-year-old friend to Hamilton in September. We rode the bus from Providence. We sat in the orchestra and she heard every word and LOVED IT and we talked nonstop on the ride home. She mentions it every time we speak. Priceless.

Crying at my desk on Friday morning from your lovely essay. A good reminder to me to not be too busy to show up for what matters.

Beautiful! And there's a strong message here about battling a scarcity mindset on money. Thank you! Time and experiences are more important. Lovely.