As of this writing in the summer of 2016, Money Man is our most recent play. It imagines what Alexander Hamilton might have said to a group of friends who have come to be with him in the hour before he is rowed across the Hudson River to engage in his fateful duel with Aaron Burr.
People, quite logically, question why on earth I would write a Hamilton play in light of the overwhelming impact of Lyn-Manuel Miranda’s fabulously successful musical that opened on Broadway just before Money Man opened in a small town in the California foothills. It’s true that I had been working on my play for a year before I heard of Miranda’s project, but I might well have written it even if I had gone in knowing of the “competition.”
The two plays occupy opposite ends of the theatrical spectrum. Hamilton is epic, with a huge cast and on-stage music, made to be performed over hours in a theater holding better than a thousand people. Money Man is minimalist, made to be performed by a single actor, exploring the hero’s intimate thoughts. It could be performed in a living room and has been performed in classrooms.
The word “tragedy” has become a synonym for catastrophe/calamity/disaster/unfortunate occurrence. This itself is an unfortunate occurrence because we can use the word to mean what Aristotle meant only by prefacing the usage with a paragraph like this, explaining that there is now no word that means exclusively a story in which a largely admirable hero is brought down by uncontrolled aspects of his/her own character.
In this original sense Hamilton’s end was tragic. I became possessed with the idea of dramatizing how, at the brink of the abyss, this great mind would struggle to make sense of the absurd predicament he had blundered himself into.
That was two years ago. Now in the summer of 2016 I find myself wondering how many politicians are subjecting themselves to a similar self-examination. “These are the times that try men’s souls” as Thomas Paine wrote in The American Crisis in 1776.