A Texas Church Did What With Hamilton?

Listen to this episode

Speaker 1: Ladies and gentlemen.

Speaker 2: I’d like to welcome you to our exhibition of Hamilton.

Rachel Hansen: Hi, I’m Rachel Hansen.

Daisy Rosario: And I’m Daisy Rosario. And you’re listening to. I see why I.

Rachel Hampton: In Case You Missed It.

Daisy Rosario: Slate’s podcast about Internet culture.

Rachel Hansen: And we are.

Rachel Hampton: Back. Cue the triumphant Iraqi music. We are jogging up some stairs, but don’t be. We are still working on finding a permanent replacement for our dearly departed Madison. But in the meantime, Daisy has graciously agreed to strap into the driver’s seat with me once again. Hello, Daisy.


Daisy Rosario: Hello, Rachel. Thank you for having me.

Rachel Hansen: Very happy to.

Daisy Rosario: Be here for today’s.

Rachel Hansen: Topic.

Rachel Hampton: I’m glad you’re here because I need.

Rachel Hansen: You for this.

Rachel Hampton: Episode. I think one of the best things about Manzoni’s partnership was that our sessions were completely different. We did not share a single focus point. I talk about Tumblr. She’d grown. She’d talk about Taylor Swift. I’d not politely.

Daisy Rosario: That’s a great hosting combination.

Rachel Hampton: Yeah, it is. But what that means, now that she was gone, is that I desperately needed to call in a ringer for today’s episode, which is about one of Madison’s obsessions. Musical theater. Mm hmm. Somehow, every single time we’ve talked about musical theater on the show, Madison has not been here. I don’t know how that happened. I feel like if I asked you to give us your musical theater bonafides, we might be here for a while. Which is?


Daisy Rosario: Yeah. I mean, I was a theater kid, to be fair.

Rachel Hampton: So instead of us, you know, going through your filmography or your theater credits, I’m going to paint you a little scenario. It’s 2 a.m.. You’re like two or three margaritas then, and you’ve decided to give the performance of your life in your living room. You’ve got your broom microphone. You’ve got your dramatic blanket dress. What song from? What musical are you singing?

Daisy Rosario: Oh, okay.

Rachel Hansen: Oh, wow.

Daisy Rosario: I love this question because I have to say, these dramatic at home performances do still happen.

Rachel Hampton: Of course.

Daisy Rosario: As often as they did when I was younger, but they do still happen. So I got to go with something from Rent, which also probably dates me. I saw the original cast on Broadway in high school. Thank you very much.


Rachel Hampton: Oh, my God.

Daisy Rosario: And it was amazing. Like, I won the lottery for tickets, so it was like, unbelievable.

Rachel Hansen: That’s so cool.

Daisy Rosario: It was incredible. And not only was I a theater kid, but like, I ended up going to college for theater and like specifically performance art, because, again, I was just like always chasing the big bucks. And so the song that I would choose if I’m 1,000% honest is Over the Moon from Rent.

Rachel Hansen: Only thing to do. Only thing to do is the one.

Daisy Rosario: Where she’s, like, performing her performance art.

Rachel Hansen: So yeah.

Daisy Rosario: In the.

Rachel Hansen: Lot.


Daisy Rosario: That is like full of homeless people or whatever. Like, that is the song.


Rachel Hansen: The Moon.

Daisy Rosario: Because not only is it like fun and weird, but it like scratches every itch. And I mean, you can’t go wrong with an Idina menzel song.

Rachel Hampton: Oh, literally never. What’s funny is that I’m sorry to say this. That’s literally the song I always skip.

Rachel Hansen: To the soundtrack.

Rachel Hampton: I still love that choice. I feel like it actually says a lot about you.

Rachel Hansen: To what it says. No.

Rachel Hampton: That’s for the audience that that is true. But now that we’re warmed up, we’ve done a little vocal exercises. We’ve learned a bit about Daisy psyche.


Rachel Hampton: It’s time to dive in to the actual topic for today, which is the sordid tale of none other than Scamilton. The original or not musical, it’s an illicit production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony winning musical Hamilton, and it’s recently gone viral on TikTok, but not for any of the good reasons. Scamilton was staged by the dorm McAllen Church in McAllen, Texas, and I’m sure you can guess where this is going. As churches in Texas are.

Rachel Hansen: Known to do.

Rachel Hampton: They modify the original texts to fit their ideology, adding some religious themes, some new turns of phrases, and some sermons that are homophobic.

Rachel Hansen: Yeah.


Daisy Rosario: And to top it all off, that all comes together to create what is.

Rachel Hansen: You know, it’s a not good production, essentially. Like I.

Daisy Rosario: Would do want to acknowledge there’s a lot of just like what are clearly like young parishioners in this and I don’t really want to judge their individual performances too much, but.


Rachel Hansen: Let’s say that overall as a production. Oh, wow, wow.

Daisy Rosario: And it has managed to catch the eye of none other than Lin-Manuel himself. So after a short break, we are going to get into the hilarious details of this performance in the way that, of course, TikTok helped bring it to light.


Speaker 1: What’s your name? Alexander Hamilton.

Rachel Hampton: And we’re back in the room where it happened. David, can I tell you a secret?

Daisy Rosario: Yes, please.

Rachel Hampton: Actually, I would like to retract that. It’s not really a secret. I don’t oversell this, but it is something I’ve never shared on this podcast because it’s wildly specific. There’s no reason for it to be brought up except for now.

Daisy Rosario: Oh, okay. Do tell.

Rachel Hampton: Okay. So my high school, which had a very good football team, to be clear, played against McGowan in the games before the championship, which is called the playoffs, if I’m not mistaken.


Daisy Rosario: Yeah, it’s usually playoffs.

Rachel Hansen: Yeah.

Rachel Hampton: I’m not very.

Rachel Hansen: Good at this.

Daisy Rosario: That’s fair.

Rachel Hampton: But importantly, we lost and it was.

Rachel Hansen: The only game.

Rachel Hampton: We lost that year. So for quite literally a decade, I’ve held a grudge against the city of McAllen, which is none other than the city where the church they put on Scamilton is located.

Rachel Hansen: Oh, my God. Okay.

Daisy Rosario: I love this, like, highly specific intra Texas animosity.

Rachel Hampton: So way back in the beginning of August, which was a month ago, but feels like so much longer ago.

Rachel Hansen: Much longer.


Rachel Hampton: There was an evangelical church in none other than McAllen, and they made a big mistake. Many big mistakes that have given us content for at least the next several months, if not a year. They decided to stage an unauthorized production of the musical. And here’s where I admit my ignorance. I can admit when I don’t know something. And I will say, until quite recently, I assumed that once the musical had been staged on Broadway, that anyone anywhere at that stage found themselves. And that is hearing me very wrong. I don’t know why I thought.

Rachel Hansen: That I would play.

Rachel Hampton: Once it’s out there, anyone can do it. I thought it was like you put out a poem and anyone can read it anywhere. Wrong. Incorrect.


Daisy Rosario: Not at all. I mean, I won’t get into all of the details, but I do know quite a lot about show licensing and particularly plays and musicals and pretty much any version of a musical that you’re seeing has been licensed. Like even if you go to like your cousin’s second grade production of Annie, what they are performing is a licensed version of the show called Annie Junior. That was like re scripted for kids, like literally.

Rachel Hampton: Oh my, it is.

Daisy Rosario: Always licensed and these rules are really, really strict.

Rachel Hampton: So apparently this church was operating under the same set of misconceptions I was.

Rachel Hansen: Which is that it’s.

Rachel Hampton: Out there, might as well do.

Rachel Hansen: It know.

Rachel Hampton: Or maybe maybe this entire saga is actually just a little, little parable about hubris or instinct. Maybe they saw Buffalo and Bear and thought, I can do better than that. Yes, that is a reference to the last five years. I either away on August 5th and sixth they staged production of Hamilton that they put a lot of money into based on the ad for it.


Speaker 2: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show.

Speaker 1: Founded by. For now.

Rachel Hampton: You might be thinking those voices sound really familiar. And if you are. Hello, Hamilton. Superfan. I see you. I know you. And you’re correct. Here’s the trailer. But Disney Plus produced for Hamilton when they added a live performed version of it onto the platform.

Speaker 2: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show.

Rachel Hampton: It’s the same.

Rachel Hansen: Thing. Oh, my. The same thing. I thought it was.

Daisy Rosario: Going to be, like, inspired by.

Rachel Hansen: Deeply. But no, that is just the same thing. The same track from Disney.

Daisy Rosario: That is wild. But also, you will probably be unsurprised to learn that now Disney is involved. Right. So great choices being made here. So this was their second mistake. And believe me, more will be made. Like, for example, live streaming one of the performances and uploading it to YouTube on August 6th. Never give the Internet video footage that they can chop and screw up because they will.

Rachel Hansen: And they did.

Daisy Rosario: The first reports about what the Internet now affectionately refers to as Scamilton came from the theater community. One of the first articles came from the On Stage blog and they cited Howard Sherman, the director of the Arts Integrity Initiative, who noted the fact that Scamilton not only changed lyrics but tacked on a homophobic sermon to the end of the play. We’ll get into some of those changes later, but suffice it to say, those were the first people who noticed it and they were definitely not the last.

Rachel Hampton: That’s right. Because enter tick tock. Stage left. By the end of August, the hashtag Scamilton on TikTok had more than 40 million views as eagle eyed viewers noticed some changes.


Rachel Hansen: There are.

Rachel Hampton: A lot. And in true Tik-tok fashion, an entire universe has cropped up around Scamilton. The hashtag also includes analysis of the legal goings on, which we’ll talk about later. There’s skits about with Scamilton versions of other plays like a Wicked would sound like. And then, of course, they’re the best of Scamilton videos, which we will play for you.

Daisy Rosario: First up, we’ve got this rendition of one of my actual favorite songs from the show. Who Lives, Who Dies? Who tells your story?

Rachel Hansen: Can I show you what I’m proudest of? You for. Established the first private orphanage in New York City. Your. Hundreds of children to Jesus as they’re growing up.

Rachel Hampton: I’m not sure what I love most about that. The second orphanage that just never fails to make me laugh because someone missed their cue. A few someones missed their cue or the fact that earlier in the song they basically completely scrub out. Angelica Schuyler This church was basically like bucks, sisterly bonds. We have Jesus, right?

Rachel Hansen: You don’t care.

Rachel Hampton: About Angelica Schuyler. Jesus will take the place of your sisters and Peggy. Oh, poor Becky. But speaking of sisterly bonds, I just feel like we have to listen to this version of Schuyler Sisters, which is immaculate.

Speaker 1: But look around the ground. Revolutions happening in New York. Work.

Rachel Hansen: Work.

Daisy Rosario: Oh, there’s forgotten lines.

Speaker 2: Shins, rice and pies from his smart piano. And. Oh, you don’t. Linda fully armed battalion.

Rachel Hampton: Honestly, same King George. I too sometimes just want to stop in the middle of talking and I’m like, Well.


Daisy Rosario: Where was.

Rachel Hampton: I? Oh. There’s whatever the opposite of a harmony is.

Speaker 1: Business. He said he wanted to be.

Daisy Rosario: I. I just.

Rachel Hansen: I. I.

Daisy Rosario: I like I said, I really don’t want to be mean to the individual people doing it because I actually love amateur theater and I want people to just enjoy their artistic hobbies more without having to monetize them. But they did put this online, so let’s just acknowledge that they did.

Rachel Hampton: They did. Listen, I’m tone deaf, but I also would never stand up on the stage.

Rachel Hansen: Because I don’t. There’s also a you.

Daisy Rosario: Know, let’s not forget about those random sermons.

Speaker 2: Stop running from God, Alexander. His words says. If we confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. And to cleanses of all in righteousness.

Daisy Rosario: And I guess a sermon isn’t unexpected for a church, but it’s not like it’s replacing something in the play. They just shoehorned a sermon in there. I mean, honestly, part of what’s really weird about it is that it’s like 92% the regular show and then with like some lyric changes about Jesus and then some sermons. And there’s also so much of probably the one thing that we could have really expected, which is censoring.

Rachel Hampton: Yes. Boy, did they. Sincere.

Speaker 2: Dear sir. I hope this letter finds you in good health and in a prosperous enough position to put wealth in the pockets of people like me. You see, that was my wife I saw you with. Why?

Rachel Hampton: Look, she caught it. In case you haven’t seen Hamilton. He’s referring to adultery, and they referred to it much more explicitly in the play. I would actually like to shout out whoever plays Aaron Burr in this production because he is carrying the show on his back. He needs to see a chiropractor because my man, his back muscles hurt.


Rachel Hansen: Like this version of wait for word is not bad at all.

Speaker 2: Wait for it.

Speaker 1: Wait for it. Your life right now. Not falling behind on Monday. I’m not standing still. I’m like, well.

Rachel Hansen: Okay, we see you, Aaron Burr.

Daisy Rosario: We see you.

Rachel Hampton: I think the guy who played Aaron Burr is that guy in the group project who shows up knowing he’s the only one who has actually paid attention for the entire semester and he’s going to be doing all the work and it’s working. Give that man a real stage.

Daisy Rosario: Yeah. Respect to the actor playing Aaron Burr. And I mean, at this point, some of the more depraved among you might want to go seek out the full version of this musical. Unfortunately, it only lives in the afterlife of the Wayback Machine because the door McKellen Church has taken down the live stream because surprise, surprise.

Rachel Hansen: None of this is legal.

Rachel Hampton: We’re going to take a short break. Remember what a harmony sounds like. And when we come back, we will get into Lin-Manuel involvement, the church’s response to said involvement and the future of Scamilton, the unoriginal musical to.

Speaker 1: I am not going away, Masha.

Rachel Hampton: And we’re back with more scams. Daisy, I have a philosophical question for you. Okay. Would you say this is technically a scam? I feel like if you’re going to a production of Hamilton put on by a local Texas church, you know what you’re signing up for.

Rachel Hansen: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true.

Daisy Rosario: Except the thing about this church is that they also lied to their congregation.


Rachel Hampton: Oh. A church lying in this economy shocked.

Rachel Hansen: Color me shocked. Right.

Rachel Hampton: I need a fainting couch.

Daisy Rosario: So, during an August 7th sermon, the pastor of the door said that the Hamilton team gave them a license to do their production.

Speaker 6: So we would like to once again thank the Hamilton team for giving us the license to perform our version of Hamilton. We did pose people got a little excited, and so we posted some footage online. We were immediately contacted by a lawyer from the Hamilton team and asked us to remove the footage. We did that immediately. We apologise for any inconvenience, and she gave us the okay to continue last night. And so we’re very grateful for the Hamilton team. Thank you so much for entrusting us. Was such an amazing, amazing play. Amen.

Daisy Rosario: Now, this would be a pretty big deal for a few reasons, and it also raises a lot of questions. Now, first, Hamilton isn’t granting amateur or professional licenses for any stage productions. Shows don’t usually even do that until the original Broadway production has ended and it’s still running. So why would they grant one to this random church? Second, Disney is involved. Not much really needs to be said about how they feel about their IP. So how are they feeling about this? And third, if the Hamilton team gave their permission, did they also give their permission to change the lyrics and add in the homophobic sermon at the end?

Rachel Hansen: Because even if.

Daisy Rosario: You do have a license for a show, it’s usually so explicit in the license that you are not allowed to change anything. And if you’re allowed to change anything, it’s clearly listed what you’re allowed to tweak and what you’re not allowed to touch.


Rachel Hampton: Again, as someone who thought you could just go out and stage a production of rent whenever you wanted this. These are all amazing questions.

Daisy Rosario: And now we have answers because on August 8th, a Hamilton spokesperson told Ryan Wood, an executive producer at a local Dallas TV station, that they, in fact, did not grant a license to the door church.

Rachel Hampton: Wait, I know you said they lied, but I didn’t mean they lied like this.

Rachel Hansen: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Daisy Rosario: According to the statement, the Hamilton team was made aware of the unauthorized staging on August 5th and immediately issued a cease and desist letter and a demand for the removal of any videos and images on the Internet. However, apparently the official Hamilton team is a benevolent bitch because they told the door that they could proceed with the August six performance on the condition that there was no evidence of the performance existing. But it also seems like the Hamilton team did not know that the church had made changes to the script because in a follow up statement they said that they were reviewing those changes to determine further action.

Rachel Hampton: If there’s anything I’ve learned from the past, like 25 minutes is that you can’t make changes.

Rachel Hansen: No, 2 minutes ago. No, you really can’t.

Rachel Hampton: Because it seems like more than anything else, those changes are really what got the church in trouble. Besides, like the unauthorized staging of it. Because on August 9th, the Dramatists Guild, which is a phenomenal name, just for phenomenal name, it’s giving Shakespeare. They issued a statement with the hashtag, Don’t change the words and Don’t Change the music. Which unilaterally condemn the church for changing the words in the lyrics and the music.


Daisy Rosario: I mean, see what I mean? Licensing does not usually allow for such changes.

Rachel Hampton: I’m going to read a bit of the statement because the Dramatists Guild, they gave drama.

Rachel Hansen: Love it.

Rachel Hampton: We hold up the door McAllen churches brazen infringement to shine a light on the problematic pattern of some theatrical organizations performing authors work without a license and rewriting the text without authorial consent. No organization, professional, amateur or religious is exempt from these laws.

Daisy Rosario: And then Lynn himself retweeted it, saying, grateful to all of you who reached out about this illegal, unauthorized production. Now lawyers do their work and always grateful to the Dramatists Guild who have the backs of writers everywhere. Be it your first play or your 50th.

Rachel Hampton: I’m not thinking about becoming a playwright just to join the Dramatists Guild because I love a union, but I expressly love a union with a fancy ass name like. And also because.

Rachel Hansen: Unions get.

Rachel Hampton: Results, including what is functionally a notes app apology. It’s so funny. At the beginning the doorman council was like, actually. We have the right performance. And then the Dramatist Guild got involved and they were like, Hee hee!

Rachel Hansen: No, no, no, no, no. Sorry we didn’t.

Rachel Hampton: On August 23rd, the dorm McAllen uploaded a statement to Instagram that basically completely contradicted their earlier statements because I’m assuming they heard from some dramatist lawyers.

Daisy Rosario: So the statement reads in part, because this was long. So we made a choice. The Door Christian Fellowship McAllen Church did not ask for or receive a license from the producers or creators of Hamilton to produce, staged, replicate or alter any part of Hamilton. Nor did we seek prior permission to alter Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work by changing the music, the lyrics, deleting songs, and adding dialogue. Our ministry will use this moment as a learning opportunity about protected artistic works and intellectual property. Lastly, we will pay damages for our actions.


Rachel Hampton: Not a learning opportunity about artistic works and intellectual property. How are you going to put that on the service? I’m just I want to hear what would what this like proselytizing for intellectual property is going to sound like.

Rachel Hansen: Right.

Daisy Rosario: And I mean, at this point, the damages are undisclosed. But a spokesperson for Hamilton said in a statement to the outlet law and crime that they will be donating all damages to the South Texas Equality Project, which is, quote, a coalition of organizations that work to advocate for, celebrate, uplift, educate and provide support to the LGBTQIA plus community of the Rio Grande Valley.

Rachel Hansen: I love that. I love it, too.

Rachel Hampton: This is really coming up. Coming up, Hamilton.

Rachel Hampton: And fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you feel about scams and artistic infringement, this might not be the last we hear of this specific church, because some Internet sleuths noticed before the church wiped their entire YouTube page that Hamilton is not the first musical that this congregation have remixed.

Speaker 7: You’ve read the Bible before.

Speaker 2: Oh, that old book. It isn’t any different from any other fairy tale.

Speaker 7: This isn’t just any book. What are their stories, you know, of an innocent prince who chose to become like everyone else, only to be hated and killed to three people. Jesus Christ. Because of his sacrifice, we can have hope of being changed no matter how hopeless our lives have become.

Speaker 6: You really believe that someone would sacrifice their life?

Speaker 2: For those like me.

Rachel Hampton: That’s Belle from Beauty and the Beast, converting the Beast to Christianity. So for some reason, this church has decided to, like, fully take Disney on as their enemy. I don’t know why.


Rachel Hansen: Oh, my God.

Daisy Rosario: Okay. And then this is a clip from kind of. I mean, all musical theater is gay. I say this as a gay, but like probably the most unofficially gay musical of the last few years is the movie The Greatest Showman.

Speaker 2: I turned my back on all of y’all when you needed me the most. And I’m sorry. I abandoned. So please, I ask you to forgive me. Got. I did the same thing to you.

Rachel Hampton: My favorite thing about the production is that people at cookbook are calling it the greatest con man, which. Oh.

Rachel Hansen: Yes, yes, I like that.

Rachel Hampton: I like that, too. Right. Right.

Rachel Hansen: I feel like we.

Rachel Hampton: Usually end on some lesson I give but don’t steal is in the bible and respect copyright laws is common sense.

Daisy Rosario: I don’t know. We’ve had to talk about it at all times lately.

Rachel Hampton: That is true. Bartolome Bloomberg is on the line right now. But I feel like the true lesson of today is I will always get my revenge, even if it’s ten years later and require multiple Christian fied versions of musicals. I never lose.

Daisy Rosario: You know what? I love that for all of us.

Rachel Hampton: Yeah, but. Oh, right. That is the show where you’ll be back in your feed on Saturday, so please subscribe. It is the best way to never miss an episode. So never miss a scam musical. A scam musical. If you will believe we have a rating and review an app with Spotify and tell your friends about us. Tell your parishioners about us. Don’t tell your parishioners who are committing copyright crimes about us. You can follow us on Twitter. I see why my underscore pod, which is also a containment for questions or other legal versions of musicals and can always drop us a note. I see. Why am I at Slate.com?

Daisy Rosario: I see. Why am I? Is produced by Daniel Strader and Rachel Hampton. I’m Daisy Rosario, Slate’s senior supervising producer of audio. And Alicia montgomery is Slate’s V.P. of audio. See you online.

Rachel Hampton: Or on Broadway. Having seen the Chicago production, I was like, I finally get the Hamilton spot to be sexy because.

Rachel Hansen: Hamilton’s supposed.

Daisy Rosario: To be.

Rachel Hampton: Hamilton supposed to be sexy.