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Imagine this: The insular world of the Manhattan theater scene is buzzing about an exciting new play by a brilliant outsider. It’s a tour de force of Black acting and true American history, mixed with dazzling dramatic craft and lacerating humor that wins over even its ideological opponents. It’s talked about in The New York Times, touted for theater prizes, and becomes one of the hottest tickets in town. You know this story, right?
But this was all in 1997, eighteen years before “Hamilton” opened. You’ve probably never heard of the hit play I’m about to tell you about. Don’t feel bad, hardly anyone has, and of the hundreds of thousands of smart people who read and talked about it that year, scarcely anyone seems to remember it now. Strange how that happens.