WHEN PEOPLE HEAR the words “hip-hop” and “musical theatre” together, their next thought is often Hamilton. But hip-hop theatre dates back at least to the 1990s, when Jorge “Popmaster Fabel” Pabon and Steffan “Mr. Wiggles” Clemente wrote and directed hip-hop musicals including Jam on the Groove, performed Off-Broadway and nominated for the 1996 Drama Desk Award for best choreography.

Danny Hoch, who founded the Hip-Hop Theater Festival (now known as Hi-ARTS), offers the following definition: “Hip-hop theatre must fit into the realm of theatrical performance, and it must be by, about, and for the hip-hop generation, participants in hip-hop culture, or both.”

Young theatre members participating in hip-hop culture can try their hand at creating a theatrical song “by, about, and for” fellow hip-hop aficionados with a free DIY course developed by EdTA’s Theatre Educator Pro website.

Cassette player

This course, excerpted from a broader hip-hop musical theatre unit by Broadway actor Arbender Robinson and theatre educator Brian Jennings, presents a four-step process to composing your own hip-hop musical number, from finding inspiration and laying down the beat to exploring the theatrical purpose of your song and penning lyrics.

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