Even if you haven’t scored a ticket to Hamilton's Minneapolis run, there's still a way to get a taste of the blockbuster musical.
On Monday, October 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Hamilton stars Miguel Cervantes (Chicago’s Alexander Hamilton) and Nik Walker (Minneapolis’ Aaron Burr) will make an appearance at the North Loop’s whimsical new Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea for a performance and meet and greet.
Even better? It's all for a good cause: raising awareness and money for epilepsy advocacy and research. Cervantes’ daughter Adelaide suffers from a rare childhood epilepsy syndrome, so the issue is close to his heart. In many ways, Cervantes’ work on the musical and the family’s struggles are entwined—he had to leave his wife and daughter at the hospital for a crucial audition with Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“[When Adelaide was diagnosed], we knew as much about epilepsy as any other person—the TV version,” Cervantes says. He expected his daughter’s doctors to have a solid understanding of the condition and a concrete treatment plan. Instead, “What we heard was, ‘Wow, this is a tough one. Here are the things we can try, and some of them are terrible and some won’t work.’ ... We thought, 'Wait a minute, that’s not how this conversation is supposed to go.' As a parent looking to the medical field, that’s an unacceptable response.”
“Epilepsy is a symptom,” Cervantes continues. “Something happens in the brain that causes the seizures—a brain injury, birth injury, some sort of genetic problem. Epilepsy is not the end of the conversation, there’s a bigger issue going on inside that person. One in 26 people in this country are affected by a seizure disorder; there are more seizure-related deaths than [deaths due to] breast cancer, but it just doesn’t get the air time.”
Cervantes believes the only way to fix the problem is to devote more funds to awareness and research. To that end, he’s partnered with Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE). CURE’s mission is to find a cure for epilepsy through funding patient-centered research focused on understanding epilepsy’s underlying causes. To date, the organization has raised more than $50 million and funded over 200 research projects.
“We’re humbled and honored by how many people have reached out and wanted to help,” says Cervantes, including Fairgrounds CEO Michael Schultz. Fairgrounds’ “Adelaide’s Blend” was created in partnership with Cervantes and CURE, and 20 percent of all sales of the blend are donated to CURE.
The upcoming event at Fairgrounds is free, and attendees will be able to purchase bags of Adelaide’s Blend or donate directly to CURE at the register. If you’d like a feel-good piece of memorabilia, Cervantes and Walker will be signing purchased bags of the coffee during their meet and greet.
A performance by Cervantes and Walker is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. The only spoiler he was willing to give City Pages is that he’ll be performing “Til the Calm Comes,” a song he wrote for Adelaide. (Since Walker will be joining him, it’s a good bet the duo will be performing some Hamilton selections as well.)
“I ask sometimes whether we’re being cheated on what this whole Hamilton thing is, because of my daughter’s condition and the life we have to live because of her, with the doctors and so on,” Cervantes muses. “Only half of our energy is enjoying Hamilton. It’s exciting, it’s unbelievable, but the reality of my life keeps it in perspective as to what’s important.”
“But another part of me feels like I’m not getting cheated, my experience is enhanced. What I get to do with Hamilton is raise awareness and touch people’s lives I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Hamilton is changing the world on its own, and if I can add my own purpose, it just makes it that much more important.”