"Hamilton" On-Stage Sisters Connect With Schuyler Family

Aug 16, 2019

"Hamilton" actors Olivia Puckett, Hannah Cruz, and Stephanie Umoh
Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

As the smash-hit musical “Hamilton” continues its run at Proctors in Schenectady, the actors who portray three sisters of the prominent Schuyler family learned a bit more today about the real-life people they depict on stage.

Albany’s Schuyler Mansion was home to a powerful family: Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler, his wife Catharine Van Rensselaer, and their eight children.

The Tony Award-winning musical “Hamilton” depicts the three eldest of the Schuyler children: Angelica Schuyler Church, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and Margaret Schuyler Van Rensselaer.

With the touring production of the musical selling out Proctors in Schenectady, the actors who portray the Schuyler sisters visited an exhibit on the famous trio at the Albany Institute of History and Art on Friday.

The exhibit explores the sisters’ lives through portraits, clothing, and artifacts.

Olivia Puckett plays Margaret Schuyler Van Rensselaer – Peggy.  Although the actors have researched their roles, they learned a little bit more about their character through the actual artifacts.

“Also just seeing actual drawings and portraits of her is great. Because if I feel like you can read a lot from a person’s expression so it’ll be fun to kind of play with that,” said Puckett.

Puckett said she enjoyed learning how close the sisters were.

“And you can feel that just with their letters and how they interacted. So that’s going to be fun to add into the show,” said Puckett.

Stephanie Umoh portrays Angelica Schuyler. Umoh says the actors, like the sisters, have grown close off-stage. Umoh reflected on the relationship between Angelica and Peggy.

“We were told that Peggy, the youngest sister who Olivia Puckett portrays, didn’t write as often as she – as Angelica – would have liked her to...didn’t correspondent as often she would have liked her to and so Angelica would tease her about that,” said Umoh. “And as a result they actually have any letters from Peggy now, so they don’t have here in the museum...Just little things like that, which is funny because I always tease Olivia. So it just…informs our relationships on stage and off a little bit.”

Diane Shewchuck, curator at the Albany Institute and a “Hamilton” fan, said it was special to connect the actors to the sisters.

“For them to actually hold a letter that Eliza held that was written by Alexander Hamilton, to see the portrait of Thomas Jefferson that Angelica personally owned, for them to see portraits of Angelica’s children, to see Hamilton’s sword that he carried when he was the highest-ranking military official…so for me, it was very moving to have them in the same space and to see their excitement at seeing these real objects really made all worthwhile for me and super special,” said Shewchuck.

Hannah Cruz, who plays Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, was taken by the wedding ring placed on Elizabeth’s hand by Hamilton at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany.

And also, a peculiar pin. The object – painted like an eye – was owned by Hamilton’s political rival, Vice President, and eventual killer, Aaron Burr.

“The pin with Theodosia’s eye on it…Aaron Burr’s daughter. That was crazy,” said Cruz.

For Cruz, maybe the style of pin fashionable in the 18th and 19th Centuries could make a comeback.

“I think that should be a thing we do that today. Like someone’s eye that you love painted on you so that they’re always watching, they know what you’re doing,” laughed Cruz.

The exhibit the Schuyler Sisters And Their Circle is on view at the Albany Institute of History and Art through December 29th. “Hamilton” runs through Sunday, August 25th at Proctors in Schenectady.

“Like, I’m so excited to do Schuyler Sisters, the number, with them tonight. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to be on stage with them,” said Cruz.