‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year! Three boys, 13, 11, and 10–Eldest, Middling, and Third–two girls, 13 and 11–First and Second–and me. Quarantined in a house for a glorious week of creativity.
This year our book camp centers on adaptations, and we’re studying Hamilton!
What is Adaptation?
The kids told me adaptation occurs when a plant or an animal changes for to better live in its environment. They had examples and everything. Yay science!
We moved to a new kind of science: food. If we make ten pies, each is a pie. We begin with a crust and fill it with apples or blueberries, chocolate, peaches, or meat. We could fill it with all kinds of yummy goodies, bake it, and devour. And that’s a kind of adaptation: adapt the crust and filling to our tastes and our needs.
We can also adapt apples from pie to all kinds of other tasty treats: apple sauce, apple cake, apple streusel muffins, apple butter, apple cookies, apple cider, apple tart, apple anything. Today we baked apple streusel muffins, then apple cake, then apple pie. Meanwhile, we cooked apple sauce. And we looked at how different the products turned out. From the same basic ingredients, we made four products that are eaten somewhat differently, that vary in sweetness, that will invariable satisfy some palates but not others.
In any adaptation, ingredients may largely be the same. But how they appear, when they appear, and what exactly they do may be different. There may be flavors in one that don’t appear in the other. Some may need help rising while others don’t. One adaptation may take eighteen minutes and the other an hour and a half. And we, as bakers, must learn what our adaptations need.
While the muffins cooled and the cake baked, we turned our attention to Hamilton: the musical, the album, The Revolution, and the biography inspiring the play. All four tell the story of Alexander Hamilton. The musical play and the album are both delicious, but one satisfies both visual and audio appetites, while the other is only for audio consumption. Depending on when we see the musical play, the voices may be somewhat different than the ones pressed into our brains from listening to the album on repeat.
The Revolution gives us words but no music. Today, we played a couple of scenes reading the lines and forcing the music from our minds. The effect felt wholly different. So the book takes away something but also adds notations and background information we could not consume elsewhere.
The biography, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, offers a different taste altogether. It is more meal than dessert. It is more fact, and the musical with its sibling adaptations are historical fiction.
But Chernow and Miranda began from the same place: adapting source material. Chernow adapted research into a biography. Miranda adapted the biography into something else entirely. The album and The Revolution were natural, necessary adaptations from there.
How Do We Begin Adapting?
For the five young writers in the house, we need to distill so much baking and Hamiltoning into some tenets for adaptations.
- Hone the source materials down to its most basic elements.
- Apples, sugar, butter, flour, etc.
- Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Revolutionary War, etc.
- Mash bits together to make them fit your form.
- Use loaf pans because you don’t own a bundt pan. Change the order of process through trial and error. Substitute ingredients to avoid allergies.
- Combine events or reorder them for time, space, or cohesion. Assign actions to substantial characters because the audience already knows them.
- Add flavor.
- Use sweet apples instead of tart or vice versa for a new experience.
- Use hip hop and rap to tell the story.
- Use new ingredients outside the source material.
- Add cardamom to your apple spice profile. Use really great butter instead of oil.
- Add conversation no one could know. Thread in tidbits others raise, like “you’ll be back,” or vine and fig tree.
The kids brainstormed their projects. What do they want to adapt this week? We’re keeping it tight: poem to story, scene to song, fairy tale to poem, or some other manageable task.
Watching an Adaptation
We talked about the similarities between comics and movies–visually and stylistically. And then we watched Spider-Man: Homecoming because it’s fun!
If you adapt something along with us this week, be sure to drop me a line.