Hamilton had it coming!: Anti-capitalist musical defends Burr’s legacy

Hamilton had it coming!: Anti-capitalist musical defends Burr’s legacy
Jim Costanzo

He is not throwing away his shots!

An anti-capitalist performer will pass out shots of whiskey and try to change peoples’ minds about maligned founding father Aaron Burr in “Why I Shot Hamilton,” playing at the Old Stone House on Sept. 20. The show will use stories and songs to explain that the man Burr shot — the nation’s first Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton — was a jerk who deserved to die — and so does the banking system he created, according to the performer.

“I want to explain why capitalism doesn’t work and why Burr’s attack on Hamilton was not a duel,” said Jim Costanzo, founder of the Aaron Burr society. “Hamilton was a tortured soul on many levels — and he was unbelievably vicious when he dealt with his political enemies.”

Former Vice President Burr, meanwhile, has positive qualities that the have been swept away in the current tide of Hamilton-mania, said Constanzo.

“Aaron Burr set up banks and with every profits he gave loans to working class people — Alexander hated that,” he said.

In Costanzo’s eyes, Burr’s beliefs are in line with those of the Occupy Wall Street movement. And it was Burr’s stance against capitalism that has caused history to turn on him, not killing Hamilton, or his trial for treason in 1807. Costanzo hopes that people will leave the show with a different view of Burr’s legacy.

“I would hope people get to see how people like Burr have been treated in history,” said Costanzo. “People who have pushed back against capitalism have always been vilified.”

During the performance, Costanzo will play a baritone horn, sing anti-capitalist songs — including a reworked version of “Over The Rainbow” — and he will also distill whiskey in the Old Stone House’s outdoor fireplace, in honor of the Whiskey Rebellion that divided men like Hamilton and Burr.

Costanzo says he is not a historical re-enactor, but he will be wearing a cape and hat for parts of the show.

His performance is presented in conjunction with the exhibit “Appropriating Revolution,” in the upstairs gallery at the Old Stone House, where the Aaron Burr Society and six other artists have work on view through Oct. 8. Costanzo has seen the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” and though he disagreed with Hamilton’s portrayal, he praised its writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda.

“I have seen Hamilton, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is brilliant,” said Costanzo. “But my point of view on history is the polar opposite — it’s all super-complicated.”

“Why I Shot Hamilton” at the Old Stone House [336 Third St. between Fourth and Fifth Avenues in Park Slope, (718) 768–3195, www.oldstonehouse.com]. Sept. 20 at 7 pm. Free.

Do you support Aaron Burr, sir?: Jim Costanzo, left, the founder and director of the Aaron Burr Society, used to give anti-capitalist performances in front of Wall Street banks.
Jim Costanzo