On the Spot with Hamilton

On the Spot with Hamilton

By Blake Ursch

Jamie Bell, JD’16, thought she would give law school a shot. “My dad was an attorney, and when I finished (undergrad), I thought, ‘I’m going to go to law school when this theater thing stops working out,’” she says.

That “theater thing” was her life’s work. As a child growing up in Iowa, she danced and sang. As an undergraduate at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, she studied technical theater. After graduation, she worked on productions all over the country, including Chicago and Las Vegas.

Bell did eventually pursue a legal career, selecting a school in Omaha where her mother and sister lived. She graduated with a degree from the Creighton University School of Law in 2016.

And though she enjoyed her time at Creighton — and honed valuable critical-thinking, analytic and problem-solving skills — the stage still beckoned.

Today, Bell is back in the theater, running the lead spotlight on the acclaimed Broadway musical Hamilton as it tours the country. She recently spent the better part of a month near her alma mater as the show ran Sept. 10-29 at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater.

“I fell in love with Creighton. I liked the professors. I liked the staff. I liked the vibe,” she says. “And I loved law school. I learned a lot and had a good time.”

But after interning at a law firm, she realized that she missed the friendships and unique atmosphere of the theater community.

“I realized theater is a very social community. The relationships you make in theater are quicker to form and more personal than maybe in a law firm,” Bell says. “I made the decision that I was going to go back to doing theater, and that’s been a good choice for me. It’s worked out well. I’ve never regretted it.”

For Bell, running the spotlight is its own kind of art form. Operating a light herself, she also directs two local stagehands running their own lights during each performance. On any show, the job requires strength of leadership and a keen focus.

But that’s especially true for Hamilton.

“It requires the ability to feel music and how to give direction in a clear and concise way quickly and efficiently,” she says. “Especially on Hamilton, I have to be in the game all the time. The show is very specific. It’s very quick. Things get thrown at you on this show, and I just have to be in the game.”

The musical, written by composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, follows the life of U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton during and after the American Revolution. The show has become a critical and popular smash hit, earning the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and 2016 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Overall, Bell says she’s glad her career has taken her back to the theater. The magic of the stage, she says, is unique and timeless.

“There’s just something about being in a theater, watching a show with a group of people. It’s just an experience you can’t have in the same way at any other sort of event,” she says. “There’s just nothing quite the same as sitting in a theater and experiencing a deeply moving moment, or funny moment, or an amazing well-sung song or well-danced number, with an audience.”