George Mason University
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George Mason University

Mason alum cast in Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’

July 11, 2016   /   by Jamie Rogers

Hollinger, 28, begins her role as "the bullet" in "Hamilton" on July 11. Photo provided.

A George Mason University alumna is set to play an important element of history in the Tony and Grammy award-winning Broadway musical, “Hamilton.”

Sasha Hollinger, BFA Dance ’09, is cast in an ensemble role that’s come to be known as “the bullet.”

“I play the bullet that shot Alexander Hamilton,” she said. “It’s not a lead character, but there is a moment when you stand out.

“The moment when I become the bullet is essentially a moment frozen in time, I make my way across the stage very slowly while Hamilton is speaking, basically all of the thoughts going through his head in this last second of his life.… I make the journey with intention as a real bullet would.”

She’s also on stage for most of the 46-plus songs in the show, dancing and singing as part of the story.

Being the neophyte on Broadway and in a production that’s won 11 Tonys and one Grammy means there is pressure to have a seamless transition, said Hollinger, whose first performance is July 11.

“I don’t want to go on stage and look like the new person,” she said.

She’ll be onstage for the entire three-hour performance, which includes an intermission.  “It’s a nonstop show … you have to have the stamina and the power to make it through the show.”

This spring, the 28-year-old was unexpectedly offered a chance to attend a Hamilton “bootcamp “of sorts—a nine-day clinic in which dancers are assigned a certain role and learn seven numbers associated with that role.

In bootcamp she was assigned the role of “the bullet,” which helped her land the actual role. Her previous work with the choreographer, as well as people vouching for her, also helped her secure the spot.

“It was definitely a new process, it wasn’t an open call or an invited call where there would be cuts and you keep coming back,” she said

Hollinger said the opportunity was perfectly timed because she’d just returned to dancing after a year on disability. She’d injured her shoulder at the last rehearsal before the first performance of a touring show.  She continued to perform despite the injury and believes that probably worsened it.

“Growing up training as a dancer you have the mindset that if you're not dying and the limb isn't falling off, you go dance,” she said. “That was a lesson, too, I needed to listen to my body. That’s actually something I learned at [George] Mason; knowing the difference between something you can and can’t push through.”

Having professors who worked in the industry meant she knew what New York was going to be like before moving there right after graduation with a classmate from the Mason’s School of Dance.

Between her parents’ saving for her education and the scholarship she received, she exited college with no student loan debt, which made surviving in the city easier. 

“Some [dancers] just move to New York; I’m happy I listened to my mom and went to school first,” she said.

Faculty and staff at the School of Dance said Hollinger’s perseverance, passion and intelligence have clearly taken her far.

"Sasha was a wonderful dance major—she took advantage of every dance class, guest artist opportunity, and performance we had,” said Susan Shields, the school’s director. “Her improvement both technically and artistically was hugely rewarding to watch.”

Performing in “Hamilton” will continue to open doors for her, Hollinger said.

“If people see ‘Hamilton’ on your resume they are going to keep their eye on you,” she said. “Some people probably will look twice at you.”

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