Eighth graders wait outside the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco before entering to watch a performance of “Hamilton.” A new documentary called “9,000 8th Graders” features their trip to see the musical. (Contributed Photo)

MONTEREY COUNTY — It was an extraordinary idea that Monterey’s nonprofit Dan and Lillian King Foundation’s board member, Marc Del Piero, had: How about giving every eighth grader in Monterey County the opportunity to go for free to see the historical musical “Hamilton: An American Musical” at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco?

After all, the mission of the Dan and Lillian King Foundation is to educate Monterey County’s students on the genesis of the U.S Constitution, and the California State curriculum requires U.S. history in eighth grade — a perfect match.

Del Piero got the go-ahead and the coordination efforts began, between the Tony Award-winning show’s management, the Monterey County Office of Education, bus transportation companies and individual schools in a wide mix of communities, including Monterey, Pacific Grove, King City, Salinas, Carmel, Spreckels, Greenfield, Pebble Beach and Pajaro.

For over four months starting in August 2019, award-winning Monterey filmmakers Terri DeBono and Steve Rosen of Mac and Ava Motion Pictures visited 13 middle schools, filming the complex preparation with teachers and staff at the Monterey County Office of Education. They interviewed numerous teachers, principals and students; they were in a dozen U.S. history classes; they filmed three bus trips; and waited in line with students at the Orpheum Theater.

“Our film focuses on the before: the kids’ anticipation, wonder and excitement of attending a Broadway play,” said DeBono, who produced “9,000 8th Graders.” “And, it shows the after: their understanding and appreciation for our Founding Fathers, a group of young idealistic men who worked diligently, despite their differences, to give us the assurance of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Connecting the musical to the U.S. Constitution will make a difference to them.”

The 54-minute film, “9,000 8th Graders,” debuts May 16 on KSBW-TV Channel 8 at 7 p.m.; Central Coast ABC on May 23 at 6:30 p.m.; and Estrella TV on May 23 at 9 a.m. In the Bay Area, it airs on KPIX TV on May 16 at 7 p.m., and KBCW 44 on May 24 at 7 p.m.

Mac And Ava Motion Pictures, founded by DeBono and Rosen in 1987, has produced many award-winning films, including the social issue documentaries “Beyond Barbed Wire,” “Accidental Hero: Room 408,” “My Name is Belle” and “Boyhood Shadows.”

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