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Feature: Lin-Manuel Miranda on The Times for “tick, tick… BOOM!” & “Encanto”

[ Written on November 22 2021 by Francesca ]

On Saturday November, 19 The Times shared an interview to Lin-Manuel Miranda, where he talks about his latest projects, tick, tick… BOOM! and Encanto.

In our Gallery you can see a new portrat, while below you can read some highlights from the article.

“I definitely hear a ticking clock in my life,” Lin-Manuel Miranda says. “I think that’s clear from a lot of the work I’ve done.” In 2015 the goateed New Yorker somersaulted to the top of the musical-theatre tree as the creator and star of Hamilton. The bravura, hip-hop-powered tale of Alexander Hamilton, one of the more obscure founding fathers of America, became a stage sensation in New York, London and Sydney and won Miranda two Tonys, an Olivier and a Pulitzer, plus an estimated fortune of £60 million. “You write like you’re running out of time,” one of the songs in the show, Non-Stop, said of his restless title character.

Does he ever feel overwhelmed? “Well, I chose to do it,” he says via Zoom from his home in New York, where he lives with his wife, Vanessa Nadal, and their sons, Sebastian, 7, and Francisco, 3. “That’s an important mindshift sometimes. What I learnt from my time at university [he went to Wesleyan in Connecticut] was, ‘Oh, these things can be in conversation with each other. What I’m learning here is applicable there.'” Besides, he adds, “I don’t feel like I’m running out of time so much as that’s the fantasy. Non-Stop is the fantasy of what a writer’s life is like. It’s much more tedious and slow than that. I’m incredibly impatient to get my work out into the world, but I also work on projects that take years to complete.”

One of the things that attracts him to magic realism, he says, citing Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, is “the ways in which magic presents itself as an expression of character”. So the gossipy sister in Encanto has enhanced hearing and the nurturing aunt cooks meals with magical healing properties. “As a songwriter that’s very exciting: to establish themes for all these characters, to dig into how they see themselves or how the family sees them,” Miranda says. “That’s stuff you talk about with your shrink — to write Disney songs about it is really fun.”

Read the whole feature under the cut.

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Feature: ‘In the Heights’ Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jon M. Chu on the Hard Fight to Turn the Groundbreaking Musical Into a Movie

[ Written on April 08 2021 by Francesca ]

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jon M. Chu are VARIETY coverstars and the long coverstory includes a lot of voices from In The Heights.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda was pitching his musical In the Heights nearly two decades ago, Broadway heavyweights stumbled over what he was selling. They wanted the young female protagonist Nina, who drops out of Stanford, to have a more dramatic reason for leaving school than the pressures of being the first in her family to go to college.

“I would get pitches from producers who only had ‘West Side Story’ in their cultural memory,” Miranda recalls. “Like, ‘Why isn’t she pregnant? Why isn’t she in a gang? Why isn’t she coming out of an abusive relationship at Stanford?’ Those are all actual things I was pitched.” He pauses for a moment, not to entertain those queries but to consider their absurdity. “Because the pressure of leaving your neighborhood to go to school is fucking enough. I promise. And if it’s not dramatic enough, that’s on us to show you the fucking stakes.”

Miranda stood his ground. The show that he wanted to create emerged from his memories of growing up in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood and from the painful realization that Broadway roles for Latinos were limited. So he used hip-hop and salsa to pay homage to a close-knit community of immigrants and strivers, bodegas and block parties, friends who feel like family and families that deal with the tensions of trying to make it in the greatest city in the world. In the Heights would eventually open on Broadway in 2008, winning four Tonys and launching Miranda’s career.

Now, that musical is becoming a major summer film directed by Jon M. Chu. The Warner Bros. movie is finally coming out, both in theaters and on the streaming service HBO Max, on June 11. Even after a year’s delay due to the pandemic, the timing couldn’t be better.

And that’s not just because Miranda no longer has to fight to reflect the experiences that have since resonated with countless college students who have felt like Nina. “Because of the specificity of that struggle, I can’t tell you how many people have made it their business to tell me how much it means to them,” Miranda says.

Read the whole story under the cut.

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Feature: Lin-Manuel Miranda on British GQ

[ Written on July 06 2020 by Francesca ]

In a long chat with British GQ, Lin-Manuel Miranda talks about the Hamilton movie, but also about how he is coping with the quarantine life and the projects he is working on at the moment.

In his head, Lin-Manuel Miranda has an alternative timeline of what he would be doing right now. The 40-year-old would have recently finished filming his directorial debut, for one, the Netflix adaption of the Broadway musical Tick, Tick… Boom!, which survived just ten days of shooting before everything shut down. Right now, he says, he should be in the edit.

Instead, he’s on a Zoom call, talking to GQ from his home about a filmed version of Hamilton, which wasn’t due out for another year, and he’s apologising for the fact that it doesn’t say “Lin-Manuel Miranda” on his screen, but “Lin-Sebastian’s dad”, as it “defaults to the time I did a parent-teacher conference”.

Hamilton, for those who’ve somehow missed one of the key cultural moments of the last decade, is the smash-hit Broadway musical that single-handedly made Broadway musicals cool. Written by and initially starring Miranda, it managed to do it, somewhat improbably looking back, by rapping about the Founding Fathers and specifically about a plucky upstart by the name of Alexander Hamilton.

The show itself was nominated for a record-setting 16 Tony Awards, winning eleven along with a Pulitzer, and made Miranda an instant superstar. He’s gone on to Hollywood leading roles – he played chimney sweep Jack in the 2018 Disney remake Mary Poppins Returns – along with seeing his debut musical, In The Heights, set for a big-screen adaption next year.

For now, it’s Hamilton that will be arriving on our screens, courtesy of Disney+. Recorded over two of Miranda’s last performances in the musical, it was rushed forward after lockdown struck. “Once it became clear there was not going to be any theatre for the foreseeable future,” he says, “we all kind of pivoted and said, ‘Oh, this is actually an opportunity to remind people of the power of theatre when there is none.’”

Check the full conversation under the cut.

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Feature: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Most Revolutionary Role Yet on the WSJ.

[ Written on June 22 2020 by Francesca ]

Lin-Manuel Miranda graces the cover of the WSJ. with a long feature in which he talks about his life during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Hamilton movie.

He and Nadal took turns supervising both Sebastian’s Zoom schooling (“Neither of us is quick to be a kindergarten teacher,” he says) and the care of their younger boy, 2-year-old Francisco. Isolated from their families and work colleagues, the Miranda-Nadals maintained their sanity by holding a weekly Thursday-night video cocktail hour with fellow alumni of Hunter College High School, which they both attended in the 1990s. At bedtime, Miranda settled in with Stephen Greenblatt’s book Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, paying particular attention to the passages pertaining to the outbreaks of bubonic plague that regularly befell London and Stratford-upon-Avon in the early 17th century.

“I didn’t read it because I wanted to know more about Shakespeare,” he says of Greenblatt’s book. “I read it as a how-to manual, how to cope when your calling and your livelihood routinely closes down.”

What he has learned, Miranda says, is that the only thing he can count on is uncertainty: “I have to just give up the idea that I know what’s going to happen on the other side of this. I don’t know what the other side looks like. I don’t know what a second wave looks like in the fall. I don’t know what this country looks like after Election Day. I hope it looks different. I have to give up wrestling with that and wrestle with what I can answer.”

Read the whole feature under the cut.

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Feature: Lin-Manuel Miranda on The Atlantic on What Art Can Do

[ Written on November 09 2019 by Francesca ]

Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote an editorial for The Atlantic. Read it below.

The Role of the Artist in the Age of Trump

And the power of stories that are unshakably true

All art is political. In tense, fractious times—like our current moment—all art is political. But even during those times when politics and the future of our country itself are not the source of constant worry and anxiety, art is still political. Art lives in the world, and we exist in the world, and we cannot create honest work about the world in which we live without reflecting it. If the work tells the truth, it will live on.

Public Enemy’s “911 Is a Joke,” George Orwell’s 1984, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s whole damn catalog—all are political works that tell the truth.

Yes, Rodgers and Hammerstein. Consider The Sound of Music. It isn’t just about climbing mountains and fording streams. Look beyond the adorable von Trapp children: It’s about the looming existential threat of Nazism. No longer relevant? A GIF of Captain von Trapp tearing up a Nazi flag is something we see 10 times a day on Twitter, because all sorts of Nazis are out there again in 2019. As last spring’s searing Broadway revival of Oklahoma! revealed, lying underneath Hammerstein’s elephant-eye-high corn and chirping birds is a lawless society becoming itself, bending its rules and procedures based on who is considered part of the community (Curly) and who is marginalized (poor Jud … seriously, poor Jud). Or consider your parents’ favorite, South Pacific. At its center, our hero, Nellie Forbush, must confront her own internalized racism when she learns that the new love of her life has biracial children from a previous marriage. Let your parents know if they forgot: Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals form the spine of Broadway’s “golden age,” and they also deeply engage with the politics of their era.

My first Broadway musical, In the Heights, is an example of how time can reveal the politics inherent within a piece of art. When I began writing this musical, as a college project at Wesleyan University, it was an 80-minute collegiate love story with a promising mix of Latin music and hip-hop, but it was pretty sophomoric (which is appropriate; I was a sophomore). After college, I started from scratch with the director Thomas Kail and the playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes, and we shifted the show’s focus from the love story to Washington Heights, a neighborhood in Upper Manhattan where everyone is from everywhere. In the 20th century, Washington Heights was often home to the latest wave of immigrants. It was an Irish neighborhood; it was a Russian Jewish neighborhood (Yeshiva University is up there). If you take the Dominican store sign down you’ll see a sign for an Irish pub underneath it, and if you take that down you’ll find Hebrew. Washington Heights was heavily Dominican when I was growing up, and it remains so, with a vibrant Mexican and Latin American immigrant community as well.

As we wrote about this Upper Manhattan community on the verge of change, we looked to our musical-theater forebears. In Cabaret, the upheaval facing the characters in Berlin is the rise of the Nazi Party. In Fiddler on the Roof, the town of Anatevka struggles to hold on to its traditions as the world changes around it, and the threat of pogroms looms. For our musical world, upheaval comes in the form of gentrification. This is obviously different from fascism and pogroms; it’s not even in the same moral universe. How you begin to dramatize something as subtle and multifaceted as gentrification poses some tricky questions. We threw our characters into the same dilemma faced by their real-life working-class counterparts: What do we do when we can’t afford to live in the place we’ve lived all our lives, especially when we are the ones who make the neighborhood special and attractive to others? Each of the characters confronts this question differently: One sacrifices the family business to ensure his child’s educational future. Another relocates to the less expensive Bronx. Our narrator decides to stay, despite the odds, taking on the responsibility of telling this neighborhood’s stories and carrying on its traditions.

We received great reviews. If critics had a common criticism, it was that the show, its contemporary music aside, was somehow old-fashioned or “sentimental.” Gentrification, the businesses closing, the literal powerlessness as the characters face a blackout that affects only their neighborhood—these issues, always there in the material, didn’t register with most theater critics in 2008. In the Heights was considered a hit by Broadway standards. It didn’t leap off the Arts page and into the national conversation like Hamilton would, but we won some Tonys, recouped our investment, and had a wonderful three-year run at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where Hamilton now lives. We posted our Broadway closing notice at the end of 2010.

What a difference 10 years makes.

Right now, Jon M. Chu is editing his feature-film adaptation of In the Heights, which is scheduled to be released in June. We spent a joyous summer shooting the film—on location, in our neighborhood—and issues that were always inherent in the text now stand out in bold-faced type. Gentrification has rendered Lower Manhattan, Harlem, and much of Brooklyn unrecognizable to the previous generations that called those neighborhoods home. The East Village of Jonathan Larson’s Rent is nonexistent, lettered avenues notwithstanding. And the narrative of immigrants coming to this country and making a better life for themselves—the backdrop of everything that happens in In the Heights, across three generations of stories—is somehow a radical narrative now.

Donald Trump came down the escalator to declare his presidential run, and in his first speech he demonized Mexicans: They’re rapists; they’re bringing drugs; they’re not sending their best people. We young Latinos had thought of our parents and grandparents as the latest wave making its home in this country, and we thought that we would be the next group to make this place a better place, to prove once again that the American dream wasn’t just a figment of some propagandist’s imagination. And now we’re in a different age when, for some, considering an immigrant a human being is a radical political act.

Consider this rap, written 12 years ago and delivered by Sonny, In the Heights’ youngest character, in a song called “96,000”:

“Your kids are living without a good edumacation,
Change the station, teach ’em about gentrification,
The rent is escalatin’
The rich are penetratin’
We pay our corporations when we should be demonstratin’
What about immigration?
Politicians be hatin’
Racism in this nation’s gone from latent to blatant”

It was always political. It was always there. Donald Trump made it even more true.

Trump uses language to destroy empathy. He criminalizes the impulse and imperative to seek asylum, to seek a place to live thousands of miles away because the alternative at home is worse. Through his lens, these seekers are not people; they’re “animals” or “bad hombres.”

What artists can do is bring stories to the table that are unshakably true—the sort of stories that, once you’ve heard them, won’t let you return to what you thought before. I think about the crisis on the border constantly. I think about the famous photograph of a little girl crying beside a Border Patrol truck. That picture went viral because it seemed to capture the horror of family separations. But it turned out that the girl wasn’t being separated from her mother—her mother had simply been ordered to put her daughter down while she was searched by agents. The family was in distress, and the border crisis was real, but people used the details of this particular incident to close themselves off from empathy. “Fake news,” they said. A child is crying for her mother, but that’s not enough to keep people from pushing empathy away. I believe great art is like bypass surgery. It allows us to go around all of the psychological distancing mechanisms that turn people cold to the most vulnerable among us.

At the end of the day, our job as artists is to tell the truth as we see it. If telling the truth is an inherently political act, so be it. Times may change and politics may change, but if we do our best to tell the truth as specifically as possible, time will reveal those truths and reverberate beyond the era in which we created them. We keep revisiting Shakespeare’s Macbeth because ruthless political ambition does not belong to any particular era. We keep listening to Public Enemy because systemic racism continues to rain tragedy on communities of color. We read Orwell’s 1984 and shiver at its diagnosis of doublethink, which we see coming out of the White House at this moment. And we listen to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, as Lieutenant Cable sings about racism, “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” It’s all art. It’s all political.

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