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September 28, 2016
By Maggie Roache, Nazareth
On a brisk Friday night at rush hour, the Lyric Opera building was buzzing, full of thousands of people of all ages: from little children to senior citizens, to high school theatre groups squealing with excitement. They were all there for one reason: to see Hamilton creator and recognized genius Lin Manuel Miranda speak with Chris Jones. Tickets to see him sold out in 10 minutes, and it was quickly evident how much the audience adored this man based on the standing ovation he received upon entering and the screams that erupted from the balconies right after he simply said “Pretty good”. However, at this point, Miranda has probably gotten pretty used to the hysterical response that accompanies his presence: he had to escape through Shuffle Along’s theatre during his last month in Hamilton due to the extreme crowds at the stage door. Though that specifically is one of the major negatives to fame, there have been many perks, the simplest of which Miranda seems to have enjoyed the most. He told Jones a story about a time when he was struggling to find somewhere to tie up his dog before he went into a store and a construction worker on the corner said “Relax Usnavi, [the name of Miranda’s character in his show In the Heights] I’ll hold her until you get back.” Miranda said, “that’s all I wanted out of fame.”
Miranda, sporting one of his TeeRico “VoteVote” t-shirts, instantly got comfortable with the audience, taking off his shoes since he tends to “tell the truth more” when his shoes are off. Jones and Miranda talked through different highlights of Miranda’s career, beginning by talking about Hamilton and the idea of legacy, a central theme to the musical. “It’s not about what you do in your life, but who survives you,” Miranda stated. He elaborated that people “are survived by those who love us”, and based solely on the turnout to his conversation with Chris Jones, it seems that there will be plenty of generations of people in love with Lin Manuel Miranda more than willing to pass on his story. After all, if Miranda is able to speak about legacy and death and still have the audience laughing, what does that say about his charm?
They continued by talking about Miranda’s life growing up in New York: how his world was a map of the NY subway and the months he would spend in Puerto Rico. Miranda reminded the audience of the current troubles in Puerto Rico: the lights had been turned off for two days. Miranda’s constant advocacy is quite possibly his most defining characteristic: whether it is reminding people to vote, calling attention to the problems in Puerto Rico, or calling for legislation to regulate ticket bots. The truly remarkable thing about Miranda is that he does all of this while writing music for Disney, performing, greeting his Twitter followers in a different way every morning and night and not to mention, helping to raise his almost 2 year-old son.
Miranda continued by describing his first show, In the Heights, as a love letter to his family in Puerto Rico, which seems to be a recurring theme in his work: back in December, he told GQ that Hamilton was a valentine to hip hop. Perhaps that is why things have worked out so well for Miranda: he reminded the audience that only 1 in 5 shows that makes it to Broadway earns its money back, and went on to say “You can’t do something because you believe it will make money, you have to do it because you believe in it.” All of Miranda’s work has been done out of love, whether it is a love letter to Puerto Rico, a valentine to hip hop, a sonnet to his wife and the victims of Orlando, or anything else, and perhaps that is why his work has been so successful, because it is refreshingly genuine. Love seemed to be the theme of the night, as Miranda went on to express his love for Chicago when Chris Jones asked him to freestyle about everything Chicago related from deep dish pizza to Rahm Emmanuel to Oprah to Chance the Rapper and on.
Overall, the night was an opportunity for the audience to see the mastermind behind the story and the characters they had all fallen in love with through his music and to receive some of his wisdom, to witness a piece of his genius firsthand. Miranda did just that, leaving them with some pretty great advice: “Do what you love and don’t let anyone stop you.”
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