Men in the Arts: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Within the past year, a certain founding father has captured the spotlight of the nation. Alexander Hamilton, the mastermind behind the first national bank of the United States, has slowly become a household name. Not because of his great contribution to this country, but because of a small time playwright and composer from Washington Heights.
Lin-Manuel Miranda was born in New York, New York on January 16, 1980 to Luz Towns and Luis Miranda Jr. Mostly of Puerto Rican descent, he spent a month each summer with his grandparents in the town of Vega Alta. As a theatre major at Wesleyan University, Miranda and his classmates founded a hip hop comedy troupe entitled Freestyle Love Supreme. Miranda grew up in the Washington Heights district of Manhattan and with his troupe, completed the first draft of In the Heights to showcase the life of the inner city kids. It was performed for the first time in front of an audience in the spring of 1999. During his undergraduate career, he wrote and directed other musicals. In addition to production, he performed in musicals and plays ranging from Broadway classics to Shakespeare.
In the Heights was Miranda’s first major success. After seeing its success as a student-run production, director Thomas Kail picked it up for a limited off-Broadway run. The musical gained popularity instantly and went to Broadway in 2008. It won two Tony awards, including one nomination for Best Actor in a musical. In the Heights went on to play over 1,000 performances and closed on January 9, 2011.
After the hustle and bustle of In the Heights, Miranda took some time off of composing to act in film and television. He has appeared on several blockbuster TV shows, such as The Sopranos, House MD, Modern Family and more. Because these roles only required him to stay for a maximum of three episodes, he picked up a job teaching English at his former high school. In his spare time, he wrote newspaper columns and reviewed restaurants.
Before the success of In the Heights, Miranda had been working on a draft of a musical that would feature one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. He performed one track at the White House in 2009, but for the next few years, nothing became of that show. In 2015, Thomas Kail again picked up Lin-Manuel’s show and premiered it off-Broadway at The Public Theater. The musical, starring the creator himself in the title role, received highly positive reviews and every performance was sold out. Hamilton immediately transitioned to Broadway in July of 2015 and is continuing to pack the house each night. The success of Hamilton led not only to the popularity of Miranda and his career, but to the history of the birth of our nation. In April 2016, author Jeremy McCarter released a book entitled Hamilton: The Revolution which detailed and documented the journey behind the making of this successful Broadway musical and also the cultural significance of the revolution. Within its first year on the Great White Way, Hamilton won 11 Tony Awards, 2 Drama League Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and a Grammy Award amongst several others.
Miranda left Hamilton in July of 2016. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife, Vanessa, and his son, Sebastian and is scheduled to perform next in Mary Poppins sequel entitled, Mary Poppins Returns.
“Today we laughed, we cried, we mourned, we danced. What more could we ask of that electric word, life?” - Lin-Manuel Miranda