“The impact of arts education on my career is complete and total, and it saved my life,” Lin-Manuel Miranda confirmed. Recounting his first experiences in musical theater with teachers Barbara Ames and Robert Sherman at Hunter Elementary School in New York City, Miranda recalled the many roles he played in a marathon, student-led sixth-grade production… “I played Conrad Birdie, a cowhand in Oklahoma!, a son in Fiddler, Captain Hook, Bernardo in West Side Story - natch - and an Addaperle backup in the Wizard of Oz-slash-The Wiz,” Miranda explained. “This is a very lethal dose of musical theater at a very young age,” he observed, “and I thought, I am doing this for the rest of my life, if they will let me.”
Miranda’s personal history with and experiences in dance began with “Puerto Rican Dance Training 101,” he explained, “which is my father, Luis Miranda, telling me, ‘You’re gonna learn to salsa, or you’re gonna get out of the house.’” During his years in high school, “While everyone was playing racquetball and football, I was doing the foxtrot and do-si-do. I was one of three boys in the [social dance] class, thinking, Why is anyone doing anything else? This is awesome!” While attending Wesleyan University, where Miranda and Appel first met as undergraduates, “I took Ballet 1 and Ballet 2 with [Patricia L. Beaman]…I was always taking dance classes concurrently with everything else I was doing.” Miranda spoke appreciatively of the “mind-altering experience” working with acclaimed choreographers Andy Blankenbuehler and Luis Salgado on his first Broadway musical, In the Heights, and subsequent projects.
“I don’t know any other way to write except to give every character I’m writing every bit of humanity that I have, and to find my way in. It has to be as honest as possible.”
If resources and time were limitless, what would you be doing right now?
“I need time to be finite,” Miranda responded. “I need finite resources. Restrictions help you be creative, as anyone who’s good at chess will tell you, as anyone who’s written a haiku or a sonnet will tell you. The form unlocks the work.”