The excited screams of standing fans who try to sneak a peek of the Emmy Award-winning actor fill the room. In walks MacArthur Fellowship holder Lin-Manuel Miranda or as many others know him, Alexander Hamilton.
The cheers and screams are multiplied as soon as Miranda mentions that his play, Hamilton, will be showcased in the university’s theater in January 2019. The atmosphere is filled with excitement and glee, to the point when Miranda tells the students not to rush, that this is their time. The moderator Carmen Haydee Rivera, dean of the Humanities faculty and president of the Junta de Teatro, commences the event with inquiring why he has chosen the theater of the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, to showcase the famed musical; an obvious question to any individual. Miranda replies: “Because that’s the dream, the IUPI need’s this, we need it more than ever”.
While the actor, playwright, and composer was not born and raised on the island, his parents and his family originate here in Puerto Rico. His emotional and cultural ties grew, regardless of being born in New York. He further elaborates by stating that Puerto Rican crowds and fans are incomparable and that he would be too jealous to allow a fellow actor to play the titular role of Alexander Hamilton and miss out on the experience of performing for la IUPI.
After declaring: “this is your time”, the question portion of the event commences. Excited students line-up on two parallel microphones to ask Miranda questions ranging from casting details to advise for aspiring actors. His advice is laid upon receiving ears that are eager to learn. When asked about how to make it in show business, he says that for aspiring actors auditioning is not the interview, it is the job; while one may not be chosen for the job it may be caused by elements completely independent from yourself, not as a result of lack of talent. He also declares that you mustn’t depend just on what you’re good at, but to expand. You should be what some may call “an overall threat” or how Lin-Manuel put it: “practicar lo que no se te hace facíl.”
When asked a question about his support for the controversial government policy known as PROMESA, Miranda said that while at that time he found it was key for debt restructuring, he know realizes the damaging effect PROMESA has had on the university. He goes as far as to say that going forward we need to cancel this debt, especially after the crisis that Puerto Rico has faced as a result of hurricane Maria.
“¡Lin Manuel vende patria” is heard at the top of a young man’s voice. Three pairs of students holding different signs take a hold of the stage. Among the signs one reads: “¡Lin-Manuel nuestras vidas no son tu teatro!”
The crowd of students chants, “¡y fuera, y fuera!”, while the actor sits quietly, allowing the students to express their protest. The students appear to be demonstrating against the current governmental and political situation. Miranda acknowledges: “Estos son tiempos dificiles. Yo no tengo todas las soluciones. No las tengo, y es bueno que eso pase. Eso es parte de la conversación. Nosotros estamos teniendo conversaciones aqui y hay tiempo para que todo el mundo tenga sus voces oidas.”
Once the protesters are taken off the stage, the event continues with Lin-Manuel elaborating that he is here to make art and he only wishes to make Puerto Rico proud.
As the event continues a student question the possibility of gender-blind casting. Expressing his agreement with this possibility Miranda states: “That’s the thing about the show, it’s America then being told by America now.”
Another question pops up from an aspiring writer. This writer inquires about the field. To this, Miranda says that one must always record what’s happening because as a writer one needs a full spectrum of emotions available and thus represent them in his or her writing.
A few students speak praise and some show inquisitiveness. They are all replied by a supportive voice in Miranda. He is encouraging to those who want to make it: “Las ideas buenas aguantan, for every show you’ve seen tengo seis mas en una gaveta.”
“No one’s gonna write your dream show. No one’s going to do it for you. It’s up to you to write it.” He says.
The pleasant evening is concluded in a musical manner with a small freestyle session between Lin-Manuel and a drama student, creative sparks flying.