In the Heights: Latin Life on Stage
Often, there is a misrepresentation of Hispanic people in media. However, Lin Manuel Miranda, famous Hispanic actor, composer and playwright, sought to change that narrative. As a freshman in college, he wrote a first draft of the show In the Heights, a now-famous Broadway show that depicts daily real-life of the Hispanic community in Washington Heights- a section of New York City.
The story follows Usnavi de la Vega, a Dominican shop owner, who was raised by his Abuela, a grandmother-like figure, after the passing of his parents. He is in love with a woman named Vanessa and has dreams of moving to the Dominican Republic. Between the pursuit of Vanessa and interactions with other characters, Nina and Benny, the plot of the show exposes family struggles including low income, lack of employment and love/family affairs. Despite these strained relationships, the play demonstrates the resilience and perseverance of the characters. The focus on intrapersonal relationships and communal way of living directly reflects Hispanic culture.
The success with the show led to thirteen Lin Manuel’s to thirteen Tony Award nominations. In 2008, the show won four awards, including Best Musical. With that, Lin Manuel became a staple figure for cultural diversity and enjoys continued success with his current hit show Hamilton.
Theatrics and stage productions serve as a platform to express an almost infinite amount of emotions, thoughts and opinions. Through the stage, actors, directors, tech support, ensemble and orchestral members all are able to self-express and identify freely and become one with their intrinsic side in the performance of a show. In that respect, musicals and plays are empowering. Cal U’s theatre department, spearheaded by Dr. Michele Pagen, is fantastic in every sense of the word, providing a creative and educational environment for students with a very sophisticated and diverse curriculum. Their winter production this year is the musical Elf, based on the family movie everyone knows and loves. Try your best to grab a seat when tickets are on sale! ~R. Rivera
For more information on In the Heights and Cal U’s Theatre Program: