• December 10, 2023

How Lin-Manuel Miranda And Quiara Alegría Hudes Assert Dignity With ‘In The Heights’ : NPR

Benny (Corey Hawkins), Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV) and Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) chat at Usnavi’s Bodega Washington Heights. Macall Polay / Warner Bros. Pictures / 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Hide caption

Toggle caption

Macall Polay / Warner Bros. Pictures / 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Benny (Corey Hawkins), Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV) and Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) chat at Usnavi’s Bodega Washington Heights.

Macall Polay / Warner Bros. Pictures / 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Before there was Hamilton, there was In the Heights.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s exploration of the American dream began in his own hometown of Manhattan – which contains the first chapter of many American stories, he says. In particular, Miranda’s first Tony-winning musical is set in the immigrant neighborhood of Washington Heights.

“I think there are a lot of metaphors that this has always been an immigrant neighborhood,” says Miranda. “We live on a mountain in a city.”

Both Miranda and screenwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes are children of Puerto Rican migrants. They translated their personal relationships with home and identity to the characters in In the Heights.

'In the Heights' explodes with joy

Everyone in In the Heights has great ambitions to finish college or even leave the United States behind. When the main character Usnavi de la Vega, played by Anthony Ramos, gets his bodega ready for service in the morning, he leads his neighbors to another day to work on their dreams in America.

It’s a story about whether to hold on or move on, and what it means to belong to a community while striving for more.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered, the duo discussed the power of place, the responsibility of storytelling, and what this film means as one of the first to hit theaters after the pandemic.

In the Heights was released in US theaters and on HBO Max on June 11th.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview highlights

Ailsa Chang: So many of the stories in this work are about having more – being more, going beyond the neighborhood.

But at the same time the neighborhood pulls people back, it gives them identity and community, and I was wondering if there is a discussion about depicting that tension: when a community is part of your identity, it also makes you want more .

Like Quiara, I know you grew up in West Philly and Lin in Inwood, Manhattan. Was there a similar push / pull for any of you growing up?

Quiara Alegría Hudes: One of the things I associated a lot with Lin when I first met him was that our parents were from Puerto Rico and they couldn’t just pop in and pocket in a community. You had to build the community. If you inherit this it’s like, well how am I supposed to build?

And I think they knew earlier than I did that I wanted to build in part by telling them. Tell the story. You know, they were honestly too busy to talk about work. And so my mom and dad saw that in me from the start and pushed me.

But actually part of that construction work – I had to leave the church. I had to further my education in a different way and had to get to know other spaces. And there is a line in the film that goes, “We are people on the move”. It really comes from my personal experience from my heart where it is, you know, it’s not just that we’re from Arecibo, Puerto Rico. No, actually we’re from Lares. We had to leave Lares for political reasons – go to Arecibo. Then we had to go to the Bronx. Then when my mother’s apartment was robbed, they quickly moved to Philadelphia. Then I went and went to college, you know, and the journey goes on and the relationship with home gets more robust, more complicated and I think richer.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: Its so funny. You know something happens when you stay in a neighborhood. I live just a few minutes’ walk from the place where I was born. From the apartment I can walk to where I took piano lessons as a little boy [from which] I am talking to you now. And then I can walk 15 blocks north and find the exact spot in the monastery where I wrote my scariest teen poetry and stared at Hudson, “Nobody has ever felt as deeply as I do now.”

And that’s now part of my morning run. And I have two children and they live in this area. And that’s not the George Washington Bridge. This is your bridge.

'In The Heights' dances off the stage, onto the street, onto the screen

One of the most memorable lines from this story [is], “We had to maintain our dignity on a small scale.” That’s what Abuela Claudia says. “Small details that tell the world that we are not invisible.”Quiara, what does this line mean to you?

Joy Hudes: This line reminds me of my own childhood, of every little lesson that Abuela would give me, that Titi Jenny would give me, the Tia Moncha, Tia Rosa.

I think about how my Abuela taught me how to cook rice and she giggled and laughed at me! “Oh poor Qui Qui” when I asked her, “Okay, well, where is the measuring cup?” She says, “No … no, Bendita, we put it in your hand.”

These are the little things. And she was proud to tell me that. And that is part of our dignity to pass on our little wisdom, you know, not on a grand scale, but only through eye contact and in close contact from generation to generation.

And Lin, I mean, you’ve gone from Usnavi, who starred in the original Broadway production more than a decade ago, to the Piragua Guy.

Miranda: The way I played it actually became a way of honoring my grandfather. My father’s father, Abuelo Güisin, died a week after In the Heights opened on Broadway. He didn’t notice anything about the success of Heights.

And when I was cast for the role, I just said, “I’m going to turn this into a love letter to Abuelo Güisin.” So I wear his glasses around my neck. I have his cowboy novels. The opening shot shows me reading one of my grandfather’s cowboy novels. I wear my socks way too high.

I wish you could have been there when my family first saw the movie in Puerto Rico because [of] the screams that I’m in Abuelo cosplay, basically.

'In The Heights' is a spirited, socially undistant summer audience request Please

I finally want to ask about the timing of this film as it will be one of the first summer films to hit theaters as the pandemic is slowly subsiding. How do you think timing could affect the way people take this story?

Miranda: I find it extremely moving. We filmed this in the summer of 2019 before the pandemic broke out. And I know that when I see a picture of two people standing close together, I have been labeled, “Are you okay? Are you kidding?

And this film is such a love letter to the power of being in community with one another, being on the roadside, hugging each other, dancing together. It’s such a reminder of the power of it. I’m really confident that it will remind people of how we used to be and how we can hopefully be back one day.

Sam Gringlas and Sarah Handel produced and edited this interview for radio. Halisia Hubbard adapted it for the web.

Source link


Read Previous

NHL Playoffs Daily 2021 – Stanley Cup semifinal bracket is set

Read Next

‘I have these really deep beliefs about stability and survival’: Anna Sale, host of ‘Death, Sex and Money’ podcast, on our evolving relationship to money

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *