In the Heights: A Conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer and lyricist of In the Heights, spoke on campus as part of the 2011-2012 Cooper Series. The conversation (beginning at 7:35 after introductions) also features Rafael Zapata, assistant dean and director of the Intercultural Center, Ana Rosado '12, and Luciano Martinez, assistant professor of Spanish. In the Heights, which received four 2008 Tony Awards including Best Musical, tells the story of a vibrant community in Manhattan's Washington Heights - a neighborhood on the brink of change and manifesting the tensions that arise from gentrification, social mobility, conflicting loyalties, and family expectations. In addition to discussing In the Heights, Miranda also discusses and shares new material from a project about Alexander Hamilton (1 hr. 7 min).


Audio Transcript

Rafael: Good evening, everyone. How are you? [crosstalk 00:00:05] Good, good. Thank you so much for coming out to today's Cooper Series Event. It's made possible by a generous grant from the William J. Cooper Foundation here at the college. That is allowing us to bring ... The purpose of which is to bring people who are primary in their fields, and of course we have Lin-Manuel Miranda here today in the Phillips Theater and Music.

Lin-Manuel: Hi, y'all. What's going on?

Rafael: Tonight's event is co-sponsored by the Intercultural Center by ENLACE, the Department of Spanish Language and Literature, the Department of Theater and, again, made possible by a grant by the Cooper Foundation. Tonight's event is going to be a conversation, which is why you see us seated in this way. The structure of tonight will begin with some introduction, there'll be a screening, a short clip, and maybe about 20 minutes or 25 minutes from this group, who I'll introduce.

To my right is Luciano Martinez, assistant professor of Spanish and chair of the Latin America Studies program here at Swarthmore. We have ... Applause for them. Also, they'll be [inaudible 00:01:17]. We have Anna Rosado, class of 12. Senior. We have Lin-Manuel Miranda and, of course, I am. I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Rafael Zapata, I'm assistant Dean of the college, director of the cultural center, and dean of the sophomore class. It's my privilege to be here with you this evening, so just a brief introduction of Lin-Manuel.

He is a Tony Award-winning playwright composer and lyricist of the Broadway play "In The Heights", which received four 2008 Tony Awards, including best orchestration, best choreography, and best musical with Mr. Miranda receiving a Tony Award for best score, as well a nomination for best leading actor in a musical. Off Broadway, "In The Heights" received nine Drama Desk nominations and an award for outstanding ensemble performance. "In The Heights" also won the Lucille Lortel Award for an Outer Critics Circle award for best musical. Additionally, Mr. Miranda received an Obie Award for outstanding music and lyrics for the show.

 "In The Heights" also earned a 2009 Grammy Award for its original Broadway cast album. Miranda wrote the first incarnation of "In The Heights" during his sophomore year at Wesleyan University. Believe it. As an actor, Mr. Miranda received a 2007 Theatre World Award for outstanding debut performance et cetera, et cetera. He also received ASCAP Foundations Richard Rogers New Horizons Award and is a National Arts Club Medal of Honor recipient.

He is co-founder and member of Freestyle Loves Supreme, a popular hip hop improv group that performs regularly in New York City. The group fusions hip hop story telling, improv, and musical theater; it has toured all over the world, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as the Aspen, Melbourne, and Montreal Comedy Festival. Recently, Mr. Miranda contributed new songs to the upcoming revival of Stephen Schwartz's "Working" and worked with author Lorenz and Stephen Sondheim on Spanish translations for the 2009 Broadway revival of "West Side Story". He is currently working on "The Hamilton Mix Tape", a hip hop album based upon the life of Alexander Hamilton. Yes, that Alexander Hamilton.

He performed part of it at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and Spoken Word on May 12, 2009. He's currently working on a musical theater version of "Bring It On", as well as the film version of "In The Heights". His TV and film credits include "The Electric Company", "The Sopranos", and "The Sex in The City" movie. So just little bit of background on Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Lin-Manuel: When you say it like that, it sounds impressive. It's awesome.

Rafael: Anna Rosado will give a little bit of background on the play "In The Heights".

Anna: Okay, so I'm gonna give a very brief synopsis of the play and then I'm gonna show a clip. It was the performance from the 2008 Tony Awards. Just so those of you who haven't seen the play can get a sense of the set. During another brutal New York City heat wave, under the constant figure of the George Washington Bridge, fire escapes lines with the flags of Latin American countries, we find "In The Heights". A diverse cast of characters brings Washington Heights to life on the stage. There is Usnavi, the Dominican bodeguero who dreams constantly of returning to the single greatest place in the Caribbean, while supplying the block with their sweet café con leche.

Abuela Claudia, the patriarch of the block who immigrated from Cuba in 1942, preaches [Spanish 00:05:08]. Nina, back home after struggling through her freshman year at Stanford, worries about disappointing her parents and her community. Vanessa, Usnavi's love interest, dreams of hopping on the train to an apartment in the West Village, to name a few. This play allows unheard voices to be heard, and untold stories to be spoken, in a way that remains honest and true to the people they represent. "In The Heights" is a story about family, of love, of community, of chasing your dreams and, most of all, it is about finding home.

I will play the clip for you right now.

Lin-Manuel:   I'm gonna sit with y'all. I want to watch it.

(singing).

Alec Baldwin cameo.

(singing).

That happened.

Rafael:  Just very quickly, how many people saw the play "In The Heights"? Oh, wow, we got a lot of [crosstalk 00:07:45] The Heights, so. I don't know, you want to jump in?

Anna:   Yeah.

Rafael:  Go ahead, Anna. Start the conversation.

Anna:  My question to you is did you feel any additional pressure in your process, as a writer, because you are a Latino writing about Latinos? In the sense that it can be a real double edged sword. Your words can be taken very seriously to represent the entire Latino community, so I was wondering if you thought about that while you were writing at all.

Lin-Manuel:  I grew to think about that. When I started writing it, no one was taking my words seriously. I was 19 years old and I was just writing a story that I really wanted to write. As we continued developing the show and it looked like we were gonna get a production, what I thought about ... And I didn't think about it very consciously in terms of the creating of the show, but it was in my mind, was I was very conscious of the way Latinos have been portrayed before on stage. I was Bernardo in sixth grade, I directed "West Side Story" my senior year in high school. I saw Paul Simon's "The Capeman" my senior year in high school as well, and that show just about broke my heart. Not so much for the show, but the fact that it was 40 years after West Side Story and we still had knives in our hands and we were still gang members.

There were things I very consciously did not want to represent, that I feel like Latinos and crime are very overrepresented in the media. I didn't feel the need to represent that at all, that wasn't the story I was interested in telling. I think the biggest thing is I really wanted it to feel honest to my experience and Quiara, my co-writer, her experience growing up in a Latino neighborhood. If I took a quiz on Puerto Rican history or Dominican history, I would fail, some things and not others. My Spanish is good, but not great, and my goal was to portray it as emotionally and honestly as possible.

I'm sure there are people more qualified than me to write a play about the Latin American history and how we get to America. My goal was to tell these story of these characters and I did the research I needed to do that honestly. When I was writing the story of Abuela Claudia and her journey here, that was the farthest outside my experience, because she really is that first generation who planted a flag in a neighborhood that was not a latino neighborhood and sort of worked her way up. I did a lot of research on Cuba and that initial wave of migration in the 40s, and then your job is to forget about it. You're not writing a history paper, your job is to write this woman's story, so you choose, "Okay, when did she get here? What was her experience?"

It's a mix of people asking me, "Well, you're Puerto Rican, why isn't Usnavi Puerto Rican?" That felt wrong to me. Washington Heights is really a very Dominican neighborhood and it felt wrong to have the main character not be Dominican, so I'm a Puerto Rican playing a Dominican when I did the show. There's little things like that, and it's a thousand little decisions of what feels right and we really went with our gut in terms of that.

Luciano: The first time I saw the play, I was very happily surprised about the way in which Spanish appears in the play. That's not some words scattered here and there, but rather there are several parts that the characters are interacting several lines in Spanish. I was very happy about that, which I already ... So I will get to the question, but since I want to share.

Lin-Manuel: Yeah, yeah, thank you.

Luciano:  I'm a professor and I get professional deformation. A professor cannot shout half the question, they need a lecture, but no, seriously, I really thought ... Which, for me, was so powerful, bilingualism as a stable feature of Latino identity, rather than a step along the way to English monolingualism, so I wonder ... I was very happy with myself, so everyone [inaudible 00:12:02]. No, so I was wondering how ... If you were conscious about this, how did you envision this interplay of languages and how the audience ... There's always two questions, how the audience reacted.

Lin-Manuel: Yes. Well, it was ... First of all, monolingualism, bilingualism aside, it's enormous fun to write in two languages. It's enormous fun to write songs where we rhyme Spanish with English. We had a great system of checks and balances, in that our director Tommy spoke no Spanish, so I'd write sections and he'd go, "Okay, you lost me." We knew our goal in this show ... There are certainly plays that seek to provoke and there are certainly plays that seek to alienate. This is a show that I wanted everyone to feel as welcome as possible in this neighborhood, the same way I felt welcomed in Anatevka, when I saw Fiddler on the Roof, even though that's totally outside my experience.

The fun with the language really is ... One, anyone who works with words for a living is gonna have fun with that. I remember having fights with my Spanish teachers in high school when they talked about ... I mean, I had a very Spanish purist Spanish teacher who was like, "Spanglish is fun, but it's a mongrel thing between two things." And that just is not how I experienced, and I'm biased. I spoke Spanish at home and English at school and I spoke a mix of both but, at the same time, what's fun is then consciously picking, "Well, okay, why do I feel the impulse for this character to speak in Spanish here?" I'm someone who very much writes first and then goes back and edits and goes, "All right, well, let's be smart and how are we using this?"

One of my favorite sections, it was one of the last sections we wrote for the show, is a section in Nina's song, "Breathe", where the community is singing to her in Spanish and they're singing about their expectations for her. They're saying "Nina, Nina, [Spanish 00:14:02]." We're not worried about her, and she sings, "They're not worried about me." The challenge of having her basically translate all of the burdens and expectations they're placing on her.

Every line they sing, she sings it back to them in English, increasingly freaked out until she bursts into this whole other soliloquy. It also solved dramatic problems. We had a section, there's a song at the top of act two called "Sunrise" and there were a lot of bad versions of that song. I probably wrote ten versions of that song and they were very melodramatic. (singing). That wasn't really the song, don't quote that. It was awful, but I kept writing versions of that song and it kept turning into a bad eighties rock ballad and Tommy Kail was actually the one, he said, "Well, we've set up this English lesson, Spanish lesson between Nina and Benny, why don't we start there? And go from there?"

Once he said that, the song got written in about 15 minutes. It was such a nice way to illustrate the difference between them, as opposed to singing about the differences between them. Any time, as a writer, you can show and not tell and not say, "But I am scared about this." That's way less interesting than just seeing that difference explicitly in the way they interact.

Rafael:  I think that was a strength throughout the play, not just in the language. The way that people spoke are how people speak in everyday life, right? It wasn't kind of trying to alter it, at least in my opinion. They were very recognizable, coming from a community similar to that, so it resonated very much. I feel like the stories that you told of the different people in the community, some people wanted to get out. I'm like, "I'm trying to move downtown." The other people are trying to move back to DR and there are other people who are like, "Well, why would you want to leave?" And I think all those kind of taken together reflect how people experience community and, at least what you described, as what this play is about, it's about home.

Can you talk a little bit about how you were able to ... Or just, how does that resonate or ... Talk a little bit about that.

Lin-Manuel: That's a great observation. The great musicals are about stuff, and when we settled on home as, "We've been writing our way around this, but home's the word. Home's the thing we're circling here." We didn't have easy answers for it, because it's a neighborhood like any other. It's got its good points and it's got its problems and, in terms of what's the external force that is changing this neighborhood, gentrification is very much that.

However, I was terrified of a version of "In The Heights" where there was a mustache twirling villain saying, "I'm gonna turn your businesses into a high rise." That's not interesting to me, and it's not accurate. That's not how it works, it's a really complicated ... gentrification is a complicated series of rents rising and school districts and what building can be torn down and that changes the ... I mean, it's complicated. There's only so much of that you can bite into in a musical.

This is, at the end of the day, a piece of musical theater. For some people, home is something to run away from. In the case of Vanessa, she's in a terribly dependent relationship where she cannot do what she wants to do because she has this toxic relationship with her mother and she can't get out. She's taking strides to do that.

For Usnavi, home is this idealized DR that he's barely been to as a baby, and I certainly related to that. As someone who spent summers in Puerto Rico, but never really lived there. It's more complicated than my romantic, fantasy version of what it was. Then there's Nina, who was always gonna get out and always had enormous pressure to get out, and as soon as she got out she said, "What the hell am I doing here? And what am I supposed to ..." and sort of comes home with her tail between her legs.

  What I ... This is really, a lot of the credit to this goes to Quiara Hudes, our book writer who did a lot of structural work on this show. When you leave the show, there's people who stay, there's people who say, "You know what? I'm gonna cash the check and I'm gonna get out so that my children can do better." And then there's the people who leave, and I think that's accurate.

I still live uptown, I still live in Inwood, just north of Washington Heights, and it remains complicated because there are neighborhood fixtures who can't afford to live there anymore and move out, but it's nice having Thai food in the neighborhood and it's nice having ... When the neighborhood changes a bit and my parents are thrilled that we have a Starbucks on 181st St., where I don't know why you would want any coffee that isn't the Cuban coffee that I get on my corner.

There are people that are really happy for their iced mocha caffa-laffa. It's a complicated question, and we don't try to put an easy answer on it.

Anna: Could you talk a little bit more about Nina's character and how much that was based on your experience at Wesleyan?

Lin-Manuel:  Yeah, when we talked about this a little before, but I started writing "In The Heights" my sophomore year. Nina wasn't like this in my original version, but I started writing "In The Heights" my sophomore year at Wes. I was 19, I lived in a Latino program house, which basically means it was this really great house but you had to write an essay about what the Latino community means to you and be a community leader to get to live in this awesome house.

I lived with eight other kids, and they were really all sort of at the head of their fields. One was very involved in community activism and helped unionize the janitors at Wesleyan. One was a gospel singer, one was on the student council, and I was like the arts orange wedge in the trivial pursuit game in this house. It was the first time I had really close Latino friends that were my age, because I went to a public magnet school in New York City.

Most of my friends were white and Jewish growing up. I remember feeling the drift from my neighborhood friends once I got into that school and I'm sure a lot of you have gone through this, when the people you grew up with, the stuff you have in common is getting farther and farther apart. It was the first time I had friends who had been though that exact experience, who spoke Spanish at home and English at school and were fluent in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and He-Man and Transformers, but also Marc Anthony in Spanish when his lyrics are 100 IQ points higher. It's true. And grew up watching [Spanish 00:21:19] on Spanish TV, and all these little sort of things that you can't talk about with your friends at school.

That was the first time. I'd written 20 minute musicals before, and that was also the first time I'd written about home and written about my neighborhood and felt like, "Oh, I'm allowed to write about this. This is fertile. This is fertile grounds." But Nina's trajectory, going from the heroine of that original version to someone who gets the opportunity to go to this amazing school and really almost miffs it, that was very much based on living in that house. There were nine of us when we went in, and four by the time the year was over.

It was never, "I got pregnant and I gotta go." It was never that soap opera. It would be, "I got a D and I had a merit based scholarship and now I gotta figure out where to get the funds from over here." Or it was, "I don't know how to get to these morning classes on time." And I have friends, I'm still close with them, who would say, "I'm just gonna take a semester off and I'm gonna work and I'll be right back." And I never saw them again. That hits home.

It's different when it's a level of attrition that you read is a statistic, and it's different when it's your friends and you know how smart they are and you go, "Why aren't you crushing it at this school?" And it's because you were never prepared to crush it at this school. You didn't go to a prep school, you didn't navigate in this world, and so everything's a culture shock. It's not just grades, it's not just keeping up with classes, it's teaching you how to navigate this. I feel ... I went to a school like that from the age of five, so I felt like I got inoculated young, but it was very frustrating to see that.

That was ... And a way harder story to tell, and we got pressure from people, to say, "Well, maybe she's pregnant." That's much simpler and higher stakes and that's not racism, that's not like, "Latina girls get pregnant." That's like, "Well, we know what the problem is right away." But I wanted to tell a more subtle story, which is that it's not just those extreme cases. Sometimes it's one D minus and the mountain falls away.

Anna:  And a more common story, I think, even.

Lin-Manuel:  Yeah, and sometimes it happens with the best intentions. "My family is having problems, I gotta go home and work it out and I'll be right back." And you never see them again, and it's tricky.

Rafael:  And the other side of the burden, having been so successful at home and in high school with your family and everybody being so proud and they end a validity, kind of. Breaking not just your ... You'd be disappointing yourself, but the expectations-

Lin-Manuel: Yeah, I can't tell you how many kids come up to me and say, "That song is the one that killed me." Because they go ... Whether they're Latino or not, they go back to their small town and people are like, "Oh, you must just be killing it. You must be running that school." But we're really not. "I am struggling to keep my head above water just like everybody else." And that sense of ... That's the double sided coin of that success and Nina ... And it's a subtler story to go from feeling that as a burden to feeling that as a responsibility and as an engine. That's the story we were trying to tell, and that's trickier.

Luciano:  Something like that, because I was happy ... I have all my happy notes. Something I was very happy with [Spanish 00:24:43] When I ... I was talking with Anna about this, and you were also happy about the same thing.

Anna:  Yes.

Luciano:  Like the flags, no? This idea that it's aware ... You know when you see representations of Latinos in the sense that they will pledge to American flag, so I was very happy, I felt like, "Wow, here we have some other flags and this idea, it's not either or. It's this plus that, it's here plus there." That it takes away or throws through the window the idea of the American part. "No, we're a salad and we don't lose our roots, we don't lose ..." You know?

Lin-Manuel: Yeah, and it's funny, I remember writing a short story in high school because the flag is ... Puerto Ricans who grow up in the states are bigger flag wavers than Puerto Ricans on the island. We just are. I remember going, in my youth, in my teens, going to the Puerto Rican day parade and being like, "What are we doing here?" Like, "Why are we waving these flags, just watching each other walk by?" Like, "What is the point of this? What does this flag mean? What does this represent?" And really having a period of questioning, and then there's a lyric in the show that, for me, kind of solved it to myself, which is, when you don't have [Spanish 00:25:57], when you don't have [Spanish 00:26:00], when you don't have ... When your connection to the island of your family's origin is more tenuous, the flag's what you got.

It's our way of saying, "We're not alone on this island and, for a day, we're gonna be on fifth avenue and that's gonna be our day." I kind of resolved ... I get it now. I still don't like going to parades, because I hate crowds, but I get the parade and I understand that impulse in a way that I didn't as a ... I was very, like, "It's stupid." I understand that impulse and there's a lyric in the show that, "In the Heights, I hang my flag up on display, it reminds me that I came from miles away." And that was my way of reconciling that.

Also, I get such a kick out of the fact that there's gonna be a high school production of this in two years and all the white kids are gonna be waving a Dominican flag in the middle of the [inaudible 00:26:48]. That's gonna be so perverse and great. I really am looking forward to that.

Rafael: The interesting thing is that Washington Heights is a particular neighborhood and you have that kind of diversity, where you have Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Colombians, probably Ecuadorians and so on and so forth. In another community, those flags might be in different proportion or one flag might be in the front, so I found that particularly ... not just interesting, but accurate. It's not just one group existing and I think you made the point that Dominicans are the predominate group but, prior to that, Cubans, African Americans, Irish, exactly.

Lin-Manuel: Huge amount of Irish still in the neighborhood, yeah.

Rafael:  As well as-

Lin-Manuel:   Yeah, Yeshiva University is on 190th. There's a huge orthodox Jewish community in the heart of this. There's just only so much I can fit in a musical, guys. It's a really diverse community and you'll see ... I remember seeing the Irish pub on my block in Inwood replaced with a Mofongo House, and that's the story of that neighborhood. That's the story.

Anna:  Well, since we were talking about flags, I know Rafael and I were mentioning before, when you pulled out the Puerto Rican flag at your acceptance of the Tony Awards. Just, if you could talk a little bit about how that felt at that moment.

Lin-Manuel:  Yeah, that was the only thing I had planned. I said, "Whether I'm winning or not, I'm pulling this out." If I had seen that on the Tony's when I was a kid, it would have rocked my life and I wanted some kid's life to be rocked. That was the entire thinking that went into it. I said, "Dad, get me a flag." If it had been Stu walking out, I would have been like this in the camera. That's what would have happened, and it could well have been. That was not a lock, that category. We had ... It was funny, because there's a whole hour on the Tony's that you don't see, and we split with passing strange, sort of all the way in. They won best book, we won best choreography, they won best ... It was very neck and neck, and I just had the flag in my hand [inaudible 00:28:57].

I had to pull it out sooner at the end, and then I got up there. The couplets that you saw ... I don't know if you guys have seen the acceptance speech. If you haven't, go YouTube it. It's funny. I wrapped my acceptance speech, because it was easier for me to get a handle on the emotion of it if I had to think that way. If I had started doing a speech, I would have just crumbled but, by forcing myself to make it rhyme, I was able to master the emotion of it. I practiced some of the lines in the shower.

I was too superstitious to even say it to my wife or ... She wasn't my wife, she was my girlfriend then, but to anyone because I was ... There was a documentary called "Show Business". Has anyone seen this documentary? Well, there's a scene where the producer of "Wicked" shows his speech to the camera and he's like ... And they didn't win. They never got to say that speech.

That was burned in my brain, so I was like, "I'm not showing mine. I'm just gonna practice the couplets in my head, in the shower." It's all prepared, they were all couplets I practiced up until Chris Jackson. Watch ... It's like 40 seconds, you can actually see my brain leave my head. The audience starts screaming and I just go ... and then the rest is just improvised stuff that is coming out of my mouth and then I remembered the flag at the very end.

That was a really intense moment, because I remember seeing Rita Moreno win the Oscar and being like, "Oh, my God." And what a moving and inspiring moment that was, so that flag was coming out.

Rafael:  That was very powerful, because I didn't ... I hadn't heard ... I grew up maybe a mile and a half from Broadway, and I hadn't attended a play until maybe three years ago. Probably, I think the first one was "In The Heights", but I had seen your acceptance speech first, and all I saw was the image of you pulling out that flag and I needed to know what was going on, what was this about? That's not what you see, typically; we're apologizing or we're downplaying.

I looked at the YouTube video and it was very respectful. It wasn't like [Spanish 00:31:10]. You know, like [crosstalk 00:31:11]

Lin-Manuel:  In your face!

Rafael:   Exactly. It was very honoring, and if I remember correctly, you were paying homage, also, to your grandfather.

Lin-Manuel:  Yes, yeah.

Rafael:  Which is very resonant. That's when I decided, I'm like, "I need to check out his plays."

Lin-Manuel: Yeah, the weird ramification of that is we started seeing people the stage door who would fly in from Puerto Rico to see the show because of the flag, literally just because of the flag. It got such play and press over there that people were like, "We flew here for the weekend to see the show and now we're flying back." And that's huge, crazy honor to me.

Rafael:  Well, we got the conversation started, so we want to open it up to the crowd to ask some questions and get started.

Crowd:  Yeah, I was really interested to know, the piraguero had such a big part in the show and I was like, "Somehow, he had to be ... That had to be very important to him as well." I've always been interested in that.

Lin-Manuel:  Well, you know, it's funny.

Rafael:  Can you repeat the question?

Lin-Manuel:  Oh, yeah, I'm sorry. She asked about the piraguero, the piragua guy in the show, and he had sort of an important role. He's got his own song and everything. Well, here's the thing, he wasn't supposed to. I was supposed ... We were at a point in development, I was supposed to write the dad's song and the dad's song was [Spanish 00:32:31] and it's very intense and I had to go to a very dark place to write it. My father and his father, the generations of expectations that we all had on each other. I just was like, "I can't. It's too heavy. I don't want to write this. Let me write something for the piragua guy, he doesn't have a song."

It began as a form of procrastination, and I wrote this ... It's the fastest song I wrote in the show, I wrote it in about 20 minutes. It came easy, easy, easy, and when I hit on that metaphor of keep scraping by, I said, "[Spanish 00:33:03], this is what everyone in the show is doing." Everyone in the show is doing their version of what he's doing, is they are trying to make a living against impossible odds, and he is the entire story sort of written miniature.

It was the floating song for a while. I was like, "I don't know where this goes, but I haven't finished the dad song yet and I have this." To Quiara and the directors and the creative team. It sort of fell exactly where it needed to fall after a different moment, and then the last song I wrote for the show, we were in the middle of act two and ... I don't want to give it away, but whoever passes away passes away, and they're very intense moments and people are really losing hope. It was just a really heavy act, and we knew we needed to lift them up again. [Spanish 00:33:55]. We were like, "[Spanish 00:33:57] break." So I wrote ... And my collaborators like telling the story, because that was the second ... Actually, I wrote this song even faster. I wrote the reprise when he comes back and says, "Hey, the black out sucks for everyone, but it's great for me! I'm selling cold treats."

I wrote that on a ten minute break between rehearsals and I just had Alex playing the song on a loop and I wrote the lyrics and then we gave it to him that night and we put it in the following Tuesday. It really ... He demanded a bigger part and, also, Andy [Sayo 00:34:28], our original piraguero, had such a gorgeous voice. It was wonderful to showcase him in that way, and that went into it as well, but he really ... Sometimes the characters tell you what to do, and that was a real case of the piraguero being like, "I have something to say. I know you're dealing with your dad, but I have something to say." It really ended up being a linchpin in the show. That's a great question.

Crowd: Speaking of the flag, I've heard from the short version from Tommy Kail when he spoke at my high school, but can you tell the story of your final bow when you were touring in Puerto Rico?

Lin-Manuel:  Oh, my God. Oof, it's very hard to talk about Puerto Rico without crying, so I'm gonna do my best, but we took the tour to Puerto Rico and it was the first equity tour ever to go. Usually they do homegrown productions, and we didn't change a word for Puerto Rico, either. We didn't translate anything into Spanish, we didn't hit things harder, we just kind of hoped the story would work and ... Crap. It was so ... As someone who spent a month a year there, never fit in, my Spanish was terrible when I was a little kid, to have it received, I mean so unbelievably well and it was packed every night and these standing ovations, and at the press conference ... The Puerto Ricans will get this. Lucecita Benitez came, who is like ... She's like our Celia Cruz, and she came and presented me with this huge Puerto Rican flag and I was like, "Oh, my God!"

It was such a dream come true, that. It was ... I would come out with that flag draped around me every night, because it just meant the world to me, that they were getting the show in a spirit, in a way in which I hadn't intended. The reviews were all like, "This is a dispatch from our family who left."

Rafael: Powerful.

Lin-Manuel:  Yeah. As someone who grew up in the city, and is such a city kid, to have that response was really ... It was a lot. It was a lot. Damn Tommy Kail, for making me tell that story. It was very overwhelming. Every night, and that was one of the best weeks of my life on a personal and professional level. It was just a very intense week.

Rafael:  Other questions? Sir?

Crowd:   I wanted to say thank you for your openness in your writing, and how were you able to keep all your different rhythms straight?

Lin-Manuel: Well, that's a fantastic compliment and great question, I thank you. The ... I kind of ... That was my way in the room. Tommy is a great director, Quiara is an amazing writer and really knew this neighborhood well, and my way in the room is I know these characters and I know the way they express themselves musically. Speaking specifically of rhythms for a second, the fun in writing a show about three generations is they all have their own rhythms. When you write abuela, I tried to write the mambo-est mambo that ever mamboed and really listen to Celia Cruz and Tito Puente and those rhythms, specifically, when I started writing.

We tried to make the generations reflect the waves of immigration, so Cuban Abuela, Puerto Rican Parents, and then the youngest characters are Dominican. For Puerto Rico, I very much had Ruben Blades voice in my head. He's not Puerto Rican, but he's written some of the best salsas of all time. For [Spanish 00:38:12], enough is very salsa, and then for Usnavi he's kind of ... He grew up here, he idealizes there, and that generation all speaks in this hip hop language but they steal from everything.

 They grab this merengue and they'll rap over everything. If you listen to bachata or bachatarengue or bachata [Spanish 00:38:35] or whatever, hybrid is being created as we speak. It is taking these different styles and mashing them together. That becomes really fun when you start writing for characters, so, okay, Usnavi speaks in this rap section and abuela speaks in this mambo speak, so when you write a song where they speak together, she's singing hundreds of stories, which is this very salsa pattern, but he raps over that.

You start mashing them together based on the musical way in which they enter the world, so that's just ... It's a really fun way to build a score on a practical level, and it's enormous fun to write, musically. I also have to credit our arrangers, Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, who are the greatest in the world, because I will play them ... I'm a terrible pianist, I play just well enough to play my songs, and the worst one I ever gave them was in Benny's dispatch, sort of a [Spanish 00:39:30] number, he's rapping in English but the beat is very ... And then I said, when he sings this note, I wrote in stage directions, the greatest horn chart ever written. That's all I gave them.

 They had the chord progression and they had the melody, but I was like, "Now, write the greatest horn chart ever written. No pressure." They did a lot, in terms of helping with the feel and we were always checking in, the three of us sort of checking in with making sure this felt like this neighborhood.

Crowd:  I got to see you when the show first opened on Broadway and I thought it was so cool getting to see it, but then I got to see a later core production with a different Usnavi. It was kind of odd for me to see a different interpretation. I cannot imagine what that must have felt like for you. I don't know whether you've seen the production, but knowing that other people have taken this character that you put so much effort into, I wonder how that must feel like for you.

Lin-Manuel: Well, remember, for me, I have no other experience. I can't see myself, so I've only seen other people do Usnavi. The fun of it was ... Well, a couple of things. One, I had a great understudy named Javier Munoz who took over for me when I left on Broadway, and we were ahead of enough ... I didn't get to see the show off Broadway, I was in it, but we were ahead enough of the curve on Broadway that I actually got to sit out a preview and watch him do the show. That was enormously helpful.

One, it's great to see your collaborators work, because I can only see my track when I'm doing the show. That being said, we work with all the Usnavi's and everyone puts their own spin on it and I treat it less like, "He does it like this and I do it like this." I treat it more like a teaching curriculum, if you talk to teachers they'll give you tips of what works and what doesn't with the kids. They'll say, "Well, if you do ..." I taught English at my old high school, and I got enormous help from my colleagues, and that's how we treat it.

I would have these Usnavi dinners where everyone who's played it, we'd all gather around. It's a mix of, "Yeah, I don't know where you breathe in that section, I would breathe here but it's impossible to get it out unless you breathe before one dollar, two dollars." And gossip like, "Who's the best kissing Vanessa?" For the record, they all idealize Olivo because none of them got to deal with her because she left us early. Everyone's like, "Oh, I wish I could have done it with Karen."

For me, I really appreciate what different people bring. As long as they're singing what I wrote, I'm really happy for the interpretations they bring. I just saw this new tour, and this guy is completely different from me or Corbin or Javi, and it's really fun to see the sections he digs into and the sections where he's still working it out. It's such a big part. You wrap for two and a half hours, you never leave the stage. Tommy Kail calls it the Puerto Rican Mama Rose.

It just demands everything of you. I did it for a year and change, and I never got tired of it. I'd find something new in it every time, so I enjoy watching other people's takes on it. It's not a competition thing for me, it's really fun.

Crowd: I'm from the Bronx, so [inaudible 00:42:57] I'm coming from a Dominican family myself, so watching this play out of the few plays I've seen, this is by far the most ... The one play that touched my soul.

Lin-Manuel: Oh, thank you.

Crowd: I was just asking, coming from a Dominican family, you touched me in a different sort of way because it's like you're reliving my life. Everything is just the same thing. My question is that, when you thought about Usnavi as a character, why did you choose a U.S. Navy boat as his name? Why couldn't you choose a different representation of the name?

Lin-Manuel:  Because I knew a guy named Usnavi and I just thought the story was so good. It's just such a good story and, to me, it was not about the Navy or any connotations with that. It was the fact that his parents gave him the most American possible name, but it still sounds crazy Dominican the way they twisted it. You know what I mean? I have a friend named Nanki, who's parents love Nat King Cole, but in the translation it came out Nanki, not King. Nanki, that's how they said it.

There's so many stories like that, and so that's why ... To me, it represented his parents aspirations for him, in a very specific way, that kind of foreshadows his deciding to stay and not go back home.

Crowd:  One thing that really struck me about the show that I really liked when I first saw it was how very real and very contemporary it is but then, when I saw it again, it was even more so because I noticed there was a line that changed in 96,000 [crosstalk 00:44:35] Arizona and I wanted to ask, that was a really bold, interesting move, and I was wondering the thought behind that or the reactions you got to that.

Lin-Manuel: Yeah, we discussed this in a group I talked in earlier. I don't consider myself a political writer at all, my goal is to make the audience feel happy and joyful when the show is over. However, in a case like the Arizona law, which, to me personally, just is ... It's poorly written and I don't think it gets done what the governor wants it to do. It made my lyric toothless. It felt like that was not a case of me changing a lyric, that was a case of the world changing and now my lyric seems safe in retrospect.

So I said, "Well, let's call it what it is. This lady just outlawed Mexicans, let me change the line to Arizona." And that's just more accurate, and I don't feel like Sonny would say politicians be hating in a post ... That law reality. It was really ... It was more like the character nagging at me like, "We're gonna change this." I am sort of happy ashamed to report that we premiered that line when the show was on tour in Arizona, and I was rehearsing for LA so I was there to do it.

It's not the reaction you were expecting. It's not ... People didn't scream or boo. We got amazing reactions of gasps and applause, for the most part, but we'd always get three old, white ladies walk out. I had a friend who sat ... One of the ushers in the back would say, "At every show, people would go wah!" Because the people who were seeing Heights and know what Heights is and are attracted to buy a ticket to that, they don't disagree with that. But there would always be three ladies who'd walk out and go, "Disrespectful." That was generally the reaction, and it's just a little moment but that was the case of the world changing, not my lyric.

Rafael: And again, Noel, over here?

Crowd: That was actually my first Broadway play and I thought it was great and I really liked the dynamic between the three generations. I know it speaks a lot to our generation right now, but my mom took my grandparents to see it, about a few months after I saw it, and I called them. I was like, "Oh, what'd you think?" My mom said, "Oh, it was great." I talked to my grandmother and she was like, "Well, it was all right but, you know, they're only Dominicans in the Heights." "What are you talking about?" She goes, "There were no Puerto Ricans in [inaudible 00:47:08]." And it just made me think about this, my grandmother came from the [inaudible 00:47:13] and I'm full Puerto Rican, [inaudible 00:47:15] and she just had this whole strict regimen of just separate Puerto Ricans and Dominicans and Colombians and Ecuadorians, and all these other things.

I want to know if you got any response from the third generation, because I know this generation ... I mean the first generation. I know this generation right now is just really into it and I love hip hop and things like that, but what did you get from that first generation?

Lin-Manuel:  Well, I'll tell you, with all due respect to your grandmother, there will always be people who say, "Well, we lived here and they lived here and we did this and they did this." And that's certainly true and that reflects a reality. For me, that's less interesting. I was telling these guys earlier, any number of comedians can make you laugh for hours straight. They're like, "Dominicans talk like this. Puerto Ricans talk like this. Cubans talk like this. Spaniards talk like ..." it's easy to do that. It's very easy to draw the lines, it's harder to do a venn diagram and say what we have in common.

I think that was certainly true and I think, particularly pre ... During segregation, those lines were super, super, super sharply drawn. I talk ... Even people of my parents generation that will tell you, "That was a Puerto Rican block, that was a black block, that was a ..." and I feel like it's just more fluid now than it was. I was interested in writing the things that we have in common, as opposed to, "This is like this and this is like this." Although, that's certainly great mileage and there's certainly truth in that.

I was less interested in that dramatically.

Luciano:   If I can say a footnote, it's still a great conversation because it brings into question the multiplicity of Latina, because Latina is an umbrella for-

Lin-Manuel: 32 completely ... Yeah.

Luciano: Yeah, and different languages, not just Spanish and English and the historic identity that you trace in the play, which is you chose different words of understanding what the so-called Latino at certain stages in American history, that's also a great conversation to discuss.

Lin-Manuel: Yeah.

Rafael:  I think Noel's family reality might reflect a reality that might have been particular to your grandmother's time because, being older, there was a time to speak Spanish. People who spoke Spanish were assumed to be Puerto Rican, whereas coming to the second and the newer generations, you can't say that in New York.

Lin-Manuel: Yeah.

Rafael:   But there was a time when, to be Latino, to be Hispanic, was to be Puerto Rican. That's just not the reality anymore.

Lin-Manuel: And it's also regional. I remember once, when I was a kid, going to my friends house in Arizona and she would introduce me, "Lin speaks Mexican." That was just her word ... That wasn't racist, that was her word for Spanish because that was the community in which she lived. She goes, "Yeah, Lin's fluent in English and Mexican." And being like, "What? What are you talking about?" But that's the reality, and so we're beholden to that and we know that.

Luciano:  And you go to Miami and you see the multiplicity. Even within southern part I was recently, people that came to this country in the 70s because of the dictatorship have a different understanding of what's been in Argentine rather than people that came in economic collapse and default into south lands. They're in different economic stages, there are social classes issues, and the understandings have completely changed.

Lin-Manuel: Absolutely. Yeah, and one's definition of what it means to be this is different from what it means to be this. That's why we try not to put an easy label of, "What does it mean to be ..." The question ... A lot of first generations, I know I asked myself, we were talking about this earlier, is what does it mean to be Puerto Rican if you don't grow up in Puerto Rico? What's the takeaway? What's the line, what's the ... Is it that I eat [Spanish 00:51:25], is it that I know my history, is it that I eat rice and beans? What's the dividing line?

It's a great question for discussion, especially after seeing a show like this.

Rafael:  Javier?

Crowd:  Right before this discussion, I got kind of in a heated debate about the role of the lottery and the lotto. The only conclusion that we came to that satisfied the both of us was that maybe you're making a critique about the U.S. saying that the only way possible to get out is from miracle of the lotto. I don't know if that's what you're saying, that you're making this critique of our capitalism and saying that this is the only way we can make it out, the only way of ... You know, this girl can get her education is by grace of God or, I don't know if it was some other thing.

Lin-Manuel:   Well, that makes me sound really smart so I like it. I'll tell you, the personal and the political mix all the time. The genesis for that plot line, for lotto plot line, I'll tell you very clearly, is my ... The lady who raised me, she's technically not my grandmother, though she's more a grandmother to me than my own grandparents, was a woman who raised my father in Puerto Rico and when I was born, my father brought her over from Puerto Rico to raise my sister and I.

She was a compulsive gambler, and many of my early memories are playing an illegal slot machine in the back of the bodega on the corner of [Sieman 00:53:00] and [Pasin 00:53:01] avenue, and my job was to pull the arm. [Spanish 00:53:04] and I would pull the arm and she would put in quarters and we did this for three hours a day. I would eat Now and Later, my parents didn't know we did this, and I would eat Now and Laters and I got all the candy I wanted, so I was fine.

One of the what if's that went into that story is, "Well, what if one day she won?" This is a woman who has now lived in the U.S. ... I'm 31. For 32 years, she has family on the island, she doesn't really keep in touch with them. She doesn't speak English that well, because you don't have to living in Washington Heights or Inwood. You can get by just speaking Spanish. She watches Jeopardy and she watches the money go up and down, she doesn't know what the questions are. But she's a gambler, so she likes watching the money go up and down.

This is a woman who gave me unconditional love all my life and is probably the closest person to me in the world, and so that storyline, for me, was a very personal, "Okay, let's say you won. What are you gonna do? You gonna go back to Puerto Rico where you don't know anyone anymore, or are you gonna stay here?" That was the what if that went into that song, and it is ... It's so funny you say that, because I came from visiting her and they were talking about the numbers they were playing.

For many people, it is the only way out and it's this thing you continue to do. It's certainly cured me of any gambling tendencies I will ever have, because she has never hit the lotto and I just am watching this woman with not a lot of money throw the little she has away. The personal mixes with the political when you're talking at that level, but I will tell you her reaction to the show. When she saw the show for the first time, I'll say it in Spanish and I'll say it in English. She goes [Spanish 00:54:54], which is "You gave me all that money and then you killed me off, which is an appropriate reaction to have.

Rafael: Other questions?

Crowd: I know for most the time, when an actor is doing a show, he's given a skeleton of a character and he and the director flesh out the character but, for this, you had an absolutely blank space. What was it like getting to know Usnavi over this process, and did anything you learned about him surprise you or did anything that became as the show went on?

Lin-Manuel: Wow. That's a great question. Usnavi probably changed the most. First of all, Usnavi was in three scenes in the original production of "In The Heights". He is the comic relief, he is Benny and Lincoln, Nina's now dead brother, not dead but no longer existing brother, and he just kind of was the porter in Macbeth. He really commented on the action as it went by his store. It was Tommy's idea to say, "You have this great, funny, full of life character Usnavi and he owns a corner store. That can be the cornerstone of all the stories you want to tell."

Then he began as that and then I started playing him, only because we couldn't get an actor who could learn the raps in the amount of time we had for rehearsal. Tommy said, "Why don't you play it for now, and we'll get a real actor later?" I started playing the part and, originally, Usnavi was ... The story of writing "In The Heights" went from Usnavi being a guy who was happy where he is, and stories pass through his thing, to Usnavi really longing to be somewhere else and realizing that everything he wants is in front of him and on his corner.

It mirrors my own relationship with the neighborhood in that very specific way, and it also ... One of our favorite movies is "It's a Wonderful Life", which we even quote in the finale because we said, "That's one of the best endings of all time. How do you earn an ending like that? How do you earn a story where you see a guy who is so happy to get to where he was all this time?" We really just ... It became about trying to earn that ending and, for me, I just learned a lot about ... Playing the part, learned a lot about maintenance. You cannot do a matinee of a show eating a muffin and having a cup of coffee. You will faint, I have done it.

The HO week schedule is an unforgiving schedule. If you don't take care of yourself, if you don't sleep eight hours, you will not get through it. We had-

Rafael:   Students. I'm sorry, that's just-

Lin-Manuel:   We had Usnavi's who crashed and burned. We had Usnavi's who we cast and realizing they were only doing five shows a week because they were burnt out or they weren't ... They just didn't know how to do it. I learned a lot about myself, literally it's like running the Iditarod, I learned a lot on a ... About my limits and who I was, as a performer, outside of the writing.

Crowd: I wonder, did you get different reactions in areas that were less ... That had less latino diversity, like a community like New York where you have more a mix versus California, like you said, in LA, where you have a mostly Mexican community.

Lin-Manuel:        Yeah, LA ate it up. Latino communities ate it up, regardless of the ethnicity. What was fun was seeing Appleton, Wisconsin eat it up. It also is ... Outside of ethnicity, it's a small town story. It's a, "Our neighborhood's changing, and how do we deal with that?" You can appreciate it on the level of the characters and on that level. It's certainly true to my dad's hometown in Puerto Rico that was this ... I remember it as vibrant town, and then I remember when the mall came just outside the town and now it is a dying town, because no one shops local. Everyone goes to the Wal-Mart or to the mall.

That's an American story, the story of a neighborhood out pricing itself and getting shut down.

Crowd:  Well, I know that people have been talking about coming from the same circumstances growing up in Latina communities and things like that, but have you heard reactions from people who've been in the opposite? I know my birth father's parents came from Cuba, but I wasn't ... While I'm Hispanic, I wasn't raised in that sort of neighborhood and watching this show made me want to find my roots. Have you had that sort of kind of reverse reaction?

Lin-Manuel: Yeah, absolutely, and within members of our own cast. There was a PBS documentary on the making of the show, and Karen speaks very movingly about that. Karen's parents ... I don't want to speak for her, but they were very much like, "You must learn English, you must fit in. You must figure this out." And that's the way a lot of people are raised, and that's not ... It's a choice, and so she really went through a journey, in terms of doing the show and having to relearn Spanish just to be able to sing her songs.

Everyone comes by it honestly, whereas we had an actor named Luis Delgado, who is from the island, actually from my father's hometown, in Vega Alta, and for him to tell this story was totally different from his experience. He left a small town, he was like, "I'm a dancer in Vega Alta, I gotta get outta here." And so it was very ... It sort of touches everyone on a very different level.

Crowd: First of all, thank you for coming to speak with us.

Lin-Manuel:  Thank you.

Crowd:  It's really inspiring to just hear your life and the product, the "In The Heights" product of your work and it seems like you've made your own trail. I was wondering what you were up to in college, how you felt about going to class, what ...

Lin-Manuel:  Here's the short version, and the maybe PG-13 version. No, no, college was great. I will tell you that I did feel a Nina like pressure to do well. Not so much in the sense that I needed straight A's, that wasn't interesting to me because I knew that would be meaningless at the end of the four years. What I knew, I needed to know what I wanted to do and be good at it by the end of the four years. I wrote two musicals and three one act plays in college.

I just felt like, "I gotta leave with more than a diploma under my arm because my ... I can't get a job with a ..." You know, that's not a guarantee of a job. I just felt like ... And I also knew my parents did not want me to be a theater ... I mean, they supported it but they said, "Have a fallback. Think about law school." And I knew that if I had a grace period, after which I would probably have to get a fall back gig, I didn't want to do that.

I really wrote a lot and I sunk my teeth into whatever I could learn. Very much with an eye towards the outside world, like, "If I'm writing musicals, I need to be good at this." We didn't have a musical theater major at Wesleyan, so I took voice lessons and I took piano lessons and I helped with the opera, I helped stage that. I took theory and composition because I really needed that, and I really kind of ... I had the benefit of knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and I used college very much as a means to get it.

We were talking about our science requirements that we took, I took cultural aspects of volcanoes, wherein we had to write a book report about a book that had a volcano in it and how the volcano impacted the ... The less said about it, the better, but I fulfilled that requirement knowing that ... And I wrote most of "In The Heights" in my astronomy class, where we learned ... It was practicing astronomy, and we learned that the universe is large.

There was some math involved, I could not tell you what it was. I got a C. I went in with that attitude, and so I got a lot out of it because I kind of had an eye towards where I was going. [crosstalk 01:03:13]

Anna: Time for a few more questions.

Crowd: I was wondering the same thing about how you got from being a college student who had written a couple of musicals to having a show on Broadway and-

Lin-Manuel:  Yeah. Well, I ... It's a mix of hard work and luck. Here's the luck. I couldn't get a band for "In The Heights" the weekend they gave me the theater. I don't know if it's like this here, but it's a student run theater. You apply for a space and you assemble a production staff, they give you some money and they give you a weekend. I had to split the space with a dance group, I had to stage it all on Marley, I couldn't build anything into the set.

I couldn't get a band because it was the year 2000 and there was a millennium concert that all the best musicians on campus were playing in and so I just couldn't get any good musicians. I used my sound budget and I borrowed money to go to a studio in Connecticut and record everything to track, and in the initial production of Heights, everyone sang along to tracks. Then, to pay back the money I borrowed, I sold cast albums of that. I had them go in and sing it and it's not very well sung because I hadn't finished teaching it to them. They didn't know their parts very well.

We sold cast albums after the show, and then I paid back the people I borrowed the money from. As a result, Tommy Kail, who had graduated Wesleyan a few years before me, he was starting his own theater company. Someone got that CD into his hands with the script, and he fell in love with that CD. We didn't talk for two years. He sat listening to the CD, and then we re-met as adults shortly after I graduated. Had ... I might not have a play if I had been able to get a band.

These are the parts where luck does come into it. That being said, I also ... There's something to be said, and we don't talk about this enough as writers, because we're very protective of our work. The distance between sophomore year and senior year was really important. I wrote other things. "In The Heights" was in a drawer, I never forgot about it. I had a summer job writing for a newspaper in Washington Heights, but I never forgot about the show itself. When Tommy Kail came in, who I'd never met, and said, "Listen, Usnavi is the guy. He's got to be your narrator. And also, In Washington Heights is the third song, it should be first."

If he had said that to me sophomore year ... And here's the PG-13 part, I would have said, "Fuck you! It's my play! Leave me alone!" I wouldn't have been ready to hear it but, because I had two years distance on it and I wasn't interested in making that version, I was just interested in making the best version of the show, I was very receptive to his ideas.

That's the hardest part of working, is finding collaborators you can trust and finding collaborators and ... Not only being on the same page, but getting on the same page, because that's a process with anyone. Figuring out what to say yes to and what to say no to, and it's a gut check. I would find ... Tommy would give me notes, and I would ... Some of the notes I would be like, "Oh, that's a terrible idea! What are you talking about?" And then, three hours later, I would be like, "Oh, he's right. He's absolutely right."

Really trusting your gut and finding the people to work with is really the hardest and that was the luckiest break I got.

Rafael: Before we end, just a couple of things. I want to thank Luciano, but definitely Anna Rosado who played a really big part in helping with this proposal, helping with the advertising, helping just make this event successful. Can we give them both a round of applause? I wanted to ask our esteemed guest if he would bless us with some of his latest work.

Lin-Manuel: Oh, good gracious.

Rafael:  Before we leave, at least a piece of what you're up to.

Lin-Manuel: Sure, but you got to put your cameras away. Sorry. [crosstalk 01:07:12] It's not done yet, I'm gonna show you some uncooked souffle. I'm working on this Hamilton album, if you type in Alexander Hamilton on YouTube when you get home, it's like the second entry. I did ... I was lucky enough to perform a song for the first family at the White House and, at that point, I had only written the one song but I very boldly proclaimed, "I'm writing an album about Hamilton."

Do you want to show the clip? We can show the clip.

Anna:  Yeah, we can show the clip.

Lin-Manuel:  Yeah, we can show the clip.

Rafael:   Is that what you'd prefer? That's fine.

Lin-Manuel:  You guys want to see the clip, or you want to hear some new stuff?

Crowd: New stuff.

Lin-Manuel:  Okay. All right. Okay. YouTube's off, YouTube cameras off. The clip you'll see at home, it's the life and death of Alexander Hamilton as a hip hop album and I'll do a verse that is ... It's Hamilton, he's 17 years old, he's in New York for the first time. He got here on a scholarship and he's going to Kings College, what is now Columbia University. And I need some water. So he goes ... (singing). That's the second song. Thank you guys. Thank you for your great questions.