Unless you’ve been living on top of a mountain for the past few years, you’ve probably heard about the Tony-award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton. In Hamilton, writer/composer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda told the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton in hip-hop verse with a cast of (almost entirely) actors of color. I know, the first time I heard it, it sounded crazy. Like it couldn’t possibly work. And yet, it works in every single way.
Part of the success of the show is the charisma of Miranda himself, a person who seems to be a genuinely kind and funny person. You sense that the man you see on social media is the person he really is, at least more real than most celebrities choose to be. He’s not all about himself, and with his successes, he could be. Instead, he seems to be a down-to-earth person who adores his wife, loves his kids and his dog, and can’t seem to believe his good fortune in life. And he’s not afraid to share his feelings, good and bad.
That’s why this blog is about him, and why it’s called “Courage”. Because of something he’s been sharing on social media recently that I find astonishingly brave and real.
Miranda played the lead role of Alexander Hamilton for about a year and a half, after having written the entire show over the course of several years. He stepped back from performances in July of 2016 to pursue other projects, but he is preparing to take up the part of Alexander Hamilton once again for a limited engagement in Puerto Rico. Like any actor, he needs to rehearse, right?
You would think — I thought — he wouldn’t need much rehearsal. I mean, he wrote the damn lyrics. He lived and breathed this show for YEARS. There are small children around the world who can sing the entire show. All the parts.
Standing on line outside the Richard Rogers theater waiting to see Hamilton, the crowd will begin to sing. Everybody. knows. these. lyrics.
So what’s so brave about what Lin is doing?
He’s posting video of himself rehearsing for quite possibly the most famous role in the world.
And he’s screwing up.
It’s astonishing to watch. He’s sitting around with headphones on, listening to the music — just like us, the fans — and rapping along. And flubbing the words. “Oh,” he says, “I keep singing Burr’s lines!”
(So do I, Lin. So do I.)
I’m amazed. I’m shocked. He’s broadcasting himself to the world even though he sounds like me when I sing along with the soundtrack, fumbling and stumbling over words I can’t seem to make stick in my head, no matter how many times I listen.
This is everything.
He’s letting us see that even for the guy who wrote it, even for the guy who played it for a year and a half, even for the guy who is synonymous with the part — even for THAT GUY, performing is hard. Perfection is hard, if not impossible. The apparent effortlessness of stardom is a lie.
This is a gift. It takes courage to let others see behind the mask of performance, be it acting, singing, or writing.
We all struggle to create. Even a living legend. Perhaps especially the legends.
Thanks for the reminder, Lin.