On Responsibility, Musical Theatre...and the Rap Game

I feel an acute, and, I think, unique, sense of responsibility. It is probably that responsibility that is at the core of the work I do in the theatre and, by extension, with this company. This responsibility is born of access. I'm lucky to sit in a very comfortable seat of privilege. My gender, culture, ethnicity, age, sexuality, economic status...most all areas of my life, allow me tremendous freedom and access to power. It is my obligation, therefore, to leverage that access and speak what truth can be spoken to what power may be within earshot.

All that being said, I find myself constantly inspired by those who have more power, more access, than I do, who leverage even more effectively. Today I was inspired in that way. Obviously Lin-Manuel Miranda has, through a combination of hard work and abundant natural gifts, redefined the reach and impact of the American Musical Theatre. It is too simple to just point out how inspirational his personal story, not to mention the stories he has chosen to tell... and that doesn't even begin to touch on HOW he has chosen to tell them. 

But today, a song from The Hamilton Mixtape had it's official video release. Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) is the tune...It was inspired by a single line in Hamilton: An American Musical  but far from a toss off, that line, spoken between Alexander Hamilton and The Marquis de Lafayette in the context of the Battle of Yorktown always gets a laugh, or a cheer, because it speaks to the mission of the entire show. 

Official music video for Immigrants (We Get The Job Done) by K'naan featuring Residente, Riz MC & Snow Tha Product

Directed By Tomás Whitmore

Produced by Kimberly Stuckwisch, Melora Donoghue

Executive Produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Robert Rodriguez, Kimberly Stuckwisch, Ian Blair

Production Company Diktator

Director of Photography Drew Bienemann

Production Designer Spencer Graves

Editor Tomás Whitmore, Alexander Aquino

Costume Designer Christina Flannery

Casting Director Michael Beaudry

Visual FX by Giant Propeller

Color by MPC

LA Post Sound provided by Unbridled Sound

The making and launch of this video was no small affair. It was released on the Today Show, it has been tweeted and shared and posted and pointed to. It has already been analyzed by critics far more worthy and widely read than myself. But still, I'm compelled to react, because, to me this song is the most important on the album, and the album is extremely important to the conversation about the role of Arts and Social Action.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, while undeniably the star of the the show (even though he's not in it, as the writer, conceiver, intellectual and artistic parent, he is the star) isn't the star of the album. More importantly than that he has leveraged his significant power and influence, harnessed his momentum, and passed their energy on to artists who would, without his endorsement most likely not have their work debut on the Today Show and within less than 12 hours be viewed over 100,000 times (on the official video only, to account for how many times it has been viewed on by shared, tagged, or reposted modes...wow).

That is a beautiful thing, that transfer of energy, that sharing of power. It is, without a doubt, part of the intention of this company that we take what little energy we've generated, what little power we've got, and put it, immediately, in the hands of artists we trust, artists we believe in, and present their work to audiences that may not have any idea that they need to hear from these people. 

A vital aspect of the Justice that goes into half of the name of our company is that giving voice to those who are underrepresented. It is easy, and perhaps dangerous, for me, as a straight, white, cis-gendered, Judeo-Christian, American, upper-middle class, relatively able bodied, barely pre-middle aged man, to sit in my throne of privilege and pontificate and point out how MY company will give voice to the underrepresented and look at how many of our creative department heads are female, and we are led by an equitable partnership between a man and a woman, and do you know how many of our staff identify as LGBTQ+? That is easy. It is harder to acknowledge that we aren't doing as much as we should in this, our first moments, to embrace and engage Artists of Color. It is harder to acknowledge that our work isn't free to consume and there is an essential elitism in our ticket pricing.

But because of the way I am inspired by those with greater reach, more access, than me. Because of things like this video. I will double down on my efforts to make the work as excellent as I can, and, in my mind, the work of a director is to fully enable the designers, performers, and staff of a show, to shine authentically, honestly, and earnestly. I am so proud of the road we are on and I'm so hopeful about the work we have been enabled to do. I am so inspired by the past week of bringing this company out of our minds and into our reality. I am so excited about what it means for the future. So...look how far we've come, but know how incredibly far we have to go.