By Design

7:00 AM

Robert Schmid, By Design, 2014

By ISABEL THOMAS

A gift to Lin-Manuel Miranda, the twenty-first century’s most revolutionary composer and playwright:

After returning from her first year at Stanford University, Nina Rosario of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights explains that leaving home has changed her perspective, because she never realized the enormity of the world outside of New York City. In “When You’re Home,” she sings, “I used to think that we lived at the top of the world, when the world was just a subway map.” Longing for the simplicity of home after a tumultuous year, she asks, “Can you remind me of what it was like at the top of the world?”

Years after first hearing that song, I now prepare for college and to leave my subway map. With In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda showed me that, despite their differences, home and adventure hold equal importance in life and that one must find a balance between them. In the Heights, Lin’s first show, explores the idea of home and ends with the realization that it is where one is cared for and where one leaves a mark.

In the Heights and Lin’s more recent show, Hamilton, changed my understanding of family, country, and community. These two shows feature types of music that I had never explored, but they have become two of my all-time favorites, nonetheless, because they exhibit the most masterful combination of emotion and music that I have experienced. Despite earning Emmy, Tony, and Grammy Awards, a MacArthur Genius Grant, and his place as a Pulitzer finalist, Lin remains remarkably humble. His passion remains in his music and the reaction that it evokes. Writing about the story of his neighborhood and then the story of his country, Lin constantly attempts to return to his community everything that it has given him.

As the title character of Hamilton as well as the writer of its book, lyrics, and music, Lin must think about every aspect of the show. His humility and genius provide a message as strong as those in the lyrics of his musicals. Preparing for college, I seek the commitment that it takes to work on one project for six years in order to make each line perfect, the humility to return overwhelming praise only with gratitude and a desire to give more, and the generosity to put on a unique show every day for those who cannot afford or find tickets. I admire that Lin begins new projects before he can finish the last one out of a simple desire to give to his audience.

With Moana and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lin’s music will reach countless new people over the next year, but I will always look back to my first time listening to In the Heights and remembering how much emotion musical theatre can deliver if it has a writer who devotes his heart to the work.


Out of gratitude to Lin-Manuel Miranda, I give him Robert Schmid’s By Design. Schmid paints New York the way I imagine Lin sees it: full of color, promise, and eccentricity. Without directly interacting with each other, the painting’s subjects share this space and all add to its spirit. The subway car feels intimate but somehow not cramped. By Design reminds me of the opening number of In the Heights, wherein Usnavi describes the bustle of New York as “just a part of the routine. Everybody’s got a job; everybody’s got a dream.” I give By Design to Lin-Manuel Miranda because he and Schmid share an ability to reveal beauty in New York streets and subway cars, beauties found only in “the greatest city in the world.”



Editor's Note: User error by the editor left out this fine post back in December. Apologies to all.

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