Lin-Manuel Miranda says he sees talk of radical change reflected not only in today's social and political moment but also in his musical Hamilton, which is based off of a political moment that took place 244 years ago.
"If there's any thesis about [Hamilton] it's everything that's past is present," Miranda tells NPR's Weekend Edition. "The contradictions that were present in the founding — the moment that those words 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' were written and the ways in which we fall short of that — are still present."
Miranda says the musical, which first hit Broadway in 2015, manages to resonate with whatever time it is in.
"In the Obama era, some felt it was hopeful," he says. "In the Trump era, some felt it was defiant. And in this moment right now, what I'm seeing is the language of revolution everywhere. And so the language of revolution present in this show from 244 years ago is being felt again in this different way by the Black and brown future of this country reckoning with what we want the future of this country to be going forward."
"I think, just speaking from our little corner of the world and being here and talking about Hamilton itself, the conversations that we're having now are: How do we start to make backstage as diverse as our cast on stage?" Miranda says. "How do we meaningfully grapple with making our audiences as diverse as our cast on stage? How do we begin to tackle the system?"
All shows on Broadway are canceled at least through Labor Day as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Miranda says he hopes once the shows do start back up, "we'll emerge in a more equitable space because I think those more difficult conversations are happening."
For now, Hamilton is heading to Disney+, a place Thomas Kail, the director, hopes fans will be able to "see what the original show looked like as filmed."
"One of the abilities that we had to play with, with the lens, is we gave everyone the same seat," Kail tells NPR's Weekend Edition. "There's no house left or house right. There's no mezzanine or rear mezzanine or orchestra. Everyone has the same seat."
As far as when fans will get to see Hamilton in person, Miranda says he is "optimistic about theater, not in the short term, but in the long term."
"Ours is the oldest art form of any of the art forms we're discussing," he says. "I think we will always gather in the dark to tell stories. And once we feel safe to do that again, we will do that again."
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Months into this pandemic, you might be craving the kind of musical escape only a few people rapping in knee breeches can provide.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALEXANDER HAMILTON")
ANTHONY RAMOS: (Singing) The ten-dollar founding father without a father got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SATISFIED")
RENEE ELISE GOLDSBERRY: (Singing) To your union...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) To the union, to the revolution.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Hamilton," the beloved Broadway hit about the life and notorious death of Alexander Hamilton, begins streaming on Disney Plus in just a few days. Creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda joins me now.
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: Hello. Thank you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Thomas Kail, who directed the original off-Broadway and Broadway productions of "Hamilton" and this live capture of the stage show, is also here.
Welcome to you.
THOMAS KAIL: Thank you very much. I'm happy to be here.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. I have a confession. I've never seen "Hamilton" because I was overseas.
KAIL: You're about to.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I know.
MIRANDA: That's why it's - that's why we did this - for you, specifically.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I know. That's what I'm assuming. It was all for me. It was literally all for me. You'd heard that I'd never seen it. And then you thought, OK, this is the moment. Seriously, though, what is it that you want people who have never seen "Hamilton," maybe, to get out of this? - 'cause it's not exactly the same experience that you would get, obviously, sitting in a theater.
MIRANDA: Tommy, you want to start?
KAIL: Sure. Our hope is that if you've heard the album and imagined it, this is a chance to see what the original show looked like as filmed. But one of the abilities that we had to, you know, play with with the lens is we gave everybody the same seat. There's no house left or house right. There's no mezzanine or rear mezzanine or orchestra. Everybody has the same seat.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does that make you think about, Lin - I mean, when you're thinking about that moment, you know, when it was recorded over three days in 2016 with most of the original cast? Do you remember that day - those days of filming? You know, what was it like?
MIRANDA: You have to understand this was a three-day film shoot in the middle of our typical eight-show-a-week schedule. Luckily, exhaustion serves the character of "Hamilton." That is a guy who was running on empty his whole life. So it doesn't affect my characterization, but it also - I'm just really grateful we had the foresight to do it. They caught us literally the week before we left.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS")
LESLIE ODOM JR: (Singing) Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) Diametrically opposed, foes.
ODOM: (Singing) They emerged with a compromise, having opened doors that were...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) Previously closed, bros.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is a huge deal for "Hamilton" fans, especially the ones like me who only know the soundtrack. But there's something else I want to ask you about. When this came out, it was so important for Black and brown people in this country. It was so vital to see this story told by the cast that was there.
And we are in a moment now where we find ourselves as a country discussing the issues of equity and inclusion. And I'm wondering about your thoughts about where you think "Hamilton" fits in, 244 years after the Declaration of Independence and a month into sustained protests calling for racial justice - Lin-Manuel.
MIRANDA: Yeah. I mean, I think that what's weird about the show, because it brushes against the origins of this country - and if there's any thesis about it, it's everything that's past is present. The contradictions that were present in the founding the moment after those words - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - were written and the ways in which we fall short of that are still present. It always feels resonant in the time it's in. In the Obama era, some felt it was hopeful. In the Trump era, some felt it was defiant.
And in this moment right now, what I'm seeing is the language of revolution everywhere. And so the language of revolution present in this show from 244 years ago is being felt again in this different way by the Black and brown future of this country reckoning with what we want the future of this country to be going forward.
So those lyrics of, this is not a moment; it's a movement; I'm past patiently waiting - those hit differently and resonate in a different way as a result. And so it's always interesting sort of where it lands, but that's where it's landing for me. There's a moment in a song called "Farmer Refuted" where you've got someone who's trying to stop protests, literally.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FARMER REFUTED")
THAYNE JASPERSON: (Singing) Heed not the rabble who scream revolution. They have not your interests at heart.
MIRANDA: And Hamilton is yelling over him, he'd have you all unravel at the sound of screams, but the revolution is coming.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FARMER REFUTED")
MIRANDA: (Singing) He'd have you all unravel at the sound of screams, but the revolution is coming. The have-nots are going to win this. It's hard to listen to you with a straight face. Chaos and bloodshed already haunt us.
So that is the energy that I feel from the show resonates in this moment. And it will be different in two years, and it will be different in four years.
KAIL: The thing that I find so striking is that nothing in the show in terms of the text of the show has changed since we opened on Broadway in August of 2015. But everything that we bring into the theater as theatergoers or as viewers of this film has changed every day since then. And when you have a chance to respond and react to something that has stayed the same when you have changed so much, that becomes, you know, a sort of measuring stick for where you are and where you might be and where you want to be.
And this is a show that does not celebrate the founders who built this country on a foundational and original sin. It is not a celebration of that. It's a questioning of an idea and then the failure to reach the ideal. And so as we struggle, still, and now the amplification of voices - you know, Lin and I have talked about this. And you know, when you see history has its eyes on you on a sign, you feel like, well, maybe our show in this moment can help give voice and amplify the essentialness of this movement.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to ask you about what's been happening to Broadway and, you know, basically to film and theater and everything else. It's been a cataclysm specifically for those who work in the creative field. I'm just wondering how you're sort of grappling with this moment and where you see this going, especially for people in the creative arts.
MIRANDA: First off, I'm optimistic about theater not in the short term, but in the long term. Ours is the oldest art form of the art forms we're discussing. We will - I think we will always gather in the dark and tell stories. And once we feel safe to do that again, we will do that again.
The silver lining of this moment now and in this time when we're talking about systemic racism - not, like, casual individual racism but, like, the institutions and the ways in which they foster unconscious bias and racism - is that we have time to deal with it. Everything's closed.
And so, you know, I think just to - speaking for our little corner of the world in theater and talking about "Hamilton" itself, the conversations we're having now are, how do we start to make backstage look as diverse as our cast onstage? How do we meaningfully grapple with making our audiences as diverse as our cast onstage? How do we begin to tackle the systemic things that I know can trouble - and I've felt it in my stomach - when you have this incredibly diverse cast of Black and brown actors and they're performing to an all-white audience? So how do we talk more about accessibility in this moment where we're stopped?
And my hope is that we'll emerge in a more equitable space because I think those difficult conversations are happening. So it's hard not to gather, but I'm also grateful for the conversations that are happening in the time while we don't.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Last question for people now coming into "Hamilton" who are going to be sitting at home and watching it - I'm just wondering, what are the moments that you look back on that might seem a little different to you now and that has more resonance to you now?
KAIL: You know, one of these lines around narrative - this idea of erasing yourself from the narrative or being erased from the narrative - I think a lot about when Eliza speaks to that - or putting yourself back into the narrative, which all fits into the sort of larger uber idea of who lives, who dies, who tells your story.
And we've seen in the senseless violence and the murder of Black men at the hands of our police that it is our job to tell their story. And I mean ours as everybody. And so I hope that there are other lines that have emerged that the world can use and can be helpful in assisting, you know, the forward movement of this essentialness that's happening right now.
MIRANDA: And I think for me, what hits different is, tomorrow there'll be more of us, which is a lyric that kind of comes up again and again.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE STORY OF TONIGHT")
RAMOS: (Singing) Raise a glass to freedom, something they can never take away, no matter what they tell you. Raise a glass to the four of us.
ANTHONY RAMOS AND OKIERIETE ONAODOWAN: (Singing) Tomorrow, there'll be more of us telling the story of tonight.
MIRANDA: This notion that tomorrow, there'll be more of us, and tomorrow, more of us will be fighting for change - that hits different than perhaps it did in 2015.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail, creator and director of "Hamilton," among many other things. The live capture of the musical recorded four years ago will begin streaming July 3 on Disney Plus.
Thank you both very much.
MIRANDA: Thank you.
KAIL: Thank you for having us.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE STORY OF TONIGHT")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) Let's have another round tonight. They'll tell the story of tonight. Raise a glass to freedom. They'll tell the story of tonight. Raise a glass to freedom. They'll tell the story of tonight. They'll tell the story of tonight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.