Telling stories

I purloined a Rolling Stone (June 16 2016 issue) from my acupuncturist’s waiting room. I wanted to read the cover article, which Hamilnerds can read here without its best pictures, and then pass it around to the Hamilnerds I hang with. I’m not as thorough a Hamilton media vacuum cleaner as they are, but they occasionally miss some of the print stuff—and I like to be helpful.

I’ve read enough Lin-Manuel Miranda interviews to recognize his tropes, and to play the game I play with mystery novels—”Hang on a sec, lemme predict how this will come out!” But I’m also getting a slightly different portrait with every interview I read. Like how with photographs the light is never exactly the same, the breeze blows one day and not the other…the picture is recognizably identical, but not actually identical. Portraiture is portraiture, regardless of medium.

With this portrait, I mused on a couple of things I hadn’t aligned before.
One, I hadn’t realized that LMM wrote up a musical every year of his undergrad. My lord, the man is non-stop! I mean, I’m sure he was plenty busy with his schoolwork already; I was plenty busy at my similarly-positioned school. What a crazy amount of work! How driven would you have to be…

I caught myself. I had walked down the path he primed with “I was painfully aware of the financial sacrifices my parents were making[…]. …I was not going to leave with just leave with a B.A. in something. I was going to leave with stuff.” That is driven, and a level of physical energy I didn’t and still don’t have. Musicals are large works. But I caught myself up when I remembered that I, too, left college with “stuff.” Now that I count them, about 40 poems—a double chapbook’s worth*. The difference between us is that I didn’t think about “having stuff” when I wrote them… I wrote them because they asked to be written. I would not be surprised if, in fact, LMM’s musicals first asked him to write them, after which his savvy sealed “stuff”‘s deal. Our behavior’s similar, but the stories we tell ourselves about the behavior are very different.

Two, in this interview I heard a theme of “storyteller.” In fact, when the interviewer asks if Mr. Manuel might make a normal music album, LMM flat-out tells him, “I’m very story-driven.” As I listened to this ‘story’ strand weave in and out of the article, I started thinking about my favorite storyteller, who is also one of my favorite Hamilnerds. And I found myself wondering if she’s intensely passionate about Hamilton and LMM because at some level she sees the non-traditional story and the classically-trained storyteller and her gut hums, saying: yes, this is the work we do.

It takes more than talent to be an artist. But it’s rare to have an artist without that seemingly external pull: the work, it begs to be made. All y’all hold on a sec—I gotta get this down.


*The 40 are from my undergrad period only. I have over 50 from my high-school years. No wonder I feel mute when I write five works in a year!

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