“Hamilton” Lyricist/Composer/Star Lin-Manuel Miranda Shared His Interest In Alexander Hamilton At The Nasher Salon Back In 2012

Back in March 2012 the Nasher Sculpture Center was still hosting its Nasher Salon. On this occasion they had a fellow from New York in. The crowd wasn’t as big as those for Kevin Bacon and Kristen Chenoweth, but those in attendance walked out with stars in their eyes knowing that they had seen something remarkable.

Luis Miranda and Lin-Manuel Miranda (File photo)

Luis Miranda and Lin-Manuel Miranda (File photo)

The speaker was a young fellow who had been accompanied to Dallas by his father, Luis Miranda. While he wasn’t a Brad Pitt or Jennifer Lawrence OMG-stop-me-in-my tracks type, there was something about him even from a distance that sparkled with “extra special.”

The chap was Lin-Manuel Miranda, who had just collected a Tony for his “In the Heights” production.

During his chat with SHN CEO Greg Holland, Lin mentioned that Alexander Hamilton had caught his eye. Seemed a bit strange for a hip-hopper like Lin to link with an American revolutionist Hamilton. He explained then that “after picking out the biggest, fattest biography he could find at Borders (remember Borders?), he’s working on The Hamilton Mixtape, a hip-hop album based on Hamilton’s life. According to Lin, Hamilton lived the American Dream before there was an America. Same fights they had then, we’re still having: size of government, etc., on Fox and MSNBC. Fights were bitter and personal. Sex/drugs/murder — hip hop.”

Fast forward: Today’s the hardest ticket to buy on Broadway is “Hamilton.” Yup, you guessed it. Lin not only wrote the lyrics, but he also composed the music and is currently starring in the musical.

BTW, you’ve got to see how Lin and Hamilton chorus celebrated the 40th anniversary of “A Chorus Line.”

If you can’t make it to NYC or wait until ticket availability in the fall of 2016, then enjoy Lin celebrating his marriage to Vanessa Nadal back in 2010. It’s simply joyous! BTW, the twosome added a son, Sebastian, to their productions in 2014.

Nasher Salon’s Tony Award-Winner Lin-Manuel Miranda Hip Hopped Into Dallas With Charm And Supernova Energy

There are events that aren’t exactly top 10 on your wish list of things-to-do. And yet you just know that the group putting on the activity has always come through with mustn’t-miss-opportunities.

LIn-Manuel Miranda

Last Monday night was one of those occasion. That’s usually the dark night for MySweetCharity but the Nasher Sculpture Center was having Lin-Manuel Miranda in for its Nasher Salon. A guy named Lin-Manuel? Monday night? Hip-hopper? Oh, well.

Oh, well, indeed! Forget George Clooney. Vitamin B shots. Like a super nova, Lin energized every room he entered. Instead of handlers or restrictions, he had his dad with him and one of the best, most refreshing attitudes seen in these parts since Big Tex said “Howdy!”

Just in case Lin isn’t a familiar name in your world, he’s the Tony-winning wunderkind of Broadway for his “In the Heights” that opens at the Winspear Tuesday night. The Puerto Rican-American composer, rapper, lyricist and actor not only wrote the musical, he starred in it. He’s also appeared in “House” and worked with Stephen Sondheim on the revival of “West Side Story,” just to name an iota of his have-done-list. Oh, and in his spare time, he married Vanessa Nadal, who starred in the original “In the Heights” and created an incredibly popular video, “Vanessa’s Wedding Surprise.” (Editor’s note: Stop reading and check out the video. You’ll see why this young man is a treasure and you’ll have a better day.)

From Booker T. Washington students in the audience to Nancy Nasher, all were caught up in the Lin-tude.

Nancy Nasher and Luis Miranda

Speaking of Nancy, she reported that her daughter, who was a terrific Lin fan, couldn’t make it, so she was doing double duty. Joining her on the front row was Lin’s dad Luis Miranda, who beamed with pride about his son.

Greg Holland

But before the talk began with SHN CEO Greg Holland, the VIPs’ meet-and-greet took place with Nasher director Jeremy Strick telling folks how impressed he was with the “Youth and Beauty” exhibition at the neighboring Dallas Museum of Art the week before.

After Lin chatted and was photographed with one and all, it was time to go downstairs for the talk that opened with a video on “In the Heights” and Lin’s involvement.

Salon audience

While the room was not as jammed as those for Kevin Bacon and Kristin Chenoweth, the energy level and admiration was overwhelming.

Lin immediately won hearts when he goaded the Booker T. Washington students in the audience to shout out anytime BTW was mentioned. They complied enthusiastically.

Greg had done his homework, asking insightful questions about Lin’s life, both professionally and personally.

Highlights of the interview included:

  • “The feeling of home and where do you belong” is at the heart of In the Heights, the Tony-winning Best Musical which will play at the AT&T PAC March 13-25.
  • Lin talked about his “abuela” – older matriarch or babysitter type – who was a compulsive gambler. For her, he pulled the arms of slot machines three hours a day. He was the guy who did the Thriller moves (dancing) at parties.
  • Learned a lot about rapping from a school-bus driver.
  • Went to a great school. His sixth-grade play was a biggie for him—he played Conrad Birdie, a munchkin, Captain Hook, the son in Fiddler, was 12 years old, three feet tall. When the girls had to act like they liked him as Conrad B., he said, “I’m clearly doing this for the rest of my life!”
  • His group of “free-styler” pals (they rapped/sang, make up words on the spot) kept him creatively charged during the eight years it took to get Heights together.
  • Earlier, at age 4, he had used a Fisher-Price kiddy “tape recorder” to perform his own song: The Garbage Pail Kids are in Town.
  • He wrote two plays before he graduated from high school.
  • At 19 years old he wrote Heights in three weeks, on a feverish winter-break span. Then hard work and luck intervened. John Mailer, Norman’s son, became involved in producing it. There were at least five versions, and a number of songs were cut, before it got produced.
  • At first it was “characters in search of a story.” Then it came into focus, very organically. The Hispanics in it include Cubans (the oldest), then the Puerto Ricans, then the ones from the Dominican Republic. Without this diversity, “It would be like GCB starring Hasidic Jews; not an accurate reflection of my world!”
  • He’d spent very lonely summers in Puerto Rico. After the musical came out, he was famous in about a two-block area of New York City and on the A train, but, “then I go to Puerto Rico and I’m Usher!”
  • Giving advice, he said, “Do what you can, so you can do what you love.”
  • His dad ran a newspaper, so he reviewed restaurants, etc. Then his dad was a political consultant (Al Sharpton, Elliott Spitzer, etc.), so he helped make radio spots. His TV work (House, Modern Family, etc.) will always be the gravy.
  • House producer told him, “As soon as I knew we were sending House to an insane asylum in Season 6, I thought of you!”
  • He thinks of himself as a writer, mainly. For Bring It On: The Musical, the cheerleader musical, he brought in elements of All About Eve, one of his favorite movies. Performances in Des Moines and Dallas taught them a lot about shaping/editing the show.
  • He got involved with Alexander Hamilton after picking out the biggest, fattest biography he could find at Borders. He’s working on The Hamilton Mixtape, a hip-hop album based on Hamilton’s life. According to Lin, Hamilton lived the American Dream before there was an America. Same fights they had then, we’re still having: size of government, etc., on Fox and MSNBC. Fights were bitter and personal. Sex/drugs/murder—hip-hop.
  • For the Sopranos TV show, he said two words: “I dunno.” Was first TV gig he ever got. His Tony Award speech on YouTube got a lot of hits.

He then took questions from the audience that were written down on cards —

  • Questions: Oddest place wrote lyrics? On a paper plate. On a piano-lounge bar on the Queen Mary at 3 a.m.
  • Told the BTW kids to “think of the audition as the job, and the job as the gravy.” Winning a part has so little to do with your actual talent, he said. It’s also a class—you can learn a lot from the audition.

After asking two or three questions, Greg said he had more but they had run out of time. Lin took the remaining cards with the questions, got one of the BTW students to provide the beat, and answered the questions in free-form, hip-hop style.

Yes, you’ve got to watch those events that you’re not that fired up about. They’ll tend to be the ones that you’re so grateful you attended.

By the way, don’t miss the opportunity to see “In the Heights” at the Winspear. As part of the Lexus Broadway Series, it runs through Sunday, March 25.

NasherSALON Series’ Award-Winning Kristin Chenoweth Hits All The Rights Notes Perfectly Despite A Case Of Bronchitis

Last week a bevy of fabulous, well-known ladies overnighted in Dallas for different reasons. Don’t know if any of the Kardashians were in the crowd, but Cyndi Lauper, Oprah, Katie Couric and Kristin Chenoweth were and they made lasting impressions. At the Mansion a newlywed couple walked in only to be greeted by overnight guest Oprah who congratulated them on their nuptials. Katie had Mansion guests and staff members almost giggly as she charmed one and all. Cyndi, who looked a little puffy, did a meet-and-greet at an event that was so fast-and-furious it must have set records.

And then there was Kristin, the all-around mega talent, who hails from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. She was here Thursday for the NasherSALON including an afternoon session with Booker T. Washington students.

But before getting started, know that Kristin was not in the best of health. She’d been fighting a nasty case of bronchitis since hosting Monday’s American Country Music awards show. Skeptics muttered that she’d probably cancel out on the Nasher, but they evidently didn’t know the Tony Award-winning songbird/actress very well. Kristin not only showed up, she scored home runs at every turn.

Booker T. Washington

Kristin Chenoweth

Like a scene out of Glee, Kristin had a love fest with an auditorium filled to over-capacity. She told the students that her visit to Booker T. Washington had been “very emotional for me. I see myself 20 years ago. It’s been inspiring. . . very inspiring to be here.”

Originally the 4’11” Kristin wanted to be a ballerina, but at the age of 7 was relegated to the role of a rabbit in the Nutcracker because of lack of height. “Now, the rabbit sits next to Clara in Act 2. . . a very important job. The Sugar Plum Fairies dancers now have their vine that they dance with. One of them dropped on the floor. Those of you who are in theater know that when a prop falls on stage, it needs to be moved, especially in ballet. And I’m sitting next to Clara and there’s the vine left on the stage and Russian dancers were waiting and the orchestra was waiting. In my head I remember thinking, ‘What would a bunny do?’ So I hopped out there and put it (the vine) in my mouth and hopped back and the place went insane.”

She didn’t talk down to the 400 students. She talked with them like a big sister providing inspiration and tips about being an artist. Admitting that she had made personal sacrifices for her career, Kristin went on to say that she doesn’t believe there are rules, “which is why I love this place. You guys do it all. . . I didn’t have the opportunity that you have.”

Continuing on she admitted that she tries to stay out of the tabloids; “I’m about being an artist and less about the fame part of it. Nothing against the Karadashians. They should make the money while they can. But. . .  and I do say ‘but’ (much laughter from the audience).”

Kristin Chenoweth

On a serious note, she added, “It’s more about the process of creating what we do than the red carpet crap. That’s actually more work than it looks like, because you have people looking at every little thing instead of how your high C sounded.”

Later she warned them, “What we all are is artists. . . . Our job is to keep the flow (of creativity) going. . . Fight for those practice rooms. Fight for time by yourself. Be with people who inspire you. Work together. You have such a gift to be here.”

Of course, Glee came up and she explained how the cast of Glee was an extension of her.  “Having kids look up to you is probably the most rewarding aspect of my time on this earth. . . and it makes me so happy that I could affect somebody like that. It’s very emotional, very emotional.”

Regarding training and education, she admitted to being “a big proponent of conservatory and college. Because all that stuff that you can’t wait to get to is going be there. There are going to be 20 people in line behind you who sound just like you, but what’s going to make you different is the fact that you spent the time looking at a Monet painting and wondering what kind of aria you could sing to it.”

Her advice to the students: “If you have anything else you want to do, go do it. It is hard. This takes everything you have. I have sacrificed a lot. I made some sacrifices . . . big time in my personal life, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way. I’m a lifer.”

About her upcoming role in TV’s GCB, she said, “It’s got a lot of interesting press around it because it’s based on a book by Kim Gatlin called Good Christian Bitches. However, this gives me a great opportunity to talk quickly about this. I am a Christian. I would never do anything that would make fun of my religion. This is about five women who grew up in church together and how they deal with their demons and how they deal with their love for each other. It’s more about relationships than it is religion. It is very funny. . . It’s comedy, comedy, comedy. It’s one big package of chocolate cake.”

Asked to sing Popular, she responded without hesitation and it was noted that some of the students started singing along.

Her parting advice to the students was “to take care of yourself, and sleep is the best way to do it. Do whatever you have to do. Pop Benadryl. I’m sorry, people. Sorry, teachers.”

In addition to a standing ovation, the powerhouse received a goody bag that she rummaged through as if it were her first.

NasherSALON

Kristin Chenoweth

For a lucky few, the NasherSALON hosted a private meet-and-greet on the ground level of the Nasher Sculpture Center for sponsors and VIP types just prior to the salon taking place downstairs. Kristin showed up early for a tour of the Nasher, loving the Tony Cragg show, and then faced the lineup of guests including Lisa Troutt, Veletta Lill, Lynn and Allan McBee, Tanya Foster, Jeanne Marie Clossey, Jim Moroney and daughter 

Jenny Moroney and Kristin Chenoweth

Jenny and Schlegel sisters Kim and Krystal. One warning was passed to photographers — turn off camera flashes. It seems that they result in Kristin having migraines. Didn’t matter. The little star shone bright enough as she greeted each person as if they were the celebrity. Instead of the Lauper hustle-through, Kristin chatted it up like a politician trying to lock down major contributors.

Jeanne Marie Clossey, Kristin Chenoweth and Lisa Troutt

But once the photo session was over, she headed downstairs for the talk with KERA’s Jeff Whittington. Unlike the afternoon session of hanging with fellow artists, the evening Kristin was a tad more sedate. There was still the mischievous look and the Chenoweth giggle, but she was talking to nearly 200 adults with a couple of youngsters mixed in. In addition to retelling some of the stories from the afternoon, she told the group:

  • Kristin Chenoweth

    She lives in New York City more than Oklahoma, but she’s still just a girl from Broken Arrow.

  • Speaking of the South, she said, “You know, there’s a misconception that we’re dumb. . . but we’re not. We’re smart.”
  • Her dad, who is a chemical engineer, negotiated her first contract.
  • She waited seven hours once to do an audition in New York.
  • At one point in the talk she looked down at her dress and was surprised to discover: “I have a sensor on my dress from the store! That says it all!”
  • To prepare for her role as Sally Brown in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, she went to Central Park for weeks watching little kids.
  • “My biggest challenge to this day is staying healthy. I have bronchitis right now. . . but it’s not contagious!”
  • “I love junk food, 7-Eleven, chain-store food.”
  • “The only way to grow and get better is to push yourself.”
  • She has a animal charity called Maddie’s Corner, which supports animals in need: “It’s animals helping people helping animals.” It was named after her Maltese, Madeline Kahn Chenoweth, that is the namesake of the actress Madeline Kahn, Kristin’s big hero.
  • “I don’t have a husband. . . so I may have paid a price for [having a busy varied career] in that way.”
  • Loves horror films and science fiction films.
  • “Going to the theater is like water in the desert for me.” After a CD-signing in Frisco on Friday, she’s headed to New York City to catch up on plays, and “I can’t wait.”
  • Kristin Chenoweth

    She suffers from Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear disorder that can cause vertigo, headaches and nausea.

Then it was off to her hotel for a night’s sleep, to Frisco on Friday for the CD-signing and then to New York City for an appointment with a doctor.

Evidently the pride of Broken Arrow firmly believes that the show must go on. . . even if she’s got a nasty case of bronchitis.

 

SOLD OUT ALERT: Kevin Bacon’s Evening Talk At The Nasher Salon, But Groveling Could Still Work

 Good news and bad news about Kevin Bacon‘s appearances for the Nasher Salon Series.

First the bad news: If you had hoped to buy a ticket for his evening talk on Thursday, September 8, you’re too late. Sold out in 24 hours! There is a waiting list, but you know how chancy that can be. Still, you might want to give it a try by groveling [email protected]

Now the good news: There are still a few scant tickets left for his afternoon get together with the Booker T. Washington students. If you’ve ever been to one of these BTW sessions, you know what a treat it is for the kids and the VVIP (Visiting Very Important Person). Strongly suggest you stopping everything and get your tickets.

Nasher Salon Update And 2011 Schedule Announced

The Stephen Sondheim talk for the Nasher Salon has been rescheduled for Wednesday, December 15. But don’t rush out and try to make a reservation. It’s sold out.

Don’t despair. They’ve just announced the 2011 schedule! Oh, be still my heart!

  • January 13 — Maya Angelou (Author poet, director, producer)
  • February 15 — Spike Lee (Director, producer, writer and actor)
  • September 8 — Kevin Baron (Actor, singer)
  • October 13 — Bernadette Peters (Actress, singer, author)

There is literally something for everyone and in a very intimate surrounding.

The tickets for Maya Angelou go on sale Sunday, December 5.

Sorry — Sondheim Talk at Nasher Scuplture Center Is A Sell Out

If you were hoping to see and listen to legendary Stephen Sondheim at the Nasher Salon on Thursday, November 23, too late. All of his appearances are sold out.

To help you through your loss in not being able to attend the talks by the 80-year old composer/lyricist, you may enjoy “Send In the Clowns” thanks to Dame Judi and Barbra. Very different interpretations.