Lin-Manuel Miranda began writing his own work partly as a way to receive his Equity card.
“I was in college, and I realized I didn’t dance well enough to play Paul in ‘A Chorus Line’ nor Bernardo, and if you’re a Puerto Rican dude that’s what you get,” Miranda said. “So I began writing ‘In the Heights’ because I wanted a life in this business.”
In recognition of his work, which has provided similar opportunities to scores of other actors, the Actors’ Equity Association awarded Miranda the 2018 Rosetta LeNoire Award. The award, which Miranda accepted at Equity’s National membership meeting Monday, is given out to individuals, theaters or organization who hire or promote diverse and inclusive casting.
Equity highlighted “Hamilton” for the way in which it turned the idea of a “universal” story on its head. The show has caused a shift in how non-Caucasian theater artists view their career options, said Christine Toy Johnson, Equity’s national equal employment opportunity chair.
“These ripples are felt not only in the myriad of jobs that are created by the show and will continue to be created by the show for artists of color, but also in the thinking of others, who now realize that if you tell a story brilliantly you can indeed defy all kinds of outdated barriers and assumptions,” Johnson said.
This accolade comes after “Hamilton” was one of the recipients of Equity’s 2015-2016 award for Extraordinary Excellence in Diversity on Broadway, among numerous other awards.
Beyond promoting diversity on stage, the casting of non-Caucasian actors as Founding Fathers elevated the historical storyline, Miranda said.
“You rob it of its inevitability, you rob it of its sort of plaster sainthood, and it’s just good storytelling,” he said.
But he added that the diverse casting of the show was somewhat predestined.
“I wanted to write a hip-hop, R&B musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton,” Miranda said. “If it had been an all-white cast, wouldn’t you think I messed up?”