Playbill.com highlighted the recent production of “In the Heights” at Wesleyan, produced by the Theater Department and Music Department. The show was developed by Tony Award-winning songwriter, singer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 during his sophomore year at Wesleyan. The book was written by Quiara Alegria Hudes, now Wesleyan’s Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater. The recent production was directed by Associate Professor of Theater Claudia Nascimento, who first connected with Miranda when he was a senior at Wesleyan and she was a new member of the faculty.
“It was such a crazy, full-circle feeling,” Miranda told Playbill.com. “First of all, you have to know that I met Cláudia my senior year at Wesleyan, when she was coming in as a professor as I was going out as a student. Her first year at Wesleyan was my last year; we became friends then. She didn’t advise on my senior project, but she was around. We worked together on a couple of shows, and I really like her…”
Nascimento told Playbill.com that “In the Heights” had attracted a lot of interest among students, and she was eager to discuss the musical’s challenges with its creator.
“I said, ‘This cannot be a musical cast only with Latino students. We need to cast the musical in a manner that is representative of the diversity that we have on campus,’ and he was, from day one, very excited, very supportive,” said Nascimento. “The only thing he asked me was to keep the respect for Spanish language, which I think is more than fair. The cast is very diverse as well because that’s the makeup of the student body at the university, and it has been a particularly touching experience for me to witness the kind of exchange of experiences— it’s not just ethnically diverse, but they have very different backgrounds of family histories…
“Some of them are international students, and since ‘In the Heights’ is a musical about community, that value or that theme has been transferred to the rehearsal process, and so the Spanish-speaking students coach the non Spanish-speaking students on how to speak the language. They exchange ideas about the accent when they speak English. Some students are from Washington Heights — they bring that kind of information — so it’s been generally a very, very positive experience.”