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Blackout on Broadway: Affiliation and audience in In the Heights and Hamilton

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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights (2008) and Hamilton (2015) find their inspiration in a generative conflict between individualism and community, freedom and property, whiteness and blackness, and empathy and complicity. The contradictory thematic pressures organizing Miranda’s musicals are the product of a complex negotiation with the institution of Broadway and its historic (mis)representation of people of colour. The musicals ambivalently balance a counter-narrative to a history of stereotype on the Broadway stage with the goal of convincing the predominantly white, highly educated tourists in attendance that the other is one of us. The musicals showcase different sets of Others and therefore have divergent goals in educating the audience, with In the Heights focused on countering stereotypes of Latinx criminality and Hamilton on affirming the immigrant’s centrality to the American nation. Nevertheless, both musicals display an ambivalence about the efficacy of the affective strategies used to educate the spectator. The stories of In the Heights and Hamilton share an investment in private property as a defining facet of the American Dream and, by extension, national belonging. At the same time, both musicals are fractured by an anxiety about the terms of such belonging, namely, who is silenced or excluded. The themes of acquisition and dispossession in terms of property ownership are fractured by the constant plea for forgiveness, for who gets sacrificed by the purportedly free market in order to facilitate the upward mobility of the rest.
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Keywords: Latino/a studies; Latinx studies; capitalism; class; empathy; race; stereotype

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bucknell University

Publication date: 01 June 2018

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