Lin-Manuel Miranda Raps His Way to a Revolution

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Creating an avenue for diversity through the cultural phenomenon, Hamilton

By Rosario Diaz

Lin-Manuel Miranda has earned several Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, a Pulitzer Prize in Drama, a Primetime Emmy Award in Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, two Grammys, and a MacArthur “Genius” Award. His creative genius in both writing and music has spawned two major Broadway hits, he’s written music for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, scored the music for Disney’s film, Moana and he’s even had a freestyle rap session with the President.

Everything this guy touches seems to turn to gold, and yet, his accomplishments alone are not the reason you see him gracing our cover. He’s there not because of his awards (though they certainly do warrant it), nor is it because he comes from humble beginnings—a former part-time teacher who’s seemingly found success and fame overnight. And it’s certainly not because he fits into that category of Latinos overcoming barriers. He appears on our cover because of the impact that he’s made for people of color. By creating an avenue for diversity and allowing people of color to retell the story of a founding father (and through rap and theatre, nonetheless), Miranda has done something that can perhaps be seen almost as revolutionary as the founding father himself.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda with Daveed Diggs at The 70th Annual Tony Awards.

But let’s take a few steps back, not just to get a better sense of why people are calling Miranda’s hip-hop musical Hamilton genius, but to take a look at what this cultural phenomenon is really all about, because it all started long before Hamilton.

In the early 1980s, Lin-Manuel was growing up in the Latino community of Inwood in Upper Manhattan. It was here in the Washington Heights-adjacent neighborhood that Miranda would acquire the tools he’d later use for writing his first Broadway musical, In the Heights.

As for Hamilton, it would be years until Miranda would start writing and acting out the part of the famous immigrant who became Secretary of the Treasury, but much of what the musical encompasses can be traced back to these earlier experiences.

The child of immigrants himself, Miranda was well acquainted with what it meant to work hard for what you want—it was something he knew that his parents had to do in order to provide for his family. Additionally, young Lin-Manuel had often visited family in Puerto Rico, so he could see where the place where his parents came from, and upon returning home to the States, he could see what they’ve accomplished. It’s something that must have rung true in his mind and stayed with him years later when he constructed the lyrics for his character onstage, “another immigrant comin’ up from the bottom.”

For some of his colleagues, it didn’t come as much of a surprise in hearing that the boy who led the Sharks during the school production for Westside Story would go on to pursue musical theatre as an adult. In fact, Miranda attests that it was these very performances as a child that would come to make him so enamored with the stage. “I really fell in love with musicals by doing them,” Miranda commented to Yahoo Global News anchor Katie Couric. “I got to be Bernardo, Captain Hook, and Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie—which was really the killer because suddenly I’m 12 years old, I’m 3 feet tall and every girl in my grade has to pretend to be in love with me!” Miranda explained that his sentiments on theatre and performing at the time were a little something like, “Whatever this is, I’m doing this for the rest of my life!”

After graduating from high school, Miranda went on to study theatre in Wesleyan University and fell in love with the craft completely. “You’re telling me I can write something in the fall, apply to [Wesleyan’s] Second Stage, get a budget and put it up in the spring? I am not throwing away my shot,” he remarked to the Hartford Courant. Around the same time that he was developing and enhancing his skills as an actor and playwright, Miranda was also beginning to understand the severity of typecasting in Hollywood. While Miranda had played a variety of characters in elementary and high school productions, the world outside of high school theatre was far different.

Miranda longed to have a career in musical theatre, but he knew with the types of existing musicals that featured Latinos, that his chances were slim. In an interview with the Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin, Miranda commented, “I don’t dance well enough to play Bernardo [of West Side Story], or Paul in The Chorus Line. And I don’t have enough of an operatic voice to play the Man of La Mancha. And if you’re a Latino man, that’s all you get.”

“I realized that the only way for me to have a career in this world that I loved, was to write it,” he said. That was how, in barely his second year at Wesleyan, he began to write the first draft of In the Heights. In the Heights was born from having limited prospects, and in the end, this production featuring “a Latino storyline in which we never played gang members once” would earn him four Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. With In the Heights, Miranda achieved what every artist has ever dreamed of doing—to create something and have it hit big with critics and worldwide audiences alike. And what’s more, he did it with a cast of mainly Hispanic actors in a play that celebrates rather than depreciates Latino identities. What more could one hope for? Anything to top that would have to not just be great, it’d have to be revolutionary.

And, of course, that is exactly what Miranda’s next—and current production playing to sold-out audiences right now—has proven to be. In a world where the identities and stories of people of color are often white-washed, it becomes quite clear that diversity is not simply needed in entertainment and onstage, it is missing. So while in In The Heights was a refreshing break from the overwhelmingly white scope of entertainment—with a plot that centralizes the hopes, dreams and fears of a Dominican community in New York—Hamilton was a direct response to it.

“The idea,” Miranda explained in Rolling Stone, “has always been to look the way America looks now, and that doesn’t exclude anyone.” In a musical that centers around the life of a white historical figure, “the ten-dollar founding father without a father,” Miranda needed to connect his audiences with characters from more than 200 years ago. So rather than have an all-white cast to play all historically white characters, he invited actors from all backgrounds to try out. “It’s inclusive language. It’s ‘I know this is about the founding fathers, but there’s work for you here!’ ” He adds, “It helps create a connection that wouldn’t have been there if it was 20 white guys on stage.”

“What’s incredible about Hamilton and the reason you can’t get a ticket, is because everyone’s responding to it,” Miranda explains to Latina magazine. “Everyone is seeing a bit of themselves in it.” Even more incredible was the point that Miranda made by having a large cast of actors of color in a show bringing in more than 30 million in ticket sales. “It’s making money,” confirms Miranda. “And that’s what leads to change.” The success of Hamilton challenges the myth about people of color that is often purported by entertainment execs—that they can’t be leads, that they aren’t profitable. “We are bankable,” asserts Miranda, and the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton is unquestionable proof of that. “The exciting lesson that I hope people are taking away from ‘Hamilton’ is that you don’t need a white guy at the center of things to make it relatable,” he noted to Rockefeller Foundation’s Rodin. “ ‘Hamilton’ is a story very deliberately told to reflect what America looks like right now. We have every color represented … And it’s making a killing.”

‘Growing Up Gonzales’: Playwright’s Bittersweet Slice of Latino Identity

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In the play “Growing Up Gonzales,” a young boy eyes his abuela (grandmother) searching through the pockets of his abuelo’s (grandfather’s) pants for spare change. “I’m not stealing,” the abuela declares, “I’m budgeting.” In another scene, the mistress of a deceased family member shows up at his funeral, with explosive consequences. Later, a character blithely declares that, “Death is God’s way of making the line short at Sears.”

These vignettes – and more – come to life in a one-man show that takes a bittersweet look back at coming of age in the Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s. Written by Felix Rojas, “Growing Up Gonzales” stars Andres Chulisi Rodriguez and is currently playing at the Medicine Show Theater in New York City.

“Growing Up Gonzales” centers on the memories flooding back to “Johnny” when he cleans out the apartment of his deceased brother “Cisco.” Lead actor Rodriguez plays Johnny, Cisco, and a host of other family members. Alternately raucous and moving, the play is set to run until April 9th.

Playwright Rojas told NBC Latino that “only a small percentage” of his play is autobiographical. “I think the message that Gonzales would like to deliver is that life is short,” he said. “So often we get caught up in things, and forget to heal the wounds that prevent us from being the people we can be.”

“Growing Up Gonzales” has had several earlier runs, beginning in 2010. Along the way, it has received generally positive reviews. A 2012 review in the New York Times pronounced it “part stand-up, part melodrama, and part cultural tourism.” That same year, a review from the performing arts weekly Backstage called the show an “affectionate, gritty, and spicily authentic collage.”

“Growing Up Gonzales” covers cultural terrain that will be familiar to many Puerto Ricans, such as making pasteles at Christmas, playing on a Roberto Clemente little league team, and watching the bombshell performer Iris Chacon on Spanish-language television. It also encompasses identity issues that will ring true to other Latinos. One young character wonders why he is American at school, Puerto Rican at home, and “Nuyorican” in Puerto Rico.

At the heart of Gonzales is the broken relationship between two brothers, Johnny and Cisco, each of whom inhabits his own world of loss and nostalgia. After reflecting on memories of his brother, Johnny says sadly, “I wish I could have taken this journey with you in life… instead of death.”

Rojas is proud of the diverse audiences his play has attracted over the last several years. “I write from experience, and life has no genre,” he said. “Your soul has no ethnicity. I hope to write in way that attracts everybody.”

Read the complete article on NBC News.

Bud Light and the NBA Launch New Lifestyle Partnership With Latino Designers

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Last Thursday night, Remezcla and Bud Light teamed up to bring the “Bud Light Distrito” to life, celebrating the Latino NBA fans and players in conjunction with the beginning of the league’s Noches Ene-Be-A campaign. Bud Light also helped link the NBA up with Dominican-American artist Tony Peralta, who created exclusive merchandise and art inspired by the New York Knicks’ “Nueva York” logo.

After Los Knicks took on Los Nets at Madison Square Garden, the celebrations headed to the Meatpacking District, as Bud Light hosted a private after-party at Subrosa. The after-party turn-up was soundtracked by DJ Camilo, and featured a live performance from rapper Lito Kirino.

Among the guests at the “Bud Light Distrito” were actor Adrian Martinez; Hot 97’s Laura Stylez; Dominican stylist and FILA designer Ariel G; Natalie Albino of New York R&B duo Nina Sky; Puerto Rican poet Lemon Anderson; and Gotham actor J.W. Cortes. Even Knicks center Willy Hernangómez dropped by the club to join in on the celebrations, as did NYC FC and Costa Rica defender Ronald Matarrita.

The NBA’s Noches Ene Be A provided the perfect opportunity to partner up with Bud Light in order to highlight the Latinos creating our basketball culture, whether it be on the court or in the stands. While Latinos aren’t represented in huge numbers in the NBA, the fanbase is growing at a fast rate, and the league has done a top-notch job putting the spotlight on them every year.

Continue onto Remezcla to see more highlights from the event!

‘Power Rangers’ to Feature LGBTQ Superhero in Becky G’s Trini

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When Power Rangers morphs onto the screen this Friday, there are a lot of moments for viewers to see themselves reflected on the big screen. One of those moments comes in Trini, played by Becky G, and a momentary bit of dialogue that could easily be missed by viewers not on the lookout for it, but matters nonetheless.

As the newly-minted Rangers, who are strangers to each other before they find the coins and receive their powers, are bonding over a campfire one night, Ludi Lin’s character Zack asks Trini if she’s having “boyfriend problems.” The look on her face quickly shuts him down, but he amends the query into asking, “… girlfriend problems?” She doesn’t answer, either, but seems more at ease with him and the rest of the Rangers after that moment.

It’s a tiny bit of dialogue, to be sure, and one that isn’t really ever addressed in the rest of the movie. She also never explicitly identifies her sexuality or comes out, which is fine — some people choose not to label their sexuality, and that’s totally valid. But that can have powerful implications, especially when viewers who may be questioning their own sexuality see the movie. Instead, what we do see is this group of kids accept Trini for who she is; they don’t question or ridicule her at all, and that is powerful.

Director Dean Israelite told The Hollywood Reporter that “For Trini, really, she’s questioning a lot about who she is. She hasn’t fully figured it out yet. I think what’s great about that scene and what that scene propels for the rest of the movie is, ‘That’s OK.’ The movie is saying, ‘That’s OK,’ and all of the kids have to own who they are and find their tribe.”

Read more about this character on Teen Vogue.

10 TV Pilots Starring Latinos We Hope Get Greenlit

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Even as the television landscape splinters more and more as streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon continue to buck decades-long trends, there’s still nothing quite like pilot season. Every spring, after reviewing hundreds of pitches and scripts from aspiring (or established) TV writers, executives at the various networks choose a number of them they think have potential. They cast actors and then produce a pilot episode to see which of the story concepts might actually work on the air.

It’s from that pool of pilots that TV networks end up choosing what series will grace their fall schedules. Considering the constant talk about the need for more diverse media representation, it’s encouraging to see that many of our favorite actors (looking at you John Leguizamo, Eva Longoria, Cristela Alonzo, and Edward James Olmos) have projects lined up this pilot season. Even if, unfortunately, there aren’t too many Latinos behind the camera on those very same shows.

Still, there’s plenty to get excited about. Which is why we’ve combed through Deadline’s handy Primetime Pilot Panic list to find ten projects starring Latinos that we hope get green-lit and get picked up to full series. From Marvel properties and FX spinoffs that already aced their casting to a show that only someone like Aubrey Plaza could dream up, these shows are the kind of varied entertainment we want to see on our screens.

1. Marvel’s Runaways, Hulu

Who’s in it: Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer (One Day at Time‘s Goth Carmen), Gregg Sulkin, Allegra Acosta

What’s it about: Six diverse teenagers who can barely stand each other must unite against a common foe – their parents.

2. Nightmare Time, TBS

Who’s in it: Aubrey Plaza

What’s it about: Set in Aubrey Plaza’s Nightmare Clinic, where celebrity guests check in to overcome recurring nightmares. Every episode features two insane nightmares, inspired by the horrors of modern society, and uses tropes and touchstones of the horror genre to guide audiences through its absurd universe. Thanks to advanced technology, we’re able to peer into their restless minds and witness their nightmares in real time. But what is “real” anyway? Maybe it’s all just a nightmare in Aubrey’s mind — one endless nightmare that eventually could destroy her and the entire world.

3. Las Reinas, ABC

Who’s in it: Daniella Alonso, Matthew Davis, John Corbett, Amanda Warren

What’s it about: Detective Sonya De La Reina is forced to confront her past when a case compels her to reconnect with her estranged family – the most powerful criminal outfit in Miami. Thrust back into the world she thought she had left behind, Sonya must walk the murky line between the law and her family, and question her true destiny as a De La Reina.

Continue onto Remezcla to read the complete list of TV pilots.

Rosie Perez, Urban Arts Continue to Fight for Arts Education for Underprivileged Students

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When it comes to arts education, children in public schools across the country still are not exposed to enough creative opportunities, according to longtime activist, actress and Urban Arts Partnership co-founder Rosie Perez.

For the past 25 years, Perez has been working alongside Urban Art’s teachers and board members to create more arts education opportunities for students in low-income communities in New York City and Los Angeles. “I’ve always said what separates a privileged child from an underprivileged child is opportunity,” Perez said in an interview with NBC Latino.

According to UAP’s website, its mission is to advance the intellectual, social and artistic development of under served public school students through arts-integrated education programs.

UAP has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. According to a spokesperson for the organization, the partnership helps nearly 15,000 students each year.

Perez said it is because of community organizations and the love of her aunt Ana Domingo Otero and Sister Margaret Frances that she became a success.

“The arts opened me up, it really did. I was a ward of the state… so I grew up in Bushwick, and they were Title 1 schools, and we did not have a lot,” said Perez. “But we had a lot more art programs than there are today, sadly to say.”

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

You’ll Fall In Love With This Mariachi Version Of ‘Tale As Old As Time’

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The Los Angeles ensemble performed a timely Mariachi-style rendition of “A Tale As Old As Time” from “Beauty and the Beast.” The remake, which comes just days before the live action film is set to premiere, replaces the film’s iconic dance scene with a version choreographed by Los Angeles’ Ballet Folklorico Company.

The video, posted Tuesday, has nearly 6 million views on Facebook. Fans of the original Disney animated film will notice how the video recreates the scene, from the iconic yellow dress Belle wears to the two dancers bowing at the top of a staircase.

Source: Huffington Post

John Leguizamo’s ‘Latin History for Morons’ is an Urgent Call to Re-Learn Our Collective Past

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The playbill for John Leguizamo’s latest, Latin History for Morons, includes a dedication that doubles as its inspiration. “To all the immigrants who made this country,” it reads, “and its original people whose spirit still run our lives unbeknownst to us.” Leguizamo’s newest solo show is an urgent call to re-learn our history, while embracing the messiness of the term “Latin.” The Ghetto Klown star, who was born in Colombia and raised in New York City, has long been a vocal critic of the erasure of Latino contributions to the making of the United States. “Without a past to glorify and uplift you, how do you propel yourself into an unknown, tenuous future?,” he recently asked in an October 2016 Op-Ed penned for the New York Times.

Talking to Remezcla, Leguizamo explained that his show is a way to fight back the anti-immigrant rhetoric we’re seeing on the news. By unearthing the history of the many Latino military heroes who have served in the United States army, and placing these contributions alongside breakthroughs that we owe to the Aztecs, the Mayans, and the Taínos, Leguizamo also hoped to remind audiences of the connection Latinos today have with those native tribes that once populated the Americas. With plenty of wigs and props, Leguizamo zips through thousands of years of Latino history to fill in the gaps of what he sees today in American textbooks. By the end of the show, he hopes his audiences will leave emboldened by his raucously funny and politically urgent lecture.

“I’m being empowered by our history. There’s no way I could feel like a second-class citizen ever again. Knowing now that we have fought in every single war this country’s ever had and that we’re the most decorated minority and ethnic group in each war—you can’t take that away from me ever again.” Those type of statistics and historical factoids are littered throughout Latin History for Morons.

Of course, when you have Leguizamo as your teacher, you know that despite the blackboard and his tweed jacket you’re in for a looser type of lecture. More surprising is the personal history that first sparked Leguizamo’s idea for this show. After learning his son had to create a school presentation on the subject of heroes, Leguizamo took it upon himself to find a slew of Latino military heroes that his son and his schoolmates could look up to – including the schoolmate bullying his son. In the process, Leguizamo had to contend with the fact that Latino history was harder to find in your average textbook – why were Latino military icons so much harder to unearth? Why didn’t he ever learn about them in school, he wondered.

After workshopping Latin History for Morons at La Jolla Playhouse and premiering it at Berkeley Rep, Leguizamo has now brought the show to the Public Theater. “My pieces are always growing. Until the very last day when they pull me off the stage. Everything is evolving constantly. It’s a living piece of art.” He’s still intent, for example, on finding a way to include Eduardo Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent into the show.

Read the complete story on Remezcla.

Estrella TV Dominates Prime Time In Los Angeles During February Sweeps

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Spanish language television network experiences audience growth with key Latino audiences

Estrella TV, the fastest growing, minority owned Spanish language network in the U.S. announced today that its local flagship station KRCA 62 surpassed both Univision and Telemundo as the #1 Spanish language broadcaster with Males 25-54  and tied for the #1 spot with Univision in the Males 18-49 demographic in Prime Time during February Sweeps in the Los Angeles Market. [1]

Estrella TV’s original Prime Time programming is shaking up the Spanish language television market in the Los Angeles Metro area.  According to Nielsen Data for the most recent Sweeps period, the network’s flagship station KRCA 62 (2.1 rating) outperformed Telemundo’s KVEA 52  (2.0 rating), KFTR 46 (1.7 rating), KWHY 22 (0.7 rating) and KAZA54 (0.4 rating) during the 2017 February Sweeps period in the Adults 25-54 demographic, coming in second to Univision’s KMEX 34.

“We are extremely pleased with our KRCA 62 station’s performance in the Los Angeles market. Our original and dynamic programming, combined with our top of the line, award-winning local newscasts proves that the Latino community in Southern California has choices when it comes to Spanish language entertainment and top quality news programming,” stated Lenard Liberman, CEO, LBI Media, parent company to Estrella TV.

Earlier in February, the KRCA 62 news team was honored with four prestigious Golden Mike Awards® recognizing the station’s excellence in TV news reporting in Southern California.

About LBI Media, Inc.

LBI Media, Inc., is the largest privately held, minority-owned Spanish-language broadcaster in the United States, with ten television stations and seventeen radio stations operating in top U.S. Hispanic markets.  LBI Media, Inc. is the parent company to the Estrella TV Network, Don Cheto Radio Network, Fenomeno Studios MCN, Que Buena Radio and La Raza Radio.  The company produces over 50 hours of original television programming at its Burbank Television Studios each week.  The Estrella TV programming catalog consists of over 7,500 hours of original, Spanish-language television programming in genres including talk, drama, comedy, variety, reality, music and more. To learn more about LBI Media and see company updates, please visit www.lbimedia.com .

24 Years Ago Ellen Ochoa Was the First Latina In Space, Now She’s Heading to Astronaut Hall of Fame

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Twenty-four years ago, the trailblazing Ellen Ochoa became the first Latina in space. The NASA astronaut made history back in 1993, and continues to do so today. On May 19, she’ll be inducted into the US Astronaut Hall of Fame. “I’m honored to be recognized among generations of astronauts who were at the forefront of exploring our universe for the benefit of humankind,” Ochoa said, according to KCET. “I hope to continue to inspire our nation’s youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, so they, too, may reach for the stars.”

Through her career, she’s done more than inspire younger generations of space exploration enthusiasts, she’s broken barriers. The 58-year-old California native – who is of Mexican descent – began her career at NASA in the late 1980s. However, she didn’t always expect to go into this field. In 1981, Ochoa was a PhD candidate looking to become a research engineering; Sally Ride also became the first US woman in space. That’s when she realized her true path.

“Putting that all together with my interest in space is what led me to apply [to NASA],” she said, according to NBC News. “You could do research in lots of different areas. The wide variety of tasks you could do with the space shuttle is something that really interested me.”

Continue onto Remezcla to read more about Ellen’s journey to the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Telemundo Actors Join Union In A First For U.S. Spanish-Language Television

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“It’s historic for people in Spanish-language television,” the union president said.

Telenovela actors at Telemundo voted overwhelmingly to unionize on Wednesday, bringing collective bargaining to the world of U.S. Spanish-language television.

It had been 65 years since actors at a major U.S. network had cast ballots in a union election, according to the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The union says Telemundo performers voted 91 to 21 in favor of unionizing, though the results have not yet been ratified by government officials.

Telemundo, which is owned by NBC-Universal, had been an outlier in U.S. television as the only network using professional actors not working under union contracts. The network’s telenovela soap operas are extremely popular, helping it recently outperform its prime competitor, Univision, with huge primetime ratings.

“It’s historic for people in Spanish-language television,” Gabrielle Carteris, president of SAG-AFTRA, told The Huffington Post. “We want people to be on a fair, level playing field no matter what language they speak.”

A Telemundo spokeswoman sent a statement saying the network was “disappointed with the result” of the union election, but was committed to negotiating a contract. “We continue to be dedicated to making Telemundo a great place to work and to Telemundo’s long-term success,” she said.

Continue onto the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

 

 

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