Artistic Influences

How has a film, play, book, television series, painting, music or other significant work of art inspired or influenced your own work or the way you look at the world?

The sound of the rhythmic clave at the very beginning of the opening number of In the Heights brings me back to my childhood -- yes, even more than my favorite Disney television show theme song does. This rap hip-hop musical, written by and starring Lin Manuel Miranda, was first introduced to me when I was a ten year-old. I had left my primarily white suburban elementary school for a much more diverse arts magnet school 45 minutes away in part to pursue my dreams of being an actor. In my new classes, I finally met people who were as interested in the arts as I was (not to mention a few who shared my Jewish background). Despite at last finding people that I had things in common with, I was still the only Puerto Rican person that I knew. My Puerto Rican grandparents lived halfway across the country, and I wasn’t very in touch with that part of my culture, other than dancing to the occasional reggaeton song.

When In the Heights came to Broadway, I honestly didn’t know that much about my Puerto Rican heritage. My father, however, bought the cast album and played it whenever we went on long drives somewhere. I loved musical theater and reggaeton, but the mix of the two was something that I had never heard before. The main character,...

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