How the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center Gave Birth to In the Heights

Special Features   How the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center Gave Birth to In the Heights
 
On this Throwback Thursday, Playbill.com uncovers the earliest stages of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony-winning work.
<i>In the Heights</i> team: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegria Hudes, and Andy Blankenbuehler
In the Heights team: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegria Hudes, and Andy Blankenbuehler Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Before there was Hamilton, there was In the Heights. And before there was In the Heights, there were two young writers without a notable theatre credit to their names.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes submitted In the Heights to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Music Theater Conference in the fall of 2004 through the open submissions policy. The following summer, the duo developed the piece at the O’Neill in Connecticut, alongside director Thomas Kail and music director Alex Lacamoire—a trio that we now know as a musical theatre dream team. Designed to create a space for artists to experiment, the O’Neill serves as a retreat for up-and-coming artists like Miranda, Hudes, and Kail.

“The O’Neill was a godsend,” says Kail. “We got so much work done there. … It was clear after seeing it at the O’Neill that the neighborhood was the central love story.”

Backed by co-arranger Bill Sherman and percussionist Doug Hinrichs, the cast included Natalie Cortez, Janet Dacal, Robin De Jesus, Huey Dunbar, Christopher Jackson, Doreen Montalvo, Javier Muñoz, Rick Negron, Sheena Marie Ortiz, Matt Saldivar, Monica Salazar, and Nancy Ticotin.

The O’Neill actually found Muñoz for In the Heights, since the program required Miranda to write, watch readings, and make revisions without performing. This was Muñoz’s first professional project, which bore the incredible partnership between Muñoz—who now plays Alexander Hamilton on Broadway—and Miranda.

Three years after these original developmental readings, In the Heights debuted on Broadway. The show earned 13 Tony nominations and garnered four wins, including Best Musical.

All they needed was some time away from the city to get the lights up on Washington Heights.

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