Ever since taking New York by storm in 2015, Hamilton has played in London, Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, to name a few, and soon will be staging a production in Puerto Rico. But it’s the current home of the touring “Angelica Cast”—at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center—that has its Tony-winning director Thomas Kail most excited.
“This is as close as I can get to a homecoming of sorts,” says Kail, who was raised in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, and graduated from D.C.’s popular Sidwell Friends School in 1995. “This is the first professional work I have done in the area. I am very proudly from Virginia and spent seventh through 12th grades in D.C., where both of my parents worked, so it has great memories for me.”
Back then, his ambition was to be a sports broadcaster, and after graduating from high school, he headed to Wesleyan University to try and fulfill that dream.
Yes, it’s the same school that Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda went to, but despite many published reports about their “college friendship,” Kail reveals that the two never even met while he was at Wesleyan.
“We did not meet at school. He was a freshman when I was a senior, and I had a policy that I did not talk to freshman,” Kail says. “Lin had written an early version of In the Heights his sophomore year and a couple of my really good friends saw it and called me, and suggested we do it when we start the theatre company we had always talked about.”
They sent Kail the script and demo, he loved it, and then in June of 2002 he finally met Miranda.
“We started talking for five hours and it just continued for 16 years,” he says. “We have a foundation of real faith and trust in the other person. We know we have each other’s best interest at heart. My job is to create an environment and fill it with people that will push him and inspire him and try to meet him where he is.”
A huge sports fan—Kail also earned praise for directing two sports-themed plays on Broadway, Lombardi and Magic/Bird—it was fortuitous timing that opening night at the Kennedy Center also happened to be the day the Washington Capitals were holding a parade in D.C. to celebrate the team’s first Stanley Cup championship. He was thrilled to see his boyhood NHL team reach the echelon.
Now that he’s spending some quality time in the D.C. area, Kail is finding old friends to catch up and he’s basking in the newfound opportunity to see family and friends he hasn’t been able to since his theatrical whirlwind began.
“I welcome that actually. It’s one of my favorite things to share the show with people who I care about and get to reconnect with people I knew when we were young, and meet their families,” he says. “Seeing them at the shows here has been really special to me.”
Although he saw some touring shows at the Kennedy Center growing up—he remembers Starlight Express and Les Misérables—it always seemed so far away to him and it was always something special to attend a performance there.
“It was always a big deal to go in there,” he says. “I remember the big bust of Kennedy and seeing that as a little boy. I remember always having to dress up, and it’s a little strange to be going back now as a semi-adult and bringing something I made. But now that I’m here again, I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.”