Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In the Heights - meet cast member Michael Gale

When I turned in to the 62nd Tony Awards broadcast in June 2008, I hadn't heard of In the Heights.  I was living in Austin, Texas, and had just finished my master's degree in Latin American studies.  In the Heights was nominated for 13 awards, including best musical (which it won), so the cast preformed a medley of the opening number ("In the Heights") and "96,000".  I went insane.  It was so powerful, so energetic, so different, and just so good.  Later that night I found a recording of the performance was already up on youtube so I made my three roommates watch it again.  The next day I bought the cast recording on iTunes and it basically played nonstop for the next 6 months.

For me, this was the right musical at the right time.  For my master's thesis, completed just weeks before, I had written about migration and urbanization in Latin America.  I had spent the previous summer interviewing rural migrants in Peru - speakers of a different language, from a different culture, trying to make their way in a new city.  For the past two years, I worked for an Austin-based nonprofit that helped Latino immigrants prepare for immigration proceedings.  My classmates in the Latin American studies program at the University of Texas were from all over Latin America - Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Chile - and after a long week of classes and research, you could usually find us all dancing salsa or bachata in someone's backyard or living room.  My dad used to joke that I was in Texas getting a master's degree in salsa dancing - which wasn't too far from the truth.

In the Heights wasn't telling my story - but it was telling the story of the friends, clients, and classmates I had spent the previous two years getting to know.  Salsa, reggaeton, merengue, son cubano - suddenly musical styles I had only heard coming from my friends ipods or in South American discotecas were being performed on broadway.

In the Heights was an important musical for me in 2008 and it has continued to resonate with me as I've traveled and work in Latin America.  I'm so honored to help bring it to life at LTA this summer.

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