Just because tickets to see the musical “Hamilton” on Broadway are sold out through December doesn’t mean the Penn community won’t get to see Lin-Manuel Miranda anytime soon.
The composer, lyricist, and performer, as well as 2015 MacArthur Foundation Award recipient, will deliver the University’s Commencement address on Monday, May 16.
Miranda is widely known recently because of the enthusiastic critical acclaim for “Hamilton,” for which he wrote the book, music, and lyrics. Miranda also usually plays the title role.
“Miranda is one of the most innovative and stunningly brilliant artistic voices of and for our time,” says Penn President Amy Gutmann. “As a lyricist, composer, playwright, and actor, he has accomplished nothing short of remaking the great American artistic form of musical theater and telling the history of our founding through the most creative, evocative, and thought provoking contemporary lens.”
“Hamilton,” about America’s founding fathers, had its debut at the Public Theater in New York City in January 2015. Off-Broadway, the show, with its catchy rap, hip-hop, and R&B twist, received a record-breaking 10 Lortel Awards, as well as three Outer Critic Circle Awards, eight Drama Desk Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Musical, and an OBIE for Best New American Play.
By summer, “Hamilton” was transferred to Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Claris Park, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences majoring in theater arts and English, says she’s going to try to stay on campus after the semester ends with the sole hope of attending Commencement and seeing Miranda speak, as well as some of her friends graduate.
“It’s so unique and amazing [Miranda is coming to Penn] precisely because of the work he does,” Park says. “Being a working theater artist is hard. Being a successful one is almost impossible. Creating one of the most prolific and popular pieces of musical theater is incredible, especially considering the mainstream hype that ‘Hamilton’ has received in the past year.”
Asked what makes Miranda particularly popular to the Penn community, Park says, “I mean, what makes him so popular with the U.S. population as a whole? This crazy love of ‘Hamilton’ is unprecedented in box office sales and critical acclaim. As college students, we are well-aware of pop culture, and ‘Hamilton’ is now a part of that culture.”
“Hamilton” is just Miranda’s most recent famous work. In 2008, he earned a Tony award for his musical, “In the Heights,” as well as a 2009 Grammy Award, and was recognized as a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in drama. In 2014, Miranda received an Emmy Award with Tom Kitt for their song, “Bigger” from the 67th Annual Tony Awards.
At the Commencement ceremony, Miranda will receive an honorary doctor of arts degree. Other 2016 Penn honorary degree recipients will be Hawa Abdi, a Somali human rights activist and physician and Somalia’s first female gynecologist; Elizabeth E. Bailey, the John C. Hower Professor Emeritus of Business Economics and Public Policy in Penn’s Wharton School; David Brooks, journalist, commentator and author; Renée Fleming, Grammy-award winning opera and classical performing artist and National Medal of Arts recipient; Sylvester James Gates, Jr., a theoretical physicist known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory; Asma Jahangir, a human rights activist and lawyer and the founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; and Eric R. Kandel, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist.