On Aug. 14, the LA Times worked together with the Hollywood Pantages Theatre to host an event panel involving some of the key creative minds behind the creation of the award-winning musical “Hamilton.” During this hour-and-a-half-long segment, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire allowed the public to enter their minds, revealing their thought processes on the works leading up to the opening night and beyond.
Sixteen other Insiders and I were allowed free entry into the event, and while I can’t call myself a theatre buff, I still had quite a lot to take from this experience.
Kail, Blankenbuehler, and Lacamoire revealed numerous tips that can help anyone trying to get involved in the entertainment business. Here are just a few:
Deadlines are a must
“What I found out when working with Lin [Manuel Miranda] was that he was great with deadlines,” stated Kail.
As Kail described to the audience the beginning stages of creating “Hamilton,” he stated that deadlines were the main component that allowed Miranda finish the play in an efficient manner.
When they decided to work together, Kail and Miranda agreed that they would take time off to re-read the book and map out key events before meeting up again in six months. Miranda’s goal was to write two songs each month.
At the end of the six months, they convened to rent out a small space where Miranda could perform. As more people got involved, Kail worked to plan meetings periodically. Everyone bounced ideas off of each other, formulating the best ways to showcase an important scene.
The meetings greatly helped Miranda because they granted him a safe space to share his ideas, whether they were completed or not.
Actors need to be the beat
Typically, musicals are known for characters breaking into song.
“It is when the characters have transcended words that they turn to music as an outlet” said Blankenbuehler.
Music is what these characters turn to when simple words are no longer able to express their situations, so it makes sense that their bodies should convey this as well. At the panel, Blankenbuehler stressed that “actors must learn to be the beat.”
According to Blankenbuehler, it is not enough to simply feel the music; actors must learn to fully encompass what they’re singing so that the music flows throughout their entire bodies, letting the beat tell the story. This is especially important because “Hamilton” is told entirely through music. The play moves at a constantly rapid pace, and actors must stay on beat.
The best voice is your own voice
When discussing the difficulties of writing “Hamilton” entirely in rap and hip-hop, Lacamoire commented that Miranda “grew up in the era of hip-hop and rap.” Writing in these genres wasn’t as difficult as one may think because the rhythms were already “ingrained into Lin’s DNA,” he explained.
Fans are often amazed by the extremely intricate yet easy-to-follow lyrics of the musical, but the truth is the music is able to sound that way because it is simply Miranda’s pure and authentic voice. Subtle in their complexity, the lyrics transport audiences into the play with its natural flow.
As a person who has never been involved with theatre before, there were many lessons to be learned from the creative minds behind “Hamilton.” I really connected with these three speakers as I am someone who’s looking into starting a career in the entertainment industry in the future. I’ll definitely be applying lessons one and three to my own writing, while the second lesson is merely something to keep in mind whenever I watch plays in the future.
One thing’s for certain, I’ll never forget the night when I got to meet some of the greatest Tony award-winning directors of my generation.
HS Insiders at the Metro Red Line Hollywood/Vine Station prior to the panel.