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A version of this story first appeared in the April 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
If Lin-Manuel Miranda didn’t have two hit Broadway musicals to his credit, a scan of his senior yearbook at Hunter College High School in Manhattan would leave little doubt that he was destined for the arts. Miranda’s personal page in the 1998 Annals shows an appreciation for musicals, hip-hop, and high and low culture. He quotes lyrics from Rent and the Fugees (“I got tired of the fat lady so I sang my own opera”), an elegiac verse from Kahlil Gibran’s book of prose poetry The Prophet (“Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you …”) and a now-classic line from Jessie Spano’s classic caffeine pill-induced meltdown in Saved by the Bell: “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so … scared!” But it’s in his extracurriculars that Miranda’s love of theater shines.
He directed West Side Story for Hunter’s Musical Repertory and, years later, would perform with that group’s president (and his friend since grade school) Arthur Lewis in the hip-hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme. Miranda has said FLS gave him the “superpower” to rhyme spontaneously, which eventually led to Hamilton‘s dazzling wordplay and his freestyle performance for President Obama in March. Additionally, in high school, Miranda served as president of Brick Prison Playhouse, which produced work written and directed by Hunter students and a yearbook page devoted to “Hunter Performers” features a photo of him wearing a Superman-like costume emblazoned with the letter “E.” His reason for dressing that way is not explained, nor is his involvement in the Zionist Political Action Group, which was, according to a Hunter insider, a “joke club” started by a group of mostly Jewish kids with whom Miranda was friends.
Apparently so: The yearbook lists his ZPAG title as one of the “Secretaries in charge of Not Being Jewish.” (Miranda did not respond to a request for comment.) Finally, his advocacy of Latino culture and causes is nothing new. He was secretary of the Hunter Hispanic Society, and on his personal page, he wrote, in Spanish, of his roots: “My soul is Puerto Rico/My heart is Puerto Rico …”
Miranda (second from left) was president of the Brick Prison Playhouse.
Miranda (second row, fifth from right) was secretary of the Hunter Hispanic Society.
Miranda (third from right) directed ‘West Side Story’ for the school’s Musical Repertory.
Miranda donned a cape for an unidentified performance.
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