In the Heights: Creatively

I was a young adolescent when the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan. Their music sounded from every treasured 45 rpm record (yes, actual records) and boys in school were suddenly send home from school for combing their inch-long hair forward in the dreaded “Beatles hairdo.” After that phenomenon, nothing much has compared, so there are few celebrities who tempt me to fan-girl awe. Today, the one exception might be Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’m much too old to be part of his actual gaggle of fans, but I do stand in awe of his talent. I’m counting the days until In The Heights is released as a movie.

One of the things I admire about Miranda’s work is his outreach and encouragement to community, fans, and collaborators. The Hamilton website has overflowed with new music, serious and spoof, and fandom has been off the charts. Now, for In the Heights, he’s collaborated with the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance to encourage fan art around the concept of home. The event itself was brief, and is now complete, but the results can be seen online.

Even though this particular art-sharing is complete, it can serve as inspiration for many other options. You could share the site and have students create the art they might have submitted about their own homes. For older students, the story line In the Heights contains important themes that could be fuel for art, dance, poetry, music, personal narratives, or many kinds of fiction.

What is success?

What is home?

What makes a community?

A family?

How do we envision a future?

What does it mean to be educated?

What does it mean to have a dream?

How does the story line in In the Heights relate to other coming-of-age literature?

What other stories might happen in three days?

The movie release is coming so late in the school year (at least in the U.S.) that I suspect many of these opportunities may go unexplored for now. But tuck them in your teacher-brain to percolate. There are exciting options here.

If you’d like a little taste, here’s the trailer.

But to better envision the experience and be introduced to the characters, here is the opening number: eight glorious minutes of it. Enjoy.

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