500 words essay about communication

Reflection Prompt: Think a bit about your own multi-faceted SOCIAL identity. What is one specific example of how communication has played a role in shaping, reinforcing, and/or challenging some part of your social identity? What about your example involves communication? How did communication function to shape, reinforce, and/or challenge part of your identity. Reference explicitly at least one of the readings on identity from week 5. Your work must be your own original response to this prompt. A note about reflection structure: 500 words equal about 2 double-spaced pages. You should write in complete sentences, use paragraphs, spell check, and proofread. Also, for each assignment, EVERY word (including quoted words) count toward the total word count. Grading Criteria: If you have a question or concern about your grade, once it is posted, go see your TA in person. We do not respond to comments posted here. Writing: 1. Is your response 450-500 words? Include your word count as the last word in your assignment. Simply include the number. This is a word limit, not suggestion. 2. Is your response proofread and spellchecked? 3. Is your response coherent and well-structured? Content: 1. Did you provide an appropriate and specific example of your social identity? 2. Did you clearly explain how communication played a part in shaping, reinforcing, and/or challenging some part of your social identity? 3. Did you clearly explain the communication aspect of your example? 4. Did you explicitly reference at least one of the readings from week 5?
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A new musical brings the Founding Fathers back to life—with a lot of hip-hop.
By Rebecca Mead
n April, 2009, Lin-Manuel Miranda, a writer, composer, and performer,
received a call from the White House. The new President and the First
Lady were planning to host an evening of live performances centered on “the
American experience,” and Miranda was invited to participate. Miranda, who
was twenty-nine, had spent the previous year starring in the Broadway musical
“In the Heights,” of which he was the composer and lyricist. Set in
Washington Heights, the show incorporated salsa and merengue with rap and
hip-hop, blending them with more conventional Broadway tropes, to winning
effect. “Heights” had won four Tony awards, including those for Best Musical
and Best Original Score, and Miranda had accepted the latter with an
effervescent rap that invoked “Sunday in the Park with George”: “Mr.
Sondheim / Look, I made a hat! / Where there never was a hat! / It’s a Latin
hat at that!” (He then pulled a Puerto Rican flag from the pocket of his
tuxedo.) The White House likely expected Miranda to perform something
invoking the Latin-American experience, and he was told that a number from
“In the Heights” would be welcome.
I
Miranda had something different in mind. A few months earlier, he and his
girlfriend, Vanessa Nadal, who has since become his wife, had been on
vacation in Mexico, and while bobbing in the pool on an inflatable lounger he
started to read a book that he had bought on impulse: Ron Chernow’s eighthundred-page biography of Alexander Hamilton. Miranda was seized by the
story of Hamilton’s early life. Born out of wedlock, raised in poverty in St.
Croix, abandoned by his father, and orphaned by his mother as a child,
Hamilton transplanted himself as an adolescent to a New York City filled
with revolutionary fervor. An eloquent and prolific writer, he was the author
of two-thirds of the Federalist Papers; after serving as George Washington’s
aide during the Revolutionary War, he became America’s first Treasury
Secretary. Later, Hamilton achieved the dubious distinction of being at the
center of the nation’s first political sex scandal, after an extramarital affair
became public. He never again held office, and before reaching the age of fifty
he was dead, killed in a duel by Aaron Burr, the Vice-President, after a
personal dispute escalated beyond remediation.
Miranda saw Hamilton’s relentlessness, brilliance, linguistic dexterity, and
self-destructive stubbornness through his own idiosyncratic lens. It was, he
thought, a hip-hop story, an immigrant’s story. Hamilton reminded him of his
father, Luis A. Miranda, Jr., who, as an ambitious youth in provincial Puerto
Rico, had graduated from college before turning eighteen, then moved to New
York to pursue graduate studies at N.Y.U. Luis Miranda served as a special
adviser on Hispanic affairs to Mayor Ed Koch; he then co-founded a political
consulting company, the MirRam Group, advising Fernando Ferrer, among
others. On summer breaks during high school, Lin-Manuel worked in his
father’s office; later, he wrote jingles for the political ads of several MirRam
clients, including Eliot Spitzer, in his 2006 gubernatorial bid. Chernow’s
description of the contentious election season of 1800—the origin of modern
political campaigning—resonated with Miranda’s understanding of the inner
workings of politics. And the kinds of debate that Hamilton and his peers had
about the purpose of government still took place, on MSNBC and Fox.
Hamilton also reminded Miranda of Tupac Shakur, the West Coast rapper
who was shot to death in 1996. Shakur wrote intricate, socially nuanced lyrics:
Miranda particularly admired “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” a verse narrative about a
twelve-year-old girl who turns to prostitution after giving birth to her
molester’s child. Shakur was also extremely undiplomatic, publicly calling out
rappers he hated. Miranda recognized a similar rhetorical talent in Hamilton,
and a similar, fatal failure to know when enough was enough. There was
extraordinary dramatic potential in Hamilton’s story: the characteristics that
allowed him to rise also insured his fall. When the organizers of the White
House event called, Miranda proposed a rap about Hamilton, and they said
yes.
That evening in May, Miranda and the other performers—among them
Esperanza Spalding, the jazz bassist and vocalist, and James Earl Jones—were
introduced to the President. Miranda asked him to sign a copy of “Dreams
from My Father” that he’d bought at the airport. Onstage, Miranda
announced that he was working on a concept album about
Hamilton—“someone I think embodies hip-hop,” he said, to general laughter.
He did not mention that he had written only one song. After Miranda
explained that Hamilton represented “the word’s ability to make a difference,”
he launched into complex lyrics that condensed the first twenty years of
Hamilton’s life into four minutes. Slight of build, with dark cropped hair and
thick stubble, Miranda paced the stage with coiled energy, rapping of “the tendollar Founding Father without a father / Got a lot farther by working a lot
harder / By being a lot smarter / By being a self-starter.” His performance
ignited a rising murmur of delight among the audience, and the Obamas were
rapt: Miranda later heard that the President’s first reaction was to remark that
Timothy Geithner had to see this.
Six years later, that song has become the first number of “Hamilton,” which
opens at the Public Theatre on February 17th, with Miranda in the title role.
Rooted in hip-hop, but also encompassing R. & B., jazz, pop, Tin Pan Alley,
and the choral strains of contemporary Broadway, the show is an achievement
of historical and cultural reimagining. In Miranda’s telling, the headlong rise
of one self-made immigrant becomes the story of America. Hamilton
announces himself in a signature refrain: “Hey, yo, I’m just like my
country / I’m young, scrappy and hungry / And I’m not throwing away my
shot,” and these words could equally apply to his dramatizer. Miranda has
used as his Twitter avatar Hamilton’s portrait on the ten-dollar bill, slyly
tweaked to incorporate Miranda’s dark eyes, humorously set mouth, and
goatee.
“Hamilton” is not a gimmicky transposition of early American history to a
contemporary urban setting. Miranda’s Founding Fathers wear velvet frock
coats and knee britches, not hoodies and jeans. The set, by David Korins, is a
wooden scaffold against exposed brick; the warm lighting suggests candlelight,
and the stage is equipped with ropes and iron fixtures that evoke the
shipbuilding—and nation-building—of eighteenth-century New York City.
Miranda presents an Alexander Hamilton of incandescent focus, abounding
talent, and barely suppressed fury. Hamilton was known to pace and mutter to
himself while composing his treatises, and onstage the rap soliloquy feels
startlingly apt as his preferred mode of self-expression: “I imagine death so
much it feels more like a memory / When is it gonna get me? / In my
sleep? / Seven feet ahead of me? / If I see it coming do I run or do I let it be?”
Miranda transposes Cabinet meetings into rap battles where participants face
off while surrounded by whooping supporters. The debate over whether a
national bank should be established to assume the states’ debts—Hamilton’s
farsighted invention—becomes an animated exchange, in which he emerges
victorious by disparaging Thomas Jefferson: “Always hesitant with the
President / Reticent—there isn’t a plan he doesn’t jettison.”
It does not seem accidental that “Hamilton” was created during the tenure of
the first African-American President. The musical presents the birth of the
nation in an unfamiliar but necessary light: not solely as the work of élite white
men but as the foundational story of all Americans. Thomas Jefferson, James
Madison, and George Washington are all played by African-Americans.
Miranda also gives prominent roles to women, including Hamilton’s wife,
Eliza Schuyler (Phillipa Soo), and sister-in-law, Angelica Schuyler (Renée
Elise Goldsberry). When they are joined by a third sister, their zigzagging
harmonies sound rather like those of Destiny’s Child. Miranda portrays the
Founding Fathers not as exalted statesmen but as orphaned sons, reckless
revolutionaries, and sometimes petty rivals, living at a moment of extreme
volatility, opportunity, and risk. The achievements and the dangers of
America’s current moment—under the Presidency of a fatherless son of an
immigrant, born in the country’s island margins—are never far from view.
Oskar Eustis, who marks his ten-year anniversary as the artistic director of the
Public with this production, says that “Hamilton” is the most exciting new
work he has been involved with in years—perhaps since Tony Kushner’s
“Angels in America,” which he commissioned, and directed in its première
production, in 1992. He sees a connection between Miranda’s creation and the
Henriad, Shakespeare’s early cycle of history plays: “What Lin is doing is
taking the vernacular of the streets and elevating it to verse. That is what hiphop is, and that is what iambic pentameter was. Lin is telling the story of the
founding of his country in such a way as to make everyone present feel they
have a stake in their country. In heightened verse form, Shakespeare told
England’s national story to the audience at the Globe, and helped make
England England—helped give it its self-consciousness. That is exactly what
Lin is doing with ‘Hamilton.’ By telling the story of the founding of the
country through the eyes of a bastard, immigrant orphan, told entirely by
people of color, he is saying, ‘This is our country. We get to lay claim to it.’ ”
ne bright day in October, Miranda and his closest collaborator, Thomas
Kail, the director of both “In the Heights” and “Hamilton,” climbed
into a town car outside the Public Theatre and headed for Hamilton Park, in
Weehawken, New Jersey. In the years since Miranda first conceived of
“Hamilton,” he has worked on several other projects: co-writing “Bring It On:
The Musical,” an adaptation of the movie about cheerleading, which played
on Broadway in 2012; appearing on “Modern Family” and “How I Met Your
Mother”; performing with an improvisational hip-hop comedy group,
Freestyle Love Supreme, which plays at Joe’s Pub and other venues, and whose
début TV series aired last fall. All along, he was writing songs and mounting
periodic readings of his work-in-progress. In 2012, he staged a concert
production of songs from “Hamilton” at Lincoln Center’s American
Songbook series; in the Times, Stephen Holden hailed it as “an obvious game
changer.”
O
While Miranda was working on the musical, he read Hamilton’s voluminous
correspondence and published works, and he visited sites in New York City
that bear the traces of Revolutionary history, like Fraunces Tavern, on Pearl
Street, where, after the defeat of the British, George Washington delivered a
tearful farewell address to his officers. For a while, Miranda was granted a
writing space at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, near West 162nd Street. Now a
national historic landmark, it is the oldest surviving house in Manhattan.
Washington used the mansion as his headquarters during the Battle of
Harlem Heights, and it later became the home of Vice-President Burr. “I met
with the head of the Museum of American Finance, and he showed me the
plaque on the side of an office building that says, ‘This was Thomas Jefferson’s
residence in New York,’ ” Miranda said. “I love that we are just a bunch of
layers above where all this shit went down.” Ron Chernow, who met Miranda
a few months before the White House performance, became a historical
consultant for the show. “Lin never gratuitously invents anything,” Chernow
says. “He tries first to stick to the facts, and if he has to deviate from the facts I
have found that there is always a very good reason for him doing it. I said to
him, ‘Do you want me to tell you when I see historical errors?’ And he said,
‘Absolutely. I want the historians to respect this.’ ”
The Weehawken trip was to a site Miranda had not yet visited: the duelling
ground where, in July, 1804, Burr shot Hamilton, who died of his wounds the
next day. At the time, duelling was outlawed in New York but tolerated in
New Jersey. “Hamilton” dramatizes three duels between three pairs of
combatants, and the second two prove fatal, including one in which
Hamilton’s son Philip participates. “A duel was like arbitration is now,”
Miranda said, with wonder. “It was, like, ‘Oh, well, we are not going to settle
this, we are going to have to go to a field in Jersey. Bring some arms and a
doctor.’ ”
Although Miranda had spent years developing the script, he remained unsure
how to portray the final moments of Hamilton’s life. Among other difficulties,
the historical record lacked clarity: Burr shot Hamilton on the first draw,
claiming afterward that he had been convinced by his opponent’s
behavior—the way he examined his gun, the fact that he put on his
glasses—that Hamilton also meant to shoot in earnest. Hamilton, however,
left behind multiple letters that suggested he intended to aim away from
Burr—to throw away his shot—and eyewitnesses later reported that he fired
into the air.
At a workshop production in May, Miranda had delivered a final rap in which
Hamilton gives an account of his preparations—“The sun is in my eyes and
I’m almost giddy / As I watch it slowly rise over my New York City”—and
weighs whether or not Burr has it in him to kill. Both musically and lyrically,
the song hadn’t conveyed the high stakes that Miranda sought to capture, in
which Hamilton’s fears about Burr’s lack of integrity extended to broad
trepidation about the uncertain direction of the country. Nor had the song
fully delivered a sense of tragic inevitability, in which Hamilton’s
uncharacteristic reticence and Burr’s uncharacteristic forwardness ruin the lives
of both men. Miranda was still revising the song, and expected to be still
worrying over the scene in rehearsals. He said, “There are things that don’t
exist, and that are not going to exist, until we have actors in the room, and I
go, ‘Oh!’ ” Kail, who sets deadlines for Miranda, and reacts to every draft of
every song, explained, “Lin’s response to pressure is to generate more
material.”
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, in a scene
from “Hamilton.”
Courtesy Joan Marcus
The fraught relationship between Burr and Hamilton is at the center of
Miranda’s show. In the opening number, Burr introduces Hamilton as a
“bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman”: lyrics derived from a
contemptuous description by John Adams. Burr was born to privilege—his
father was the president of the college that became Princeton University, and
Jonathan Edwards was his maternal grandfather—but, like Hamilton, he was
orphaned at an early age, studied law, and turned to politics. In Miranda’s
telling, they are negative images of each other, Hamilton’s heated recklessness
contrasting with Burr’s icy caution. “Hamilton is this orphan with nothing to
lose, and Burr is this orphan with everything to lose,” Miranda says.
Establishing Burr as a foil to Hamilton was suggested not just by the historical
record but also by musical-theatre precedent. In “Jesus Christ Superstar,”
Judas narrates, and Miranda was attracted to the idea of showing Hamilton as
he is observed by his nemesis. Stephen Sondheim, who enlisted Miranda to
translate some of the lyrics in “West Side Story” into Spanish for the show’s
2009 revival, appreciates Miranda’s respect for the art form’s history: “A lot of
contemporary songwriters for the theatre are not the least bit interested in
what went before. But Lin knows where musical theatre comes from, and he
cares about where it comes from.” Miranda brought the first few songs from
“Hamilton” to Sondheim a few years ago. “I was knocked out—I thought it
was wonderful,” Sondheim says. “They seemed so fresh and meticulous and
theatrical.”
Miranda shares Sondheim’s attention to uniting rhyme scheme with musical
phrasing. But while composing “Hamilton” he also took inspiration from
other, highly commercial Broadway scores. “I really got my ‘Les Miz’ on in
this score, like being really smart about where to reintroduce a theme,” he said.
“In terms of how it accesses your tear ducts, nothing does it better than that
show.” “Hamilton” also pays winking respect to other musical precursors.
Aaron Burr advises Hamilton and other would-be revolutionaries to temper
their outrage with a line lifted from “South Pacific”: “I’m with you but the
situation is fraught / You’ve got to be carefully taught.” “That’s our little
Rodgers-and-Hammerstein-racism quote,” Miranda said, as the town car
drove through the Lincoln Tunnel toward New Jersey. George Washington,
who is played by Christopher Jackson, one of the co-stars of “In the Heights,”
refers to himself ironically as “The model of a modern major general / the
venerated Virginian veteran whose men are all / Lining up, to put me on a
pedestal.” It’s a reference to “The Pirates of Penzance” and, in Miranda’s
opinion, an improvement on Gilbert and Sullivan: “I always felt like ‘mineral’
wasn’t the best possible rhyme.”
Miranda’s score makes targeted use of musical genres, too. King George
serenades his departing colony with a number titled “You’ll Be Back,” which
echoes British pop—the Beatles, but on the harpsichord—with witty,
melodious menace. (“When push / Comes to shove / I will send a fully armed
battalion / To remind you of my love,” Brian d’Arcy James, as the haughty
monarch, sings.) Miranda underscores the generational difference between
Hamilton and Jefferson, who was a dozen years older, by giving
Jefferson—just returned from Paris—a jazz-inflected number entitled “What’d
I Miss?” Jefferson is played by the rapper Daveed Diggs, who has put his
international touring schedule on hold for “Hamilton.” He says, “Lin exists at
the intersection of a bunch of worlds that don’t often intersect. He happens to
be a devoted fan of rap music, he happens to be a really talented rapper and
freestyler, and he also grew up engaged in musical theatre. Everything that
comes out seems so authentic.”
The pop music of the early nineties—the soundtrack of Miranda’s youth—is
woven into the score. Listeners may pick up allusions to the Fugees, Mobb
Deep, Brand Nubian. The show makes multiple references to the Notorious
B.I.G., the New York rapper Christopher Wallace, who was shot to death in
1997, at the age of twenty-four. When Hamilton introduces himself, he spells
out his name in the celebrated cadence that Wallace used in his song “Going
Back to Cali.” Miranda takes particular pleasure in a song called “Duel
Commandments,” a riff on “The Ten Crack Commandments,” Wallace’s
primer on how to deal drugs. The song appears during the show’s first duel, in
which Hamilton and Burr serve as the seconds for the combatants; in the May
workshop, Miranda reprised the counting structure in the fatal duel between
Hamilton and Burr. Kail, the director, explained, “We needed to set up the
duel between Hamilton and Burr—because you know Hamilton is going to
die—so the groundwork of that, structurally, made a lot of sense to us. But
having it be something so loved by hip-hop fans was also a way of saying that
these folks from long ago were doi …
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