Edit ModuleShow Tags

Writer Behind 'In the Heights' Pens a New La Jolla Playhouse Musical

Quiara Alegría Hudes talks finding inspiration in San Diego, the power of the classic American road trip, and working with Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda


Published:

Quiara Alegría Hudes

See It

Miss You Like Hell
Oct. 25–Dec. 4
La Jolla Playhouse

The old adage “write what you know” has been one of Quiara Alegría Hudes’s guiding career principles. Born in Philadelphia, the Puerto Rican–Jewish writer has often drawn from her own upbringing. In her Pulitzer Prize–winning Water by the Spoonful, an Iraq War veteran—based in part on her cousin—returns to Philly. Similarly, her Tony Award–winning musical In the Heights, which she wrote with Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, focuses on a Dominican neighborhood in New York City. This month at the La Jolla Playhouse, she premieres her latest piece, Miss You Like Hell, about an estranged mother and daughter who embark on a road trip.

Here, she talks about writing from experience, finding “big-time” inspiration in San Diego, and working with Mr. Hamilton.

You originally wrote Miss You Like Hell as a play called 26 Miles. How did it end up becoming a musical?

I was working on In the Heights at the time I was writing 26 Miles [around 2009], and it never occurred to me to make it a musical. I have plays that I watch years later and I feel satisfied with. 26 Miles always made me antsy. I thought, But I love something about the story, and thought I’d retell it with a musical score. 26 Miles is what I’d call my failed early attempt at this musical, which is the correct version of telling this story.

What is the crux of the story?

I was interested in exploring a mother-daughter story with a lot of love and conflict. They have seven days to have the full extent of a relationship. The part closest to home is that one of the characters is biracial. That was fun, to pump her up with some of my experiences.

What is so engaging about a road trip?

The road trip is as old as time. It’s Odysseus’s journey. It gave it a mythic template. It allows for humor. They meet strange everyday Americans. Encounters with them create a lot of comic relief.

The musical also revolves around an immigration trial that may divide the family.

The story is going to have its world premiere a handful of miles north of the border. It’s going to have particular resonance. We were in San Diego in February to do a workshop of the piece. I went with Erin McKeown, the composer, and Lear deBessonet, the director, to Friendship Park on the U.S.-Mexico border. It was moving to see people who have been separated reunite at that location. After that, we rewrote a scene that takes place there. We found big-time inspiration.

How did In the Heights land on your desk?

Lin had a whole script for it, but he had started spinning his wheels on it. They wanted someone to come in and honor the spirit of it but also make some tough decisions. [Hudes ended up writing the book, while Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music and lyrics.] It was a bit of juggling, but I think we came out on top. It gets done at colleges and high schools. I saw it in London. In the Heights lives on.

 Lin-Manuel Miranda (center) in In the Heights | Photo by Joan Marcus

What was it like working with him?

It was fantastic. It was our first professional music theater endeavor. We tried to stay true to our instincts and honor music theater history. It was a wonderful coming-of-age experience.

I heard he lives in your building and you guys often have coffee together.

Yes! That happened this morning.

So how many times have you seen Hamilton?

Do I have to admit this? Probably five times.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

What Is It Like to Work at the San Diego Wind Tunnel?

Stephen Ryle oversees a team of nautical engineers at the world renowned testing facility

"There Isn't a Man on Earth That I Can't Make Potent"

A local doctor pioneers the nation’s first hospital-based sexual medicine clinic

Where to See 4th of July Fireworks in San Diego

18 spots for closing out Independence Day, from North County to South Bay
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Jason Mraz Is Growing Coffee on a Farm in Oceanside
    We spoke to the musician about all the whys — why food, why farming, why Oceanside, why coffee?
  2. San Diego's Best Restaurants 2017
    The top tacos, chicken wings, seafood, burgers, kid-friendly eateries, breweries, and more
  3. 10 Scenic Hikes Within an Hour of San Diego
    You’ve mastered all the trails in your area—now plan a Saturday to get outside for a hike and enjoy the views just a bit farther afield
  4. The Man Behind San Diego's $26 Billion Company
    Will Illumina's new hotshot CEO be able to lead the San Diego genomics giant into the complex world of clinical care?
  5. Celebrating Women: Shanna Missett Nelson
    Like a good dancer, the Jazzercise president has mastered her balance—of career, family, and life
  6. San Diego's Best Boutique Fitness 2017
    We've sweated through the top yoga, barre, Pilates, and boot camp classes, and are rounding up our favorites
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

9 Reasons You Need a Better Barber

Get the look and service you deserve at this East Village salon

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags