Wordy Wednesdays

On Wednesdays, we look at artist/designer statements or About pages and discuss the vocabulary they use to describe their work. Today we’ll look at the Bio/About page of Lin-Manuel Miranda, a composer, lyricist, and performer. Below is a clip of him starring in Hamilton, a play he wrote, composed for, and acted in.

Here is part of the text from his Bio, in italics.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is an award-winning composer, lyricist, and performer, as well as a 2015 MacArthur Foundation Award recipient. His current musical, Hamilton – with book, music and lyrics by Mr. Miranda, in addition to him originating the title role – opened on Broadway in 2015. Hamilton was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Drama and earned a record-breaking 16 Tony Nominations, winning 11 Tony Awards including two personally for Mr. Miranda for Book and Score of a Musical. The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Hamilton won the 2016 Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. Both Mr. Miranda and Hamilton won the 2016 Drama League Awards for Distinguished Performance and Outstanding Production of a Musical, respectively.

For its sold-out Off-Broadway run at The Public Theater, Hamilton received a record-breaking 10 Lortel Awards, as well as 3 Outer Critic Circle Awards, 8 Drama Desk Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Musical, and an OBIE for Best New American Play. Material from the show was previewed at the White House during its first-ever Evening of Poetry & Spoken Word in 2009, Lincoln Center Theater’s 2012 American Songbook Series and New York Stage and Film’s 2013 Powerhouse Theatre Season at Vassar College. The Chicago production of Hamilton opened in October 2016, with a 1st National Tour and London production both opening in 2017. The London Production went on to win 7 Oliver Awards in 2018, including Best New Musical and Outstanding Achievement in Music for Mr. Miranda and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire. The Hamilton Mixtape, a concept album inspired by the show’s score featuring top rappers and musicians in the music industry, was released on Dec. 2, 2016. Lin-Manuel received a 2017 MTV VMA Award in the “Best Fight Against The System” category for the video, “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” off of The Hamilton Mixtape.


Now my comments:

The difference between a bio and an artist statement is that a bio is often just a list of a person’s achievements. An artist statement usually includes more information, like an artist’s message, inspiration, and goals, or details about the process or technique that he or she uses. It can also describe the challenges the artist has faced, how their work has evolved over time, or what makes the work unique. In general, most About pages also include some or all of this information. I encourage artists and designers to include this kind of information on their sites to give their audience a better understanding of their work.

Let’s look at the language used at the beginning of the bio. In the first paragraph, we see that this show is a musical, which in this situation means a movie or play that tells a story with songs and dancing. We also see the phrase in addition to him originating the title role. In this situation, the word originating means he created and first played the title role. This play is named after a real person from American history – Alexander Hamilton, which is the character Miranda plays. This is what the title role means – the role that the play gets the title from. 

Broadway refers to the 41 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Next, we learn about some of the awards this show won and was nominated for. Nominated means that it was selected as one of the final choices, but did not win. We also see the word cast, which in this situation means all the people who are acting in the show. The word respectively means that the order of two or more things is correct as it was spoken or written. For example, it means that Mr. Miranda won the 2016 Drama League Awards for Distinguished Performance, and Hamilton won the Outstanding Production of a Musical.

In the second paragraph, we see the phrase Off-Broadway run. This means the show was playing at a theater that is not in the Broadway area of NYC. A run means a series of shows that played in that theater over a period of time. We also see the word material, and in this situation, it means some of the spoken lines or music from the show. (Spoken word is a performance art that focuses on wordplay, intonation, and voice inflection.) We see more awards, including one for the orchestrator, which is a person who adapts music composed for another medium for an orchestra. Finally, we see the word mixtape, which is something that was popular in the 1980’s. A mixtape is a compilation of favorite pieces of music, typically by different artists, recorded onto a cassette tape. Anyone with a tape recorder could make one, and people often made them as gifts for friends or loved ones.

It’s not too difficult to write a bio, since it’s often just a list of a person’s awards, achievements, and work history. Writing a good artist statement or About page that actually describes your work can be more difficult, but also more engaging. A good language coach can help you create one that will help your audience to understand your work more thoroughly.


At Artglish, we help artists and designers to write a statement or About page that best describes their work. We focus on choosing the best vocabulary and language to help you share your work with others. If you want to learn more, click here to join The Studio and try some free ways to improve your English, or check out our Lessons page to learn how Artglish can help you succeed.

I’ve chosen 5 words or phrases for you to focus on today. They are in bold. If you don’t know them, look up the meaning, synonyms, antonyms, and other forms of these words. You can find links to Merriam-Webster dictionary sites at the bottom of this page.

To see the artist’s Bio page, click the link below:
http://www.linmanuel.com/bio

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Jessica

I help artists and designers with their English so they can focus on being creative and changing the world.

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