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Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Public Theater That Oskar Eustis Built

For Variety’s latest issue, we asked Lin-Manuel Miranda to write a tribute to Oskar Eustis, one of 50 people to make our New Power of New York list. Here’s why Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, represents a new generation of movers and shakers that capture the best of Manhattan. For the full list, click here.

Oskar Eustis sees the good in you.

You will play him what you’ve written. He will listen. In the most generous and expansive terms possible, he will describe what he is getting from the work. He will explain the moments that knock him out (you will be quite chuffed that he got it — indeed, that he gets it), and he will zero in on the moments that were not clear, or where he feels you are idling. Even in describing these less-than-thrilling moments in your work, he is passionate, garrulous, articulate. Even if he is seeing something different than you intended, his interrogation of the moment forces you to sharpen the edges of your work, until it is indisputable.

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It’s that simple, and it’s that complex. It’s that interrogation of the moment and the truth that makes The Public Theater, the house that Joe Papp built, with Oskar Eustis at the helm since 2005, the most exciting place to make new works of theater. You can imagine Oskar hectoring Tony Kushner back in the ’90s, before “Angels in America” made history “crack wide open.”

You can picture him challenging Stew to get specific as he and Heidi Rodewald unlocked the brilliant journey of “Passing Strange.” And he is just as patient and relentless with you, asking you just before previews begin, “If you don’t change a word of this show, it will be one of the greatest things The Public has ever produced.” A pause. “But … what if Hamilton still hasn’t made up his mind what he’s going to do at the top of his soliloquy in the duel? What if it isn’t ’til the last second?”

Oh crap. That’s a good idea.

You go back to your desk or back to your piano, endeavoring to make your work live up to the potential Oskar Eustis sees within it.

Iveta Karpathyova for Variety

Lin Manuel Miranda is the creator of “Hamilton.” Read the rest of our New Power of New York list.

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