Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2016 Tony Award speech/ poem was read on the same day as the Orlando Shooting Tragedy.
Translation by Chayla Vazquez:
Original Text: My wife’s the reason anything gets done She nudges me towards promise by degrees She is a perfect symphony of one Our son is her most beautiful reprise. We chase the melodies that seem to find us Until they’re finished songs and start to play When senseless acts of tragedy remind us That nothing here is promised, not one day. This show is proof that history remembers We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger; We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside. I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story Now fill the world with music, love and pride.
Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2016 Tony Awards speech, which was written in a poetic format, was one of the most moving and talked about speeches during the end of that year. The 70th Tony Awards was held on Sunday, June 12th. It was the same day that forty-nine people were killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting. This poem recognizes the terrible, unjust acts that had happened that day. It starts off as an acceptance speech and ends as a prayer for hope. Translating this poem into a digital story was made possible through doing a close reading of the poem to find key translatable features and capturing the emotional aspect.
When first reading the poem, the features I initially noticed was its medium length of four stanzas, each housing four lines. Each stanza has a simple ABAB rhyme scheme, except for the last line that contains a ABCB pattern. The simplistic flow of the rhyme structure parallels with the humble, carefully chosen vocabulary that was used. The words chosen seemed to insinuate that Miranda was avoiding depicting too much of the terror that had happened. It would have been an unnecessary trigger for emotions of pain and sorrow that the audience was most likely already feeling. For instance, he used the phrase “senseless acts of tragedy” instead of using harsher, darker words to name what had happened. He brings up the word “kill” only once in the phrase “love cannot be killed or swept aside” which still brings about positivity. Therefore, I tried to translate this simple, yet meaningful speech through my digital story by keeping all the elements of the video simple as well. I selected the background music to be purely instrumental with an uncomplicated melody. No more than three or four instruments are playing at one time in the song. Also, the images included in the project, especially those taken during the tragedy, were picked from the least shocking photos that were available.
Other features of this poem I tried to translate include the importance of remembering the loss this nation has gone through and encourage people to overcome it. I believe this poem also describes how a community then can grow stronger because of it. Therefore, I made sure to make most of the images shown to be pictures of people uplifting each other through love and pride. Also, I incorporated the essential fact that this award Miranda was winning was for the show Hamilton, which the plot and the show also has to do with overcoming battles. Thus, I chose the non-diegetic music from the actual play itself. The first song is called History has its Eyes on You, which matches certain key concepts of this poem and aligns with the line “This show is proof that history remembers”. Although I used a version that omitted the lyrics, the song originally spoke about mistakes being made and rising above them to make a difference. The second song, Satisfied, is added at the very end of the digital story and is primarily about love. This is very appropriate because the end of the poem highlights the importance of love and how it triumphs above all else.
One of the main reasons I chose digital storytelling as my medium of translation was because I wanted a visual representation of the victims from the tragedy. A problem that I had with how the media portrayed the massacre during the time of the event was that many news stories and conversations were surrounding the questions of the identity of the killer and why he did it. They questioned if ISIS was involved and what the murderer’s children had to say about it. However, what should have been the main focus of every story was the victims. The innocent people who had lost their lives on that day seemed less important to talk about than who was to blame. Therefore, I wanted to use this project to bring to light the many people the world has lost, yet will be forever remembered. An advantage to translating the poem through this medium was being able to use the original recording of the speech in the project as my narrative. I think this adds to the translation, especially since you can hear the compassion and emotion in Miranda’s voice which would have been hard to replicate alone. A disadvantage, however, would be that it is limited to only images and audio. Although, I could have integrated video within my project it would then not be strictly visual storytelling as defined by Emory’s Domain of One’s Own program. Also, it would have strayed from the simplicity of the poem I wanted to capture. I expect that, through this project, I was able to translate the emotion Miranda put in his speech as well as give recognition to those who died. Hopefully the video can be used as a reminder that although it only takes one individual to cause destruction, you can always find a multitude of people to help ease the pain. Through the images of the marches after the event and pictures from PRIDE parades, I want to show that not all of humanity is terrible. We are a race that survives off compassion, altruism and love.
Translating a poem through digital storytelling was an interesting process in itself. Within this course, I have learned that translation is not always a literal transportation of what is being said changed into another language or medium. During the “transfer”, the meaning of what is going to be translated must first be interpreted by the translator. This interpretation is partially subjective because every individual will decipher the literature differently. The core components of the text, however, is expected to still be intact in the final translation. I think it was easy to include all the key aspects of the poem through digital translating because there are so many parts to the video where I can express them. Through background music, images, narrative, and text I can connect the meaning of the poem to the final product in a way that can clearly be received by the audience. This experience has also confirmed the idea that translation is a personal process. When people read something, they usually take from it what they want and not always the message the author intended to relay. This is the same with translation. Translators find what is valuable to them, as well as the core ideas, and turn it into how they personally would like it to be expressed. The ways a translation can manifest itself is countless. If I had more time and resources I would have most likely translated the poem in American Sign Language. It is a language that I truly find comfort in using to communicate and is very personal to me.
Translating Miranda’s speech was hard for me in ways other than the use of digital storytelling as a medium. Having to research the lives of each person who was killed in this tragedy was heart breaking. There were times where I had to give myself a break because the thoughts about what happened would become too overwhelming. I felt as though I could relate to our guest speaker Professor Francisco who was reluctant on working with the Holocaust as a topic yet felt obligated to do so. I was also reminded of the questions we asked about translating mourning and melancholy. Can this raise ethical issues? Will it be effective? I think the importance is, however, that you create a translation that you think will be worth viewing and can make an impact as well.