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From the U of M to Puerto Rico with Miranda and ‘Hamilton’

It’s good being Travis Blackwell these days.

It’s hasn’t been that long since Blackwell was at the University of Memphis earning his bachelor of fine arts degree in theater design and technical production with an emphasis in stage management. But since his 2015 graduation, Blackwell’s quick ascension as a professional stage manager has taken him to cities across the United States, much of it spent on the Tony Award-winning musical “Hamilton: An American Musical.

Travis Blackwell, a 2015 U of M graduate.

It gets better: Blackwell was one of three stage managers this winter for “Hamilton’s” three-week run in Puerto Rico with composer and singer Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Blackwell recently took a few moments to answer emailed questions about his career and his work on “Hamilton.”

Q: How did you land this gig?

A: I’ve been working on “Hamilton” since January 2017. First as a production assistant (short-term, three-month job to get the show up and running) for the first national tour, then as a substitute stage manager (covers vacations) for both the first and second national tours, and now I’m one of the full-time stage managers on a new production. So far, I’ve done “Hamilton” in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Houston, Seattle and now San Juan.

The cast of “Hamilton” (Angelica Tour). (Photo by Joan Marcus)

I got the job through a connection I made at the USITT Conference (United States Institute of Theater Technology). Kimberly Fisk, my current boss, offered me the PA job and I climbed the ladder from there.

Q: What specifically do you do there?

A: I work on a small team of people that manages the logistics of doing the show every day. We schedule rehearsals, prepare understudies, call the shows (tell the lights/sound/other crew when to take their cues), and ensure the smooth operation of the show on a day to day basis. It’s a blast!

Q: How long will you be in Puerto Rico and with the “Hamilton” production?

A: We’ve been performing the show for the past 3 weeks, but we’ve been here since late December. This is the longest a national tour has ever played Puerto Rico. Lin is starring as “Hamilton” here but will not be in the show once we leave. (We move the show to San Francisco next week for a sit-down run of at least a year).

Julia K. Harriman, Sabrina Sloan and Isa Briones on stage with “Hamilton.” (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Q: What is it like working with Lin-Manuel Miranda?

A: Lin is a fantastic performer and a super nice human. It’s been amazing to see the way the people of Puerto Rico embrace him (and us) and to see the way he performs the show he wrote. It’s been a dream.

Q: Do you have a favorite part of the show?

A: It changes constantly. Right now it’s Hamilton’s spoken-word soliloquy that takes place during his duel with Aaron Burr. It’s absolutely stunning.

Travis Blackwell’s name as one of three “Hamilton” stage managers is listed at the bottom.

Q: Is this production different from the one performed in the States?

A: This production is different in that it’s a brand new cast and Lin is playing Hamilton. Otherwise it’s virtually identical to the productions you’ll see on tour, in Chicago, and on Broadway.

Q: When did you graduate from the U of M? And with what degree?

A: I graduated in December 2015 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater design and technical production.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “Hamilton!” I’ve got a dream job.

— Phillip Tutor, CCFA media coordinator, potutor@memphis.edu

Published inDepartment of Theatre & Dance

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