The decision to move “Hamilton” from the historic theater at the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras campus is a hard blow for the UPR. Future opportunities to generate revenue in partnership with the private sector, and even to recover its accreditations are at risk.
This unfortunate outcome reveals distrust in the UPR´s stability. It is a bitter sign of the same uncertainty that represents an obstacle to the island´s recovery and development.
It is also a setback to the efforts to promote the island as a cultural and business investment destination.
The decision to move "Hamilton" arises from security issues related to university protests over budget cuts and adjustments. A strategy that does not seem to understand the importance that running “Hamilton” at the UPR Theater has for the University and for Puerto Rico.
We must learn some important lessons from this. A key lesson is to build a climate of dialogue to resolve differences on university issues, and give way to the efforts intended to overcome the UPR financial deficiencies. The whole island should learn this lesson too.
Different sectors at the University must understand the value that external investment represent for the University´s revenue. New economic initiatives are only possible with stability and confidence.
"Hamilton" at the UPR Theater would have meant a model of success for the future. The successful and award-winning Broadway musical launched composer Lin-Manuel Miranda –of Puerto Rican descent- as a playwright, actor and lyricist. He decided to run the musical in Puerto Rico to help in hurricane recovery efforts, after ending his run in 2016. His return is one of the great local attractions that the Puerto Rico Tourism Company is using to promote visits to the island.
"Hamilton" is the kind of activity that the island needs to stand as an investment destination. For the UPR, the musical would have been an example of University can do, as a partner, in other areas, such as scientific and medical research, engineering and education services.
Fortunately, the University Theater will benefit from the $ 1.2 million improvements financed by the Flamboyán Arts Fund, an initiative of the Miranda family “dedicated to preserving, amplifying, and sustaining the arts in Puerto Rico”. The damage caused by the Hurricane was repaired and the facility standard was raised to attract Broadway plays, another successful strategy to generate funds.
However, relocating the musical to the San Juan Fine Arts Center puts the efforts to recover accreditation for eight -of the eleven campuses that were put on probation since 2017- at risk. "Hamilton" is included in the financial development and restructuring plans that the University submitted to the accreditation agency in order to prove that it meets accreditation requirements. Many federal financial assistance funds are tied to this musical.
The move leads to the wreck of a well-crafted plan of sponsors and gastronomic, musical and artistic offers that would have taken place in the square in front of the theater. The University invested nearly $ 100,000 in the event; it expected to raise more than $ 500,000 for scholarship funds.
UPR has lost a valuable opportunity to show its achievements to the world. Influential figures such as Oprah Winfrey, and the Obama and Clinton families, were invited to the play, so that they would see the theater ready to show talent.
The University and Puerto Rico have lessons to learn from "Hamilton", and show the rest of the world that we are smart enough to overcome the obstacles and think big.
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