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I Got Laid Off Right Before Seeing Hamilton In Puerto Rico. Here’s What Happened.

February 19, 2019 by Arielle Calderon
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Lin-Manuel Miranda in “Hamilton” in Puerto Rico. (Photographed by Gladys Vega)

I had been at my company for almost six years. I started as an editorial fellow, got hired as a full-time staff writer, led the Community team, and even traveled the world for work. The opportunities were endless and the freedom was liberating — so when news leaked that 200+ layoffs were coming, my heart sank. There was nothing I could do but wait to see if my tenure and numbers were enough. I was in Puerto Rico, heading back to my hotel to get ready to see Lin-Manuel Miranda reprise his role in “Hamilton” — a moment I had been dreaming about ever since his limited run was announced. I answered the 646 number, figuring it was a call from a recent doctor’s appointment or something. It wasn’t until I connected the speaker to my ear did I realize, this might be the call. And sure enough…”Hey Arielle, sorry, we know you’re on vacation, but…”

But. The word that paralyzed my body and sent my head into a vicious spiral. It felt like a piece of my identity had been ripped from my being. I had been at this job longer than I had been in college. It truly felt like I had been notified about a death in the family, and I wasn’t sure how to process this loss. I texted my team and delivered the bad news, quietly sobbing into my phone, two hours before showtime. And like several other talented editors, writers, and reporters laid off from my company, I tweeted about being let go (I’m a millennial, what do you expect?!). Oh, and I included two theater references for good measure. I got in the shower and thought how much I must look like that Tobias crying gif from “Arrested Development.” And that’s when things got crazy.

Within a matter of minutes, my phone had thousands of notifications. Tweets of support, texts reading, “OMG ARIELLE,” and Instagram DMs of pure joy mixed with envy. I knew being laid-off was potentially in my future, but I was angriest about being called while on vacation, because I didn’t want anything to ruin my theater experience. But let me tell you, walking up the stairs at the Centro de Bellas Artes in Puerto Rico, knowing I was about to be “in the room where it happens” (sorry), I knew nothing could ruin this. The show started and the energy was almost visible in the sea of audience members. Aaron Burr, played by Donald Webber Jr., rapped his opening, and then…”What’s your name, man?” “Alexander Hamilton.” The theater exploded. Every single person was standing, clapping, screaming, and expressing their adoration for Lin-Manuel Miranda. The man behind the Broadway masterpiece. The man who returned to his family’s home in Puerto Rico to raise money for the arts. The man who made you proud, regardless of whether you knew him personally or not.

The entire performance was amazing. Brandon Marshall as Hercules Mulligan made me unattractively cackle. Julia Harriman as Eliza made me weep uncontrollably during “Burn.” The ensemble made me truly appreciate how special live theater is.

After the show, I had the opportunity to meet Lin. He immediately hugged me, told me about a time he was laid off, and asked to take a selfie to close our Twitter thread. I rehearsed this moment in my head several times, imagining all the things I would say to him. But of course, I drew a blank. I can promise you though, this is something I will never forget. If I’m going to lose my job while on vacation, at least I got to go out with a bang.

TL;DR: If Lin-Manuel can survive a lay-off, and come out on top, so can I. And so can you. How lucky we are to be alive right now. Thanks for wearing the good blouse, Lin.

The author and Lin-Manuel Miranda.