Junior Stefanie Clinton plays Nina in the show. Clinton said she strongly relates to Nina, who goes to Stanford as a first-generation college student and works two jobs to pay for her textbooks.
“The role is so unlike anything I’ve ever played,” she said.
Throughout her career, Clinton said she has played the over-sexualized Latina character that has become a pop culture stereotype.
“This is really refreshing to be able to play a Latina who is actually driven and determined, has a good head on her shoulders, knows what she wants and really wants to break the barriers in her way,” she said.
Clinton said she is dedicating this performance to her mother, an immigrant from Mexico.
In his fourth show with Pauper Players, junior Jonathan Olivares plays Nina’s childhood friend Usnavi, a role originally played by Miranda himself. Olivares said he’s grateful to be in a show that has given him insight to people’s stories which are different than his own.
“I’m pretty privileged as a Latino to be able to go to college and have a supportive family, so going into a place where that necessarily isn’t true for a lot of the other characters — it’s a privilege to be able to explore these type of narratives that I don’t deal with on a daily basis,” he said.
Durán said she appreciates how “In the Heights” is relatable to people from all backgrounds while also emphasizing how much immigrants must overcome when they move to America.
“Even though we are not homogenous and we all have our different cultures, we are all still human beings,” Clinton said. “We have our own individual stories and struggles, and ‘In the Heights’ really strives to show that.”
All three students said they are looking forward to performing a story that is not only known by many people but also holds a special place in their hearts.
“I’m excited to celebrate the diversity of our cast and I’m especially excited to be a representation and the visibility of Latinx bodies on a theater stage — that doesn’t happen very often,” Durán said.
“Bringing this diverse community onstage is also very telling of what diversity means and why it’s important for Carolina.”