Matthew Cabrera: lead role of In the Heights

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Roaming through the halls, the faces we pass eventually blur into the rest of the crowd. We only stop when we see a familiar face grace our presence.

For students such as Matthew Cabrera, that anonymity no longer exists.

Making his stage debut in April, Matthew decided to audition for the part of Usnavi, the lead role in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony award-winning show In the Heights. Since then, his presence among the school has skyrocketed after delivering stellar performances both nights of the show.

However, much like the people who auditioned back in December, no one had expected him to audition for the lead role. This was a stark contrast of character for Matthew, especially since he had never took part in any other productions such as SING! or FON. “Coming into the school, I was super introverted. I stuck to my old middle school friends, barely went to any clubs and kept my head as low as I could,” Matthew recalled. “I didn’t notice how passive I was in school until people told me they had no idea I existed. It felt good to finally make that change, though.”

Matthew explained his decision to audition for Usnavi, saying, “I specifically chose the lead role in the play because I wanted to go all out for my first production, and given that this was In the Heights and I myself am Hispanic, I knew I had to try for the sake of my people.”

His decision to come out of his shell had also opened his eyes on the people he passed in the hallways everyday.

“After joining In The Heights, I realized just how amazing the people who join these productions really are,” he said. “They aren’t just bundles of talent. They are bundles of everything: happiness, compassion, wittiness, and insanity. I was lucky to witness this in such a huge cast as well, and I loved it.”

Moreover, his understanding of himself had took a turn for the better. “I never thought I would be the type of person I am now. I have an appreciation for everyone I didn’t have before, which made me more willing to open up to others,” Matthew said. “I make a fool of myself more often than I make myself look cool, but I find it fun rather than embarrassing. Part of me also feels like it let out a party animal spirit I always had, but never got the chance to show until now. The people in the play were major reasons why I became this way, so I have them to thank— or [to] blame.”

After five months of constant rehearsals, Matthew considers his decision as one of the best decisions he has made and encourages others to pursue their interests in school. “For anyone out there who might be struggling with school and life in general, my advice is just do what you can to make your time here memorable,” he concluded. “It brings you such an indescribably good feeling that you’ll only wish you had sooner.”

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