‘Hamilton’ actors not throwing away their shot

‘Hamilton’ actors not throwing away their shot

David Park has been gathering praise across Instagram for his portrayal of Marquis De Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in “Hamilton.” An Instagram post with the hashtag #KoreanLaffJeff featuring him dressed as Hamilton’s bestie, glows with comments: “Little Rock loved you!” “Amazing performance!” and “My mom couldn’t stop talking about how great you were!” Just to list a few. Park will join the cast as friend, then foe, of the title character when “Hamilton” comes to the Walton Arts Center March 22-April 3.

It’s hard to believe that it took a director dragging him into an audition to spark his love of musicals.

“I’ve always been very musical, and I was involved in music throughout my whole life, like taking band and singing in church and stuff like that,” Park says. While studying vocal jazz at Pasadena City College in the suburbs of Los Angeles County, the director of musical theater overheard him singing one day and asked him to audition for “Hairspray.” He says that he wasn’t going do it but, “on the day of the audition, she literally saw me on campus and dragged to the auditorium and had me sing.”

From that audition, he landed the role of Link Larkin. “I had never done any musical theater [at that point]. I didn’t know if that was anything I could do. But something about it just seemed fun. And I had loved watching movie musicals. I had actually never seen a live musical at that point,” he adds. Despite his inexperience, the musical theater bug chomped down.

“Once I did it, it just was a perfect combination of all these things that I love to do. I love to sing. I had never acted before, but I love performing for people. I love to dance. And ultimately it was the people that really made me stay in it. I loved the community that I was able to build from doing one show,” Park says.

This still resonates for him in the touring production of “Hamilton” — which is his first time touring with a musical. He says that working with so many people, in “Hamilton’s” case hundreds of people, who are working toward the same goal of connecting through a production, “that’s really powerful for me.”

Park moved to New York shortly after college to act, appearing off-Broadway in “Red Roses, Green Gold” and on screen in “Elementary,” “Madame Secretary” and “Bonding.” But after winning a seat in the ticket lottery to see the original Broadway cast of “Hamilton,” he made quite a prediction.

“I was on stage dooring after the show. I don’t really do that normally, but ‘Hamilton’ was just so impactful that I had to see these people’s faces up close. And when [creator Lin-Manuel Miranda] came out, he was signing my playbill. And I told him, ‘Hey Lin, try to keep the show open for a while, because I’m going to be in it some day.” Park laughs, adding that after performing the musical many times, he knows that he “was probably exhausted” and doesn’t remember the encounter.

Miranda was inspired to write “the story of American then, told by America now,” after reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton while on vacation in 2008. He even performed a spoken word piece that later became the basis for the musical at the White House in 2009. Audiences laughed, but Miranda’s musical opened in 2015 at The Public Theater in New York. From there the musical that incorporates hip-hop and jazz has gone on to Broadway and theaters across the nation. It racked up 16 Tony nominations and took home 11 wins, a Grammy for best musical theater album and even a Pulitzer Prize for Miranda among many other accolades. The cast is comprised of POC performers, and while Miranda said that it wasn’t a deliberate choice, it was essential that the performers could rap.

“’Hamilton’ changed what was possible in musical theater,” Park says. Although he had plenty of training in singing, Park had to rely on his love of hip-hop to prepare for rapping in “Hamilton.” “When I started in theater, rapping in musical theater was not a thing,” Park says. “I never took a class or anything, it’s just something that I’ve always loved to do on my own.”

Daveed Diggs, who played the Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson role in the Broadway production, left big shoes to fill by laying down rhymes at an estimated 6.3 words per second.

“He definitely stood out to me when I saw the show,” Park says. “This role is just so much fun, especially Jefferson, who just gets to play by his own set of rules. That’s kind of written into his character, where he’s supposed to represent someone with this really charmed life and someone that comes in with a lot of privilege and doesn’t really expect a lot of opposition … and there’s Hamilton waiting to get in his way every time.

“In preparing for this role, I was finding out how to make this larger-than-life character true to who I am as a person and what I resonate with, but watching [Diggs] … made a huge imprint on me from all those years ago. So he’s definitely a huge influence on me.”

Several cast members pull double roles for the show, which illuminates a lot of the play’s themes. Obvious connections between Lafayette and Jefferson were their ties to the French Revolution.

“They both had an earnest desire to fight for what they truly believed. And I think Jefferson is the main antagonist of Act Two,” Park says. “But — and I think every actor will tell you this — a good villain, a good antagonist, is not just a bad person. … It’s someone who’s fighting for what they truly believe in. And you can’t approach a character as like, ‘Oh, I’m the bad guy.’ … I think for me what’s always stood out for these two characters is how much of a fighter they both are and what lengths that they’re willing to go to fight for what they believe in.”




WHEN — 8 p.m. March 25; 2 & 8 p.m. March 26; 2 p.m. March 27; again March 29-April 3

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $199-$449

INFO — 443-5600 or waltonartscenter.org

Categories: Cover Story