David Park was once just an audience member sitting front row at a Hamilton show after winning lottery tickets. He’s now living the dream.
For over two months now, The Hamilton International Tour Cast has been having hundreds of theatergoers get on their feet every night with the highly-anticipated, sold-out, and acclaimed Philippines run of Hamilton. And in a cast of stars that have talent running through every inch of their bodies, David Park has stood out as a fan favorite for his dual roles of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. It’s an opportunity that the Korean-American has been honing for a few years now. But to hear it from the man itself, it’s one he will always be grateful for with how he practically managed to manifest it into existence.
NOT THROWING AWAY HIS SHOT
Before David was able to perform in front of audiences around the world, he was one himself. In 2015, he saw the show for the first time with its original Broadway cast after winning lottery tickets. “I remember being so moved because I was in school for theater at the time and the show made me realize that there was going to be a new wave of musical theater coming out that I was perfectly suited for,” recalls David. That night, he went home and prayed that the stars would align and he would find his way into the show. Little did he know that it would be the start of a years-long journey to the center stage.
Between 2017 to 2020, David joined multiple auditions for Hamilton. But despite how far he would come in the process (he made it to the final four in 2017), he would miss out on the final spot. Things changed though in 2020 when he finally got offered the role of Lafayette and Jefferson for Hamilton’s US National Tour. Sadly, that was in March 2020, just when the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep the world.
“It was really hard because this job had been my focus for so many years. It felt like I finally got it and it got taken away from me before I had it,” says David at the moment. The nature of the theater industry caused the actor to worry that he would lose the role and not be able to achieve the long-held dream he worked hard for. “Hamilton had been my goal for so long, and it felt like a waste almost like I wasn’t sure what to make of it. So, it was really disheartening.”
Luckily, he was never replaced and David’s time finally came in 2021 when he got on the Hamilton stage for the first time. And while he routinely gets rave reviews for his performance as Lafayette and Jefferson, looking back, David sees the pandemic pause as helping him prepare for the role even further.
“I think I wasn’t ready for the job when I got it,” he candidly admits. “I needed that time to digest and be like, ‘I got it’. So when I came back to it, I found myself realizing that I was a lot more relaxed and calm and kind of confident stepping into the part as opposed to when I actually got the job, I would have been way more nervous and scared.”
DOUBLE THE ROLES, DOUBLE THE FUN
There are those moments in your life when you feel like everything is going right. And for David, getting the roles of Lafayette and Jefferson was that moment. Even during the audition process, David felt more comfortable and relaxed as compared to his previous callbacks. You could say it was the role that he was meant to play. “When I finally got to do the show, it was such a relief because I had been kind of manifesting this job for like almost five years at that point. Even to this day, I’m still kind of pinching myself.”
To many, taking on two distinct characters in a high-energy show might seem like a daunting task, but for David, Lafayette and Jefferson have been a treat for him to embody for well over three years now. “It’s fun being able to play two parts in this show that is incredibly expressive and true to my musical tastes.” Playing these historical figures through a different lens has been double the fun for David, especially with the different energy he gives each character.
For Lafayette, it’s all about heroism and being part of a bigger cause. “I really feel like act one is just like, we’re all in this together. Everyone is for the same purpose. It feels like I get to be a part of the full company.” But when it comes to Jefferson, he plays the bad guy, and as such, adds so much fun into the role. “It’s basically just me and Madison and I kind of push everyone away. We get to go up against the main protagonist. I’m going to lose every night, right? But my character doesn’t know that. So I have this confidence of trying my best to win.”
It’s a big thematic jump between the two roles, but one he welcomes. And as different as they are, David does see himself in both characters. “I find different things resonate with me at different times. Sometimes I feel more in line with Lafayette, sometimes, I feel better with Jefferson. I resonate with different things about both people, but they’re both so larger than life and that’s fun to play.”
IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED
Since September, David, along with the rest of The Hamilton International Tour Cast, has been entertaining crowds at The Theater in Solaire, which also marked the Asia debut of the celebrated musical. But more than just doing what he loves on a near-nightly basis, David sees the representation of an Asian on the center stage as what means the most to him in the Philippines run. “Personally, being Korean-American representation is kind of my purpose in this industry. I didn’t grow up with a lot of people that I resonated with that had an Asian face. So, I wanted to come to Asia and represent people like me.”
Along with other Asians on the cast, such as Rachelle Ann Go, David hopes that the message of Asian excellence is delivered loud and clear. “It means so much to me to be here,” he gushes. “It means the world to do the show with Rachelle Ann Go, that’s an honor. It’s just amazing to be a part of this company and to be received so wonderfully.”
So, what does David Park like most about being in the Philippines? “It’s the opportunity to live in Asia and a homogenous society. I never had that growing up. I always had to juggle all these identities. And that’s not to say that people in the Philippines don’t go through that in their own ways. But like, you don’t have to worry about reckoning with being Filipino. And that’s really powerful and beautiful.”
TELLING HIS STORY
David made his dream a reality as he proudly stands tall as an Asian-American actor helping make a space for people like him in the industry. And as he sees it, if he made it, so can other young people hoping to do the same thing. As cliche as it sounds, all you have to do is be yourself.
“Your greatest ability, your greatest gift is who you are. You just have to keep working on yourself. Find out what you like, find out what you don’t like, and especially find out who you are. And don’t try to be who you think someone wants you to be like. No one can tell you what you can do. So, the more you know how to embody yourself, the more you can authentically do that with a character.”
In 2015, David Park was just a young theater actor who got lucky and scored lottery tickets to watch Hamilton. Now, not only has he managed to manifest his dream role into existence, but he also is at that point in his life where people are hoping to win lottery tickets to see him perform on stage. It’s that kind of full-circle moment that can serve as an inspiration for a movie’s plot.
In a moment of reflection, David looks back on a performance in Puerto Rico that had Lin Manuel Miranda and a few of the other original Broadway cast in the audience. “I remember I was standing in the wings ready to start and I realized that the kid who was watching the show was the one performing that day.” In moments of success, self-doubt and impostor syndrome can creep in. It’s something David can relate to. But after all these years as a performer, he learned to let his unique self shine through. It’s something he would want his 2015 self to know. “Whatever, whoever you are is what we want to see on stage.”
At the end of the day, David has been making moves. And even in those moments where he does get disappointed, the honor of a lifetime never leaves his mind. “We forgive ourselves because even when you’re living out your wildest dreams, there’s always times when you’re going to be a little dissatisfied. But I get to travel the world doing a show that I still love after three years. It’s an honor in every sense of the word and it’s truly humbling to be one of four people in the world that gets to play Lafayette and Jefferson. I take it as a huge honor and responsibility to show up as the best that I can.”
Hamilton Philippines will run until November 26th.
Photos by Andre Cesar
Creative Direction by Gelo Quijencio