‘Hamilton’ star in Cork for research on Fredrick Douglass for musical

‘Hamilton’ star in Cork for research on Fredrick Douglass for musical

Paul Oakley Stovall, actor and activist, star of the musical Hamilton, pictured at Nano Nagle Place, who are hosting the Museum of Literature Ireland's 'Douglass in Ireland' exhibition as part of #DouglassWeek, a weeklong creative commemoration of Frederick Douglass in Ireland from 8th - 14th February. See more at https://www.douglassincork.com/ and www.nanonagleplace.ie"

THE star of universally acclaimed production Hamilton has followed in the footsteps of historical figure Frederick Douglass all the way to Cork as part of plans for a new musical.

Paul Oakley Stovall, who played George Washington in the first national tour of ‘Hamilton’ is in Ireland working on a new musical series based on Douglas’ four-month lecture tour of Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Belfast in the autumn of 1845.

The star has already visited Cork's award-winning Nano Nagle Place - which is hosting a new exhibition on Douglass's time in Ireland.

Paul Oakley Stovall said that while Hamilton was a watershed moment for the casting of minority actors, Broadway now needs to tell the stories of people of colour.

Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping slavery he went on to become became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York and is widely known for his antislavery writings.

Stovall, along with Hamilton castmate Nikhil Saboo, will this week participate in Douglass Week, an online event commemorating the historic visit, and both took the time to discuss their plans for the Douglass musical on the University College Cork Plain Speaking podcast.

Paul Oakley Stovall, actor and activist, star of the musical Hamilton, pictured at Nano Nagle Place, who are hosting the Museum of Literature Ireland's 'Douglass in Ireland' exhibition as part of #DouglassWeek.
Paul Oakley Stovall, actor and activist, star of the musical Hamilton, pictured at Nano Nagle Place, who are hosting the Museum of Literature Ireland's 'Douglass in Ireland' exhibition as part of #DouglassWeek.

Speaking to UCC Quercus scholars Alana Daly Mulligan and Nyala Thompson Grunwald, Paul Oakley Stovall said:

“The big hope was that a show like Hamilton would completely transform Broadway and that musicals would be very equitable in their casting of brown people. 

"Now, what was obvious to me the whole time was that Lin Manuel Miranda had done a very innovative thing by telling a story about historically white people and using actors of colour, but we still weren't telling stories about people of colour.” 

Mr Stovall outlined how his vision for the production will offer an even deeper insight into his visit, and explore what Douglass may have been feeling as an African-American in 1845’s Ireland.

“When you're digging into history, there's only so much digging you can do and you have to I don't even want to say fictionalise, I want to say, fantasise. You have to take a big artistic swing at which you know is true in your heart about what it must have been like for him, and you have to take a chance and write those words,” he said.

He referenced the backlash Hamilton received in some quarters for casting minority actors as white historical figures.

“I probably wouldn't do the same casting flip that Hamilton did, so I don't think that backlash on that platform would exist. 

"Everything's going to get a backlash, so we'll probably be talking about this and a year and go “Oh it was that backlash, we didn't know that's the one we're gonna get,” or [that people will complain that] “We don't like that you have so many powerful women,” because the other thing people don't know is Frederick couldn't have done any of it without Isabelle Jennings, Hannah Webb, Mary Ann McCracken, Rebecca Fisher, and Susanna Fisher. It was the women in Ireland who were running the abolition and anti-slavery groups. It just wouldn't have happened without them. So maybe the backlash will be that people will find it so, so hard to believe that women in the 1800s were running things,” he said.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more