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