Alum Marc delaCruz ’97 Defines An Unexpected Movement
Hamilton. Unless you have been living off the grid ,you have probably heard about this unexpected pop-culture phenomenon. An unorthodox, inventive musical, Hamilton turns history on its head, and in doing so propels itself into the annals of legendary shows alongside hits such as Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King and Wicked. But if Hamilton is the headliner, Seattle Prep alum Marc delaCruz ’97 is the subtext—proving things aren’t always what they seem.
Q: Marc, many people might be surprised to see that your high school yearbook details accomplishments in football, and track and field, but nothing in the arts. When did you discover your passion for the dramatic?
A: That’s correct, I did not do any theater while I was at Prep. I always harbored a passion for the performing arts but didn’t explore it until I was in college at UW. I performed with dance and singing groups on campus, took classes from the dance department and did theater around Seattle while completing a degree in International Studies. After graduation, I decided to continue exploring performing because I felt I had scratched the surface of something deeper and truer to myself.
Q: You could easily be considered a “dark horse” as it seems your career materialized out of nowhere. True?
A: I can see how it might appear that way, and though I do consider myself a bit of a dark horse due to my unconventional trajectory, my career did not appear out of nowhere. I’ve been performing professionally for almost twenty years now. I performed with theater companies for several years in Seattle before moving to New York. These companies, directors and artists taught me the craft of theater, something I’m always learning. I continued dance training for years at various studios, and studied with voice teachers. By the time I moved to New York, I was working year-round as an actor in Seattle with companies such as the 5th Avenue Theatre, Village Theatre and ReAct. When I arrived in New York, I auditioned for everything I could—Broadway shows, tours, and regional productions—and tried to get the attention of agents. It has been over twelve years since I left Seattle and while I’ve had some amazing career highs, I’ve also experienced a lot of lows—a lot of debt, depression, and self-doubt. The bulk of my career has been performing in the ensembles of musical theatre productions. Slowly over the years, I’ve worked to show casting directors and directors that I can also play principal roles. A lot of hard work, maintaining a good reputation, and a maybe a bit of luck at times laid out my career path. I think of it as a combination of doors opening at the right times, knowing when to walk through them, and pushing them open when need be.
Q: In 2014 you made your Broadway debut, alongside Idina Menzel in If/Then. What was that experience like?
A: It was so many things at once! I was making my Broadway debut in a cast chock full of Broadway veterans including Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, LaChanze and Jerry Dixon; Michael Greif, the original director of Rent, and Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Next to Normal. To be in a room watching these luminaries create a new show was a mind-blowing experience. I learned so much about the development of a new work from page to stage and the magic that is possible when artists bring their sensibilities, aesthetics, talent and passion to the table in collaboration with one another. I really couldn’t believe I was there, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was chosen to be there, which was difficult for me to accept! I was a swing in If/Then, meaning I understudied all the men in the ensemble and one principal role. It was a challenge, one that required heavy use of the non-artistic side of my brain to take good notes and keep all the tracks straight.
Q: Acting. Dancing. Singing. What percent is artistry, versus technical, or simply pure passion?
A: Wow, that’s a tough question. I think it is hard to quantify because they are all integral to the performing arts. When I first started out, I had a lot of passion but not much technique. Passion got me far, but I needed to learn technique in order to be consistent and effective. As I’ve watched and collaborated with different artists over the years, I’ve gained a fuller understanding and appreciation for artistry—it can’t just be about technique. And passion can be moving, but artistry unlocks all the nuances and limitless possibilities that give life and depth to the work.
Q: Who are your musical heroes?
A: Stephen Sondheim, Jeanine Tesori, Brian Yorkey, Tom Kitt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alex Lacamoire, Stevie Wonder, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Jason Ma, Tim Rice, Chita Rivera...to name only a few.
Q: You were born in Hawaii. Grew up in Seattle. Now, you are living in New York. Where is the place you feel most at home?
A: I think Seattle will always feel like home to me. Hawai’i comes in at a close second. Both places are intrinsic to my identity and my roots. Though we left Hawai’i when I was very young, we maintained close ties to the islands, and I was lucky enough to be able to return several times to visit family. My parents now live on the Big Island. Seattle is where I grew up, went to school, came of age and started my theater career. Some of my oldest and closest friends are in Seattle, including friends from Prep. Even though I’ve lived in New York for over twelve years, I still consider myself a Pacific Northwest boy.
Q: In November 2018 you joined the cast of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Hamilton. You have played various roles: King George III, Hamilton’s father-in-law, Hamilton’s eldest son, and Hamilton’s doctor. In 2019 you made history as the first Filipino-American to play the lead role of Alexander Hamilton himself. Did you understand the significance of this at the time?
A: I joined the Broadway company of Hamilton in December as Man 5 in the ensemble, which includes the roles of Philip Schuyler, James Reynolds and the doctor. I perform that track every night unless I’m called to perform one of the three principal roles I understudy. When I was getting ready to go on as Hamilton for the first time, I was hyper focused on learning the role and getting myself ready that I didn’t think much about the significance of what I was doing. Since the first weekend I went on, I’ve received many humbling and supportive messages that put it in perspective that this is all so much bigger than me. Being an Asian American—specifically Filipino American—actor, I understand the importance of representation and when people tell me how much it means to them that I played this role, it drives home the idea that what I get to do as an actor can and does have reach far beyond myself.
Q: Prior to the show were you familiar with the work of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda?
A: Yes! I saw In the Heights on Broadway and was absolutely blown away by it. The music and choreography were so familiar to me as these were the styles of music and dance that influenced me most growing up. I became a big fan of Lin-Manuel for breaking new ground in the musical theater world with his specific style of hip hop, pop and R&B.
Q: I understand you unexpectedly met Lin-Manuel Miranda.
A: The very first time I met Lin was in the basement of the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Immediately I could see how humble, gracious, and very down to earth he is—always wearing a hoodie and jeans. He warmly welcomed me to the company, and we talked about my experience with the show, and he shared some of his reflections with me. The second time I met him was at an EduHam talkback. Outreach is a key part of Hamilton’s mission and about once a month, a Wednesday matinee is reserved for high school students from largely underserved schools from around the region. Before the show, students from each school take the stage to perform their own work, relating to a subject in American history. Cast members then join onstage for a Q&A. Lin-Manuel unexpectedly showed up the day I was hosting the EduHam. As he answered the questions posed by students, I could see and feel his passion for his work, message, and compassion for the students. As I watched and listened to Lin, I caught a glimpse not only of the mind behind Hamilton but also the heart, and this informed so much of my understanding of the show.
Q: You have said, “sometimes amazement is right around the corner.” What has “amazed” you on your personal and/or professional journey this past year?
A: Professionally, I’ve had some opportunities this past year to play complex, challenging roles—Quang in Vietgone, Dan in Next to Normal, Jason in Ordinary Days and now the roles I play and understudy in Hamilton. Having built a career as an ensemble member, the past year has been a huge turning point for me. Looking back it seems like such a short period of time from auditioning, to getting cast, to performing in the ensemble, to performing in the lead role on Broadway in one of the most groundbreaking shows in history. Also, I doubt myself a lot, so even though I admired Hamilton from afar when it first premiered, I wasn’t sure I had the skill set for the show, let alone to play the role of Alexander Hamilton. Yet, come January I found myself in those costumes, on a Broadway stage, singing and rapping Lin-Manuel’s words which have become iconic in such a short period of time. Lesson learned: don’t shortchange yourself! We are capable of way more than we might think.
Q: This issue of Panther Tracks is about the Jesuit brand and how it distinctly educates students to “go forth and set the world on fire.” How has this served as a compass in the world?
A: At Prep I learned the importance of always asking questions, and teachers instilled in me the idea that learning never ends. As a performer this mindset has served me well. Knowledge and understanding of any subject can always be further sought out, and I try to bring this sense of curiosity and desire for truth to every project I work on as an actor.
Q: In an Instagram post you said, “this is not a moment, it’s the movement.”
A: That is a quote from the song “My Shot.” To me, it symbolizes the idea that whatever I might do in this moment in time—performing in this show, understudying and playing this role—is just a small part of something bigger. The show itself is a movement, a revolution of musical theater, a reframing of our history, a rethinking of who gets to tell our stories. It is also a call to everyone out there to tell their stories. As a person of color, and specifically a member of a historically underrepresented minority group, I know that my work in Hamilton is just one step in the process of empowering anyone who feels unseen or unheard.