Liberty graduate stars in Seattle’s ‘Don Giovanni’
January 4, 2011
Danny Kam, a 2006 Liberty High School graduate, has landed the lead role in “Don Giovanni: A New Musical,” at Seattle Musical Theatre and Fruition Productions.
Kam, who graduated from Western Washington University in 2010, said he was excited to play Don Giovanni so soon after college.
He recently talked about his background and his impressions about the musical:
How did you get into acting?
It was always something that fascinated me. My mom took me to see a lot of live theater when I was growing up, so that definitely gave me an appreciation for the art form. There’s an indescribable wonder that I experienced whenever I watched a full-scale, live, theatrical production. It is a synthesis of all other art forms, an incredible coming-together of many artists from different walks of life, all in the name of telling the story. My high school drama and English teacher, Katherine Klekas, cast me in my first full-scale production playing Lysander in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which really got me started as an actor, and I am deeply indebted to her for that. Shortly after, I started taking classes and performing in shows in the KIDSTAGE program, which helped me grow tremendously, and I decided to pursue a degree in acting.
How did you get connected with “Don Giovanni: A New Musical”?
Actually, I met Jesse Smith (composer/playwright), Lindsey Hedberg (Elvira) and Justine Stillwell (Zerlina) in Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE production of “Les Miserables” in 2005, and I’ve worked with many of the cast members on other projects, so it has been a real treat to get to work with so many of my close friends on this show.
When I first heard that Jesse had adapted Mozart’s opera and that it was being produced by Seattle Musical Theatre, it definitely interested me, although I certainly had no idea at the time that it would turn out to be one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding experiences that I’ve had as an artist.
Have you seen “Don Giovanni” before? How did it speak to you?
I sang Don Ottavio’s aria “Dalla sua Pace” when I was in college studying voice. I always thought that “Don Giovanni,” and much of Mozart’s work was dramatically fascinating, and musically stunning. I loved the storylines and the way the characters expressed themselves so deeply, yet I found the operatic form somewhat inaccessible. In our version, instead of singing “Dalla sua Pace,” Ottavio sings “Ottavio’s Prayer” which keeps the sentiment of the aria, but translates it into a contemporary English song. I think that our adaptation allows the heart and spirit of the opera to thrive, while creating something that the average, non-Italian-speaking person can enjoy and relate to.
What is it like performing a new musical that has never before been performed?
Performing new works is uniquely challenging, but also equally rewarding. You are bringing something brand new to life, which is very exciting, but it can also be frustrating, because the show is often in flux well into the rehearsal process. If a particular song or scene isn’t serving the play, it will be cut, maybe even after you’ve already spent hours of work on it, but you can’t take it personally. Your role is to help the show grow into the best it can be, and sometimes that means adding new things at the last minute, or rememorizing or removing something you’ve already learned. That said, it is an honor to develop new work like this, because I think new works are crucial to the survival and success of musical theater as an art form.
What is challenging about playing Don Giovanni? What do you like or dislike about him?
He is a fascinating individual. There is so much to work with as an actor that it’s almost overwhelming. I wouldn’t say that I dislike him. Obviously, he is a murderer and a rapist, so he isn’t necessarily the most likable character to an audience, but what I appreciate about him is that he refuses to compromise. He refuses to let anyone else tell him how to live his life. He pursues his desires with passion, and lives on the edge. In one scene, he asks, “What’s the point of living, if not to flirt with death?” It’s exhilarating to go on that kind of a journey.
How do you get into character?
I try to embrace him for who he is. I can’t tell you exactly what I do, but I try to get inside his mind, and imagine myself in his situation, acting the way he does, without judgment or my own opinions of what is right or wrong getting in the way of that. He is very hungry — sexually, mentally, physically and emotionally — and so he is constantly consuming, trying to fill that empty space.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I can’t say enough how important your support is to a production like “Don Giovanni.” Everyone involved with Seattle Musical Theatre and Fruition Productions has taken a risk by investing their time, talents and resources into this project. Your support means that we can continue to do this kind of work in the future.