Editor, Arts & Entertainment
On Saturday, March 5th, UNCG’s College of Vocal and Performing Arts (CVPA) hosted award winning actor and musician Daveed Diggs. The event was a part of CVPA’s 2021-2022 season of the Concert and Lecture series that is hosted by the university every year. Diggs’ visit was originally scheduled for April 2020 but was canceled due to the initial COVID-19 university shutdown. This meant many attendees, including myself, had been waiting for this experience for over a year! It was certainly worth the wait as Diggs brought so much knowledge and laughter to the UNCG Auditorium.
Diggs is a Bay Area based actor, musician, and, most recently, producer and screenwriter. He is most known for his role in “Hamilton: The Musical,” playing the characters of Marquis de Laffeyette and Thomas Jefferson both off-Broadway at the Public Theater as well as on Broadway and in the Disney+ live recording. He has also received the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical in 2016, and a Grammy as a part of the cast of “Hamilton,” as well as a nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award and Independent Spirit Award. Despite being mostly associated with his singular musical theatre role, Diggs’ career is actually largely centered around film and television acting, as well as his rap group “clipping.”
The event, hosted by the CVPA’s musical theatre department, was a Q and A in which audience members spent the evening with Diggs as he talked about his life and career. Diggs was welcomed on stage — a few moments before his actual introduction — with overwhelming applause and cheers. After the incredibly warm welcome, Diggs sat down to answer a plethora of audience submitted questions, ranging from his favorite food (it’s steak) to queries on his biggest career inspirations.
Diggs of course spent some time answering questions about “Hamilton,” delving into how he met playwright and creator of “Hamilton” Lin-Manuel Miranda and his initial uncertainty about the possible success of Miranda’s the “Hamilton Mixtape,” jokingly commenting that he replied with “Are you paying me?” when asked to join the project. Diggs also spoke on his difficulty in the musical theater world, having no formal training and most of his musical abilities favoring his passion for rap rather than singing, detailing how “Hamilton’s” musical director Alex Lacamore would stay behind after rehearsals to run vocal warm ups and songs with him to help him feel more comfortable in his role. Diggs also spent time talking about his journey to becoming a rapper — including his start with writing poetry — his experience growing up in the Bay Area in the 1990s, and even his family-created holiday known as “Meat Day.”
Overall, I can confidently say that this was a night to remember and I believe the hundreds of others in attendance would most likely agree. Despite being an incredibly busy man who wedged this event in between two huge events in his hectic schedule, Diggs was attentive, hilarious, and honest. Every person in the UNCG auditorium was captivated by his presence and the two hours spent in conversation with him were never dull or boring. Most notably, Diggs took time with every question he was asked being both thoughtful and comedic. A highlight of the night was when audience members were given a chance to ask Diggs questions themselves, ending out the night with a young boy asking Diggs about his inspirations for rapping and expressing his love for beatboxing. Truly a heartwarming moment!
The UNCG CVPA’s lecture and concert series is an amazing opportunity for students and community members alike. Being able to be in the same room with someone you may look up to is a way for attendees to learn about the visitor and take advice from someone who has experience in their field. In Diggs’ case, he spent an incredible amount of time and energy making sure the audience members knew both the struggles but also accessibility of getting involved in acting and music and never shied away from giving heartfelt, well thought out advice. If you ever have a chance to attend one of the CVPA CLS events, I would definitely recommend it. It’s a memorable experience and only five dollars for students. Find the 2022-2023 line up, which includes actor Winston Duke of the “Black Panther” movie and musical duo Indigo Girls, at this link: https://vpa.uncg.edu/home/ucls-22-23/