Pop-Culturalist Chats with David Park
David Park is making his New York stage debut in the fun-loving show Red Roses, Green Gold. We were able to chat with him about his start in musical theater and being part of such a unique show.
P-C: What made you decide that theater would be the career you would be pursuing?
David: I got into acting 4 years ago. I was 22 and studying Jazz at the Community College I was at in Pasadena, California. I happened to do a musical out there because the musical director heard me and asked me to audition—and she cast me as Link in Hairspray. I fell in love with it so I decided I wanted to do musical theater. Since I had never done it before I decided to move to New York to go to school and finished in May.
P-C:: This is your first show. What has it been like?
David: It’s been a huge learning experience, not only because it’s my first show, but because of the nature of how it was put up. When I auditioned for it, it was only supposed to be a two-week reading, a developmental lab kind of thing. The theater opened and the producers decided to put it on the fast track, so we did the workshop in July, and a month afterwards we came back with a new script, new arrangements, and it all went very quickly but there were a lot of rewrites. It has been a learning experience working on a new show and working on something that’s constantly in flux and learning how to be flexible.
P-C: Were you familiar with the Grateful Dead?
David: Not at all. I literally had never heard of them. My parents didn’t grow up listening to them. And, you know, when you hear the Grateful Dead, to me, it’s kind of like a misnomer because the symbol is a skull with lightning bolts, and I thought it was a heavy metal band, but you listen to the music and it’s so folksy and so spiritual in its own way. That’s why I think the music has a cult following because I think the lyrics and music is felt with heart and soul.
P-C: How much time did you spend prepping for it? Did you listen to the albums and how long did it take you to prepare the instrumentation?
David: Rehearsal time was 8 hours a day but there was so much outside of the rehearsal room, like practicing the instruments and getting used to playing the songs that would do the music justice. There’s such a cult following and it was really important for us as a cast and creative team to make it our own. Not only make it a cover but also keep the spirit true. So there was a lot of research. There was a documentary on Amazon about the Grateful Dead that we all watched to get a vibe of what the culture was. [It’s] about them having existed for so long and going through phases and changes, but there’s something about the music that stays in this heart.
P-C: Did you also play instruments during the readings?
David: Yeah, it was one of the most unique auditions I had ever been on. We would walk into the room at the studios, and they had rented out one of the bigger rooms and set up pretty much every instrument imaginable. There was an upright bass, a drum set, a piano, electric guitar, amp to hook up any kind of instrument you would need, and they said, “Come on in and play a song on any and every instrument that you can play.” The show was built on the individual skill set that each person has. They had an idea of what they wanted to do, but we didn’t come in with arranged music. We were like, “This is the song we want to play. David play guitar, Brian play the fiddle,” and we built it from the ground up.
P-C:: Since you guys were part of the development process, was that more challenging for you than if it had been a typical production?
David: There was definitely an aspect that was a bit more layered to learning the show because nothing was set. There were days where we would go home and work a scene and memorize but there would be minute changes and there was enough changing on a consistent basis where it was tough to get your bearings. So, there was the aspect of trying to be prepared and showing the creative team what you had and figuring out whether to keep it or change it.
P-C:: This show has moments where it plays with and breaks the fourth wall. Was that a challenge for you?
David: I loved it because it molded me to bring a lot of myself to the role. I love interacting and I love to be social and kind of be the hype-man when I’m out with friends, so there’s a lot of times where I get to have a little banter with an audience member or I get to tell them to stand up for an encore and it feels good. A lot of people that come are Dead Heads and they want that experience and they want that camaraderie because they feel close to the music and the band. And I feel that they, in trying to keep the spirit alive, want to feel connected to us too. Literally, a couple of shows ago, we had our first stage rusher and I was surprised it hadn’t happened sooner. And obviously, the stage manager wasn’t too happy about that. As a cast, we never felt unsafe and it exemplifies what the audience was about. They are about loving and sharing this music.
P-C: If someone came up with another musical from another band and you could be in it, what band or musical would you want that to be?
David: Oh my gosh, you know, whatever I answer I’m going to hang up and think of ten more artists. But, for some reason Jason Ras is popping into my head—maybe because he’s on Broadway right now—but he’s one of the reasons why I learned to play guitar. Him and John Mayer were one of my most major influences when I was ten years old so that would be a full circle of things.
P-C:: Is there a piece of advice that you have received that you will always remember as you go on with your career?
David: There’s a man named Hoon Lee who I consider a mentor and friend, who was recently the King on The King and I on Broadway. We would have coffee and talks, and he would always tell me, “Trust the data,” that was the mantra. Basically, whenever you doubt your path or journey, look to the past and keep the data of what your life has plotted. That was helping me at a time that I was going through a lot of doubts and feeling self-conscious and unworthy and was feeling scared that I had chosen the wrong path. And he told me, “Look, you got into the school you wanted to get into. You are auditioning in New York and getting callbacks in and out of school. And to me that shows me you are on the right path.” That helped me realize that I was on the right path, and if you trust the data life will show you that you are on the wrong or right path and will give you the strength to get to where you want to go. I think as actors, as artists, as humans we are always going to struggle with fear and doubt and that will always be a factor. But whenever I get into a rut I always take a step back and take a deep breath and remember to trust the data, and so far I’m doing okay. So, I think a lot of people can benefit from that mantra.
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
Guilty Pleasure TV Show
I watch The Office on infinite loop on Netflix.
Letters To A Young Poet
Favorite Play and/or Musical
My favorite play would probably have to be Death Of A Salesman. My favorite musical would have to be Sunday In The Park.
Go-to Karaoke Song
“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen
Favorite Place to Travel to
Favorite Place You Have Ever Traveled to
Honestly South Korea. I want to go back!
Person You Most Want to Meet
The author of my favorite book: RM Rilke. He was a poet, and I would love to pick his brain.
Photo Credit: Chad Batka