Napoleon M. Douglas gave audiences a sneak peek of his upcoming performance as Judas Iscariot at last week's benefit screening of the 1973 'Jesus Christ Superstar' film for The Denver Actors Fund at Alamo Drafthouse. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: On March 22, it was announced that vocal issues will prevent Napoleon M. Douglas from performing the role of Judas in this production. He has been replaced by Matt LaFontaine.)
MEET NAPOLEON M. DOUGLAS
Napoleon M. Douglas, who has appeared in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'A Christmas Carol' and is a DCPA Education Teaching Artist who performs at area high schools as part of the 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot' program, will play Judas Iscariot in the Arvada Center's 'Jesus Christ Superstar.' from March 24 through April 16.
Hometown: Washington D.C.
Home now: Denver
High School: Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa
College: BA in Theatre Arts from Drake University in Des Moines; MBA in Entrepreneurship from Southern New Hampshire University (in progress)
What have you done for us lately? I played T.J. in Sister Act at the Arvada Center
Twitter-sized bio: I am a black kid named Napoleon, which makes me unforgettable. My spirit animal is the Energizer Bunny, which makes me unstoppable.
What was the role that changed your life? Playing Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime. When I was a senior in high school, I had a serious knee surgery that ended my not-too-promising athletic career. I always loved to sing and had recently become involved in the drama department, so I decided to audition for the ensemble in our school production of Ragtime. When I saw my name next to Coalhouse’s name, I promptly quit. I told my director: 'I am not fit to lead a musical. I don’t even know what that means.' She responded, 'Well, you will find out.' I was thrown into a situation I was very unfamiliar with, but I came out of it understanding what it is like to share a powerful story with audiences. I realized that performance art is something I can't live without. Not because of the praise we got at the end of each performance, but because it is an opportunity to affect how people look at the world.
Ideal scene partner: One from my long list is Heath Ledger. His performances were always beyond captivating. Working with him would have pushed me as an artist, both in terms of my technical skills and my emotional being. Although his career got the best of him, the dedication he had to his roles is admirable. I would have loved seeing his work habits up close and personal.
What is Jesus Christ Superstar all about? The story surrounds what happened in the final week of Jesus’ life, while highlighting the political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Jesus of Nazarath that are not present in the Bible.
Tell us about the challenge of playing Judas: First, this is a sung-through musical – meaning there is no spoken dialogue – and Judas has a very difficult vocal line to carry throughout the show. Beyond that, Judas is the antagonist because he opposes the direction Jesus has taken his ministry during the three years preceding where our story begins. Judas believes that if Jesus doesn’t regain his humility, severe consequences will happen. It is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that that every other character on stage is not on my side. I have to be the brick wall – the purest definition of the bad guy. Just like in real life, Judas just wants someone to understand and relate to him. But Judas has no one rooting for him but Judas.
What do you hope audiences get out of seeing this play? I hope they understand that there is always more than one way to look at a story. If you take the time to look at the same issue from multiple angles, you will have a better foundation to really stand for what you believe in.
More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter
What's one thing most people don't know about you? I hate warming up my voice. So instead, I play basketball and run for up to five miles before every performance. By working up a sweat, my 'vocal folds' warm up along with the rest of my body. (And, yes, they are called 'vocal folds,' not 'vocal chords.')
What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? America will never be 'great again’ until we stop with all the labels and respect and love one another for who we are. Until all sides come together and remember that we are already the greatest country on this planet, we will always be as troubled as we are now.
Instagram handle: Napoleonic.code
Twitter handle: _napoleoniccode
From left: Jenna Bainbridge (Mary Magdalene), Billy Jewis Jr. (Jesus of Nazareth) and Napoleon M. Douglas (Judas Iscariot) in the Arvada Center's 'Jesus Christ Superstar.' M. Gale Photography.
Arvada Center's Jesus Christ Superstar: Ticket information
• Written my Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics)
• Directed by Rod Lansberry and David Nehls (music)
• March 24 through April 16
• Performances 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and 1 p.m. Wednesdays
• 6901 Wadsworth Ave.
• Tickets $53-$77
• Info: 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org
• Jesus of Nazareth: Billy Lewis Jr.
• Judas Iscariot: Napoleon Douglas
• Mary Magdalene: Jenna Bainbridge
• Caiaphas: Stephen Day
• Annas: Joe Callahan
• Pontius Pilate: Markus Warren
• King Herod: Wayne Kennedy
• Men's Ensemble: Adam Estes, Aaron M. Davidson, Michael Bouchard, Reace Daniel, James Francis, Barret Harper, Tyler Nielson, Damon Guerrasio, Drew Horwitz, Brett Ambler, Rob Janzen, Matt LaFontaine, Daniel Langhoff
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