Woodland graduate excels on stage in New York
by Matt Shinall
Feb 26, 2012 | 2295 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Damian Hudson performs in a musical, “Violet,” during his junior year at the University of Arizona where he received a degree in musical theater. 
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With determination and effort, 2007 Woodland High School Graduate Damian Lemar Hudson is now taking the stage in New York under the direction of an award winning playwright.

Hudson left Bartow County after high school to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., where he earned a degree in musical theater. Shortly after his college graduation, Hudson struck out to New York in pursuit of his dream to act and sing in a performance penned by an artist who has inspired Hudson's own work.

In only his second New York audition, Hudson was given a role in the performance he originally desired -- "The Total Bent" -- book and lyrics by the composer known as Stew.

"It's truly a dream. It's just a really big moment for me. Mainly because Stew inspired me on such a huge level to write my own show and now the fact that I'm working with him is just a dream come true and it just solidifies in my head that anything is possible. You just have to think big and if you want it bad enough, anything can happen," Hudson said.

At 22, Hudson is the youngest member of the cast with the next youngest being 10 years his senior. The invitation to audition came directly from the playwright, Stew, after Hudson, on a whim, decided to contact Stew, sending him a copy of the original work Hudson created after finding inspiration in Stew's Tony Award winning "Passing Strange."

"I was in class trying to find some new music to sing and one of my colleagues suggested the show called 'Passing Strange.' So I watched the show and after watching the show I was just blown away by the versatility and the modern day musical aspect," Hudson said. "It inspired me to write my own musical, so back in college, my senior year I wrote my own show. ... I sent out some emails and about 20 minutes later he emailed me back and was really impressed with my work as an artist and he said, 'I want to invite you out to New York, you should audition for my new show.'"

Hudson also received compliments from Stew through their correspondence in regards to Hudson's original music album in the electronic-hip/hop genre. Both music and stage have been passions for Hudson since his time at WHS. He made the trip to New York in hopes of pursuing one or the other, but through "The Total Bent" has been able to succeed in both.

"In my eyes, the only place to do music is New York. So I came up to New York hoping to be successful in those fields. I told myself I wanted to do music or theater, whichever door opens up first would be the door I go through -- and it just so happens that I got this show and it was music and theater," Hudson said. "I get to kind of live both sides of the coin."

Damian Hudson's father, Ron Hudson, watched his son perform at WHS and traveled to Arizona to see his son perform in the play he wrote and produced in college, "High Crimes, A New Musical." Ron Hudson now looks forward to the possibility of seeing his son perform on stage in New York.

"He was in several plays [at WHS], he kind of developed a name for himself at the high school. Then he left there and went on to the University of Arizona and he actually wrote and produced a play that we went out to Arizona to see the day after his [college] graduation," Ron Hudson said. "I could see the talent that was developing but I didn't know he'd go this big. But he was determined that this is what he wanted to do.

"For him to go out there and get it on his first try in a starring role in a musical is impressive and I'm proud of him."

"The Total Bent" premiered on Friday and will run for three weeks through March 18 at New York's The Public Theater. Hudson plays the part of Deacon Dennis, a member of the in-studio band performing with the father and son at the play's focus. Deciding to turn away from his father's vision of recording gospel music for all the wrong reasons, the son sets out to follow his heart and make his own music.

"The Total Bent is about a young musical prodigy that is forced to create gospel music by his dad in the studio and basically, the kid is very frustrated with the dad and he ends up kicking his dad out of the studio and makes his own music," Hudson said. "For some reason, they still don't get any music done and it's almost like the studio is this Twilight Zone and is like cursed since the dad left. At the end of the first act, the son decides he's going to drop a new album on the same day his dad drops his new album and it's kind of like this countdown to a showdown between the father and son.

"I play Deacon Dennis, and there are two deacons that act as the house band. ... These two characters basically act as spirits of the studio and it's our job to kind of be there whenever Marty or his father needs music."

Hudson has big dreams for the future with plans to continue in both theater and music. He hopes to soon write another original work and to one day win a Tony, a Grammy and an Oscar.

For more information on the play, visit www.publictheater.org.