MOUNT MOURNE – Fergie L. Philippe knows he’s been “very, very lucky.”
The 23-year-old graduated from Elon University in 2017 with a musical theater degree and, as he tells it, was “very fortunate” to have heard about “Hamilton” just as he graduated.
“So I moved to New York for only a few months and then hit the road,” Philippe told a class of advanced acting students at Pine Lake Preparatory Oct. 29.
Philippe, who plays Hercules Mulligan and James Madison in the hit Broadway musical, is teaching several acting workshops to student groups during his cross-country tour with the Philip Company production of “Hamilton.”
But Philippe said he’s only doing it in three cities – Charlotte, Durham and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
“I specifically waited until I got to North Carolina because my hometowns are here and Florida,” said Philippe, who was raised in Miami. “Durham is just a lot closer to Elon. I have people in Charlotte, like Jessika, so I’m able to be with her here.”
Jessika Dorcas is one of the main reasons Philippe chose to teach a class at Pine Lake Prep – Dorcas is an environmental science teacher there.
“We went to school together,” Philippe said. “Her boyfriend actually, Hunter, I directed him in a show I was in. … Those two are very lovely people. It’s very good to see them.”
Many of the nearly 20 students in Susan Howard’s advanced acting class were simultaneously excited and anxious to have the chance to learn from such a big name.
One student who was there, sophomore Reagan Sullivan, isn’t even enrolled in Howard’s class.
“But Ms. Howard sent me an email and was like, ‘He’s coming. Do you want to come?’” Sullivan recalled. “And I was like, ‘Yes, of course I’m going to skip all my classes. I’m going.’”
Sullivan was the first student to volunteer when Philippe asked to see what students were working on. She sang an a capella version of “When the Party’s Over” by Billie Eilish – a mournful song about losing love.
Philippe had her sing it three times, giving her pointers about body language and perspective after each iteration.
“A lot of people fear it because they’re afraid of being vulnerable, but I think that being vulnerable allows you to learn,” Sullivan said. “And it’s like, I took some really good instruction and constructive advice that I can use in the future. So it was an eye-opening experience.”
Howard said that, in her nine years of teaching the class, Philippe was the first “big Broadway person” who’s come to visit and instruct.
“I think it excites them,” Howard said. “It just gives them so much excitement when somebody different is here. And to see that he graduated from college in 2017, and he’s successful.”
Philippe said it’s been “surreal” to be back in North Carolina after such a short time away.
“It’s funny because I’ve only been gone a year and some change, and then I’m already back teaching classes and trying to impart whatever wisdom I learned in only a year,” Philippe said. “But it is pretty fantastic and pretty crazy.”
“Hamilton” will be in Charlotte until Nov. 4 and will then travel to Durham, where it’ll be until Dec. 2.