Adam Hoyak is an up and coming artist in the Philadelphia region, and he has been seen throughout the area in productions such as Catch Me if You Can and Next to Normal at the Eagle Theatre, Ragtime at Bristol Riverside Theatre, Hello, Dolley! at Media Theatre and Black Nativity at Theatre Horizon. These are just a few of his credits. Hoyak is a native of Marietta, Georgia and moved to Philadelphia when he attended The University of the Arts. Currently Hoyak can be seen in the Eagle Theatre’s production of Assassins. He plays a dual role in this show as the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald. I had a chance to speak with Hoyak about both these roles, what it is like to play a historical figure and what people can expect from this show.
Kelli Curtin: Could you tell me a little about what audiences can expect from Assassins?
Adam Hoyak: Assassins is a dark show, and basically it is about people who gained notoriety by attempting to assassinate a president. This show is told through the assassins’ point of view. It is kind of a twisted show, and audiences will not full understand exactly what the show is about until it is put in front of them. In addition, as with any Sondheim piece it has complicated music with tight harmonies. Assassins is not exactly about what to expect, but more about what not to expect when seeing this production.
Kelli Curtin: For people unfamiliar with the show, why should they come out and see it?
Adam Hoyak: People should come to see this show because not many people are familiar with the show. Sondheim shows like Into the Woods, everyone knows because it is done frequently and it reached a wider audience with the release of the movie. Assassins is a different show, and it is not done very often. For me personally, when the Eagle announced they were doing this show in 2016, I was intrigued and excited they were doing the show.
If people have any interest in history they should definitely come see Assassins. This show is a twisted look at what we are taught about American history. It is a show that is told from the perspective of the assassins, and they explain what they did. People really should come see this show because it is a great show, and it is very rarely done. It gives people the chance to see events they are familiar with from the assassins’ perspectives.
To prepare to play Lee Harvey Oswald I watched videos of his assassination by Jack Ruby. I found out that Oswald was taken to the same hospital where doctors tried to save Kennedy two days earlier, Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. I am intrigued by all that I am discovering about the person Oswald through the research I am doing about him. One of the things that have blown me away is that physically I am very similar to him, there is a two inch height difference, as well as some physical similarities that are uncanny. Those were some strange facts for me to discover.
What I find interesting about this show, and for me personally playing Oswald, is that growing up in school we learned that Oswald was a bad man, he assassinated President Kennedy. But now as I am researching more about who this person was, not just that he killed a president, it makes me question his motives. Oswald is a complicated man, and there is so much more to him than killing Kennedy, and my job is to bring humanity to this character.
Kelli Curtin: Do you feel Assassins is an important Sondheim piece? Why?
Adam Hoyak: Yes, absolutely. In school we are trained how we look at America. I love the United States and being an American, but this country is not perfect, and there are things that need to change. We are told that the people portrayed in this musical are bad people, but the truth is these people are complicated, and there is more to the story of these individuals. Assassins is an important piece that will give a new perspective and make us contemplate what we already know about the people portrayed in this show. This show also makes the audience question if there is a happy ending, and contemplate who they are rooting for in the show – are they understanding the motives of the assassins a bit better than they did when they first walked into the theatre.
Kelli Curtin: Could you tell me a little about one of the characters you play, the Balladeer?
Adam Hoyak: The definition of a “balladeer” is someone who writes ballads. The Balladeer in this show is one of two narrators who comment on the characters in the show and their actions during the show – he can be sarcastic. The Balladeer propels the story, he tells the facts, but he never gives a clear indication about what he feels.
Kelli Curtin: How do you prepare for a role like this, especially since you are also portraying Lee Harvey Oswald, the person who assassinated President Kennedy?
Adam Hoyak: I did a lot of research. I want to get to the heart of who he is as a person, and I don’t want to dishonor him. I need to remember that Oswald is still a human being, even if he did a terrible thing, he was still a person who had a career and was a husband and a father. I have looked at his life, where he was born, his career and his marriage. One of the things I learned during my research was that he was a good shot, he was well trained. I had to look at his whole life, not just the point in which he assassinated Kennedy, because I need to be able to relate to him. I need to bring humanity to this man. I try to look at things through his perspective, and I am bringing every bit of information I have learned about this man to my portrayal of Oswald. This whole process of learning about Oswald has been incredibly helpful in informing how I portray Oswald as well as interesting to learn more about him as a person.
Kelli Curtin: How did you become interested in performing?
Adam Hoyak: I was raised on a lot of Disney movies. I never really watched television with commercials, mostly I was raised on VHS. I watched the same Disney movies over and over. When I was about four or five I started to play “dress-up” and perform scenes I saw in these movies. Then when I was in seventh grade I did my first musical, Bye Bye Birdie, I played Hugo Peabody. From there my interest in acting just stuck with me, I began doing community theatre after that. Eventually, I auditioned for college, and was accepted to the University of the Arts, and moved to Philly. However, my interest in performing all began with Disney.
Kelli Curtin: Do you have a favorite production you have been a part of? Is there a role that you would consider your “dream” role?
Adam Hoyak: I have so many favorites, and they are favorites for different reasons. However, I just did Black Nativity at Theatre Horizon, and that is definitely one of my favorite experiences. I was shocked when I was cast. This show was built from the ground up – we had the script, but everything else like the music we built our own versions of music. This show grew to be such an amazing show, and I was thrilled to go to work every day to work on this production. I love what I do, and every show I am involved in is a unique experience. Working on Black Nativity pushed me and helped me grow as a person and performer. It was a show I was very proud of and it changed my life.
My dream role changes day by day. I have been very blessed. In 2014 I had the opportunity to play Gabe in Next to Normal, which was one of my dream roles. I have been very fortunate in my career.
Kelli Curtin: Who influences you as a performer?
Adam Hoyak: First, and foremost, my parents. It is because of them that I was able to go to college, and they never told me I couldn’t be a performer or that maybe I should consider doing something else. I think of my parents like the Liam Neeson character in Love Actually. His character will do anything he can to support his son, and encourages him to just go for it, and that is how my parents raised me. It is also how I want to be as a parent.
Also, my friends influence me. I have a strong support system with my friends, they are a great amazing group of friends, and I refer to them as my “lambs.” When times get rough I know I can always count on them to get me through. Every single day I am grateful to have this strong group of friends that support me.
Kelli Curtin: Why, in your opinion, is live theatre important?
Adam Hoyak: Theatre is an art form that is as raw as it gets. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies, but there is something special and unique about live theatre. In live theatre you can watch people put their heart and soul in front of you, it is fresh and honest. As an actor, you never know who you will inspire and whose lives you will touch. Live theatre can change lives. It is an experience that makes people feel something, good or bad, but people leave a live theatre performance with an opinion.
Adam Hoyak can be seen in the Eagle Theatre’s production of Assassins from January 22 through February 21, 2016. For more information and tickets visit their website at theeagletheatre.com or call the box office at 609-704-5012.
Photos courtesy of The Eagle Theatre
Kelli Curtin is editor and writer for theatresensation.com. In addition, she is a contributor for the online site broadwayworld.com. Kelli is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.