JACKSON – Author Oscar Wilde wrote that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” Jackson Memorial High School graduate DaShaun Williams can relate to that phrase.
Williams, a 24-year-old actor and Jackson graduate grew up with the dream of being on stage performing. His climb to stardom has begun with the role of Ramses in “The Ten Commandments the Musical.”
He spoke to The Jackson Times recently about this exciting time in his life with the debut of the musical earlier this month. In middle school, he performed as Daddy Warbucks in the musical “Annie Jr.” Since that time, he has had countless lead roles throughout high school and college.
“I graduated from Farleigh Dickenson University in 2019 with my degree in musical theater. I always wanted to be an actor ever since I was a little kid – that was my dream. This is a big thing for me and I am very grateful to have this opportunity to work on this show,” he said.
At Jackson Memorial High School, he did, “‘Music Man,’ ‘Seussical,’ ‘Les Misérables’ and ‘Legally Blonde.’ Those were the four shows I did. I occasionally talk to Jaclyn Kerrigan, she was my favorite drama teacher. She directed the plays that I did. She is very updated on what I am doing.”
‘The Ten Commandments’ will be his first full live production since the pandemic started.
“COVID hit the art community very hard. I was actually out of work for a year and a half. I started doing a stage management job which is still working in the theater industry. I did that for four months. I made my break and started auditioning a lot more because for a while auditions were not happening,” Williams added.
The actor said, “there was not a lot of in person auditions. They are slowly starting to come back now but they did a lot of video auditions with different directors and producers for different shows. That was a very big change from auditioning in person. They are very different as you don’t get to interact with the director and everything is a very different feeling. I like in person auditions a whole lot more because you can show more of your personality.”
The 24-year-old actor was living in New York City but recently moved to West New York, New Jersey. For several weeks he has been traveling into the city for rehearsals and the opening of the show was on May 5 at the Center of Jewish History in downtown New York City, 15 West 16th Street.
“I definitely prefer the stage that has always been my dream, acting and singing. I have a twin brother KeiShaun, and when we were very young kids, I was always singing a lot and he was out playing sports,” he said.
In the musical, Ramses and Moses are very different types of brothers and their ideology puts them at odds with their respective duties and philosophy in life. The Egyptians are ordered to kill the first-born male of the Hebrews and Moses is put on the Nile River and escapes death only to be adopted into the household of Ramses family where he grows up.
“They become very close brothers and they love each other but Moses ends up killing one of the Egyptian guards or abusing a slave. He saw how awful the slaves were being treated. That is when the story divides and afterwards (when Ramses becomes Pharoah) he goes to Moses and says I am your brother and I love you but there are laws and I can’t let you do this without repercussions and the law was you had to die if you killed somebody.”
Ramses couldn’t do that but he did exile his brother from Egypt. “Moses talks to God through the burning bush and he is told to go back and free the Hebrew slaves. I tell him as Pharaoh and head honcho when I see him that you are disobeying my order by coming back but he has the power of God behind him and he tells me to release the Hebrew slaves.”
The Nile River turns red, locusts descend on the people of Egypt and Ramses is given an ultimatum and releases the Hebrews. “Our show is one act. It’s only about an hour and 20 minutes so it is a very basic version of this story. We have the song ‘Brother’ and that is when we have me and Moses and we talk about our love and the great childhood we had together but it is not really going to work. We sing that song and it shows the emotion.”
As for art imitating life, Williams noted “my brother and I have great love for each other but we are very different people. I also have a sister Shaunese, who is two years older than me. She graduated from Memorial High School in 2013. We all have ‘Shaun’ in our names.”
He noted that his parents and relatives are very proud of him “and during COVID I was always getting family messages asking when my next performance was and when can we come see you again. Once I got cast in this, I told everybody so I have a bunch of people coming to see the show.”
There is a large production of this musical in France which Williams said has been running “for over 20 years over there. It is one of France’s biggest musicals.”
Check out thetencommandmentsthemusical.com to learn more about Williams and details about the show.