Leading Lady

As the curtains rise for Hamilton on stages across North America this year—in Denver, New Orleans, Ottawa and beyond—Paige Smallwood, TFM ’17, is playing a principal role. Make that two.

Photo credit: Kelly Davidson

Lights. Friendship. Seduction.

In Act I of the hit Broadway play, Smallwood stars as Peggy Schuyler, the youngest daughter of a wealthy family and future sister-in-law of Alexander Hamilton.

Peggy is humble and pure. Almost childlike. She and Hamilton strike up a platonic correspondence.

“It’s like a little sister, best friend relationship,” explained Smallwood.

But when Act II begins, Smallwood has transformed. Now she’s Maria Reynolds, an estranged wife who seduces Hamilton while the two are living in Philadelphia, leaving him vulnerable to blackmail.

“She really kind of messes things up for Hamilton by getting a little hot and heavy,” Smallwood said, adding that she enjoys the duality of her roles. “It’s really fun because they’re two very different characters.”

Plot twist

In some ways, Smallwood’s mid-play transformation mirrors her own path. Born in Queens and raised on Long Island, Smallwood was involved with community theater from a young age. 

But Smallwood was shy, and hesitated to venture far from the stages she knew.

“I was dealing with the same people day in and day out. It eased my nerves that they knew me,” she recalled.

When it came time for college and she considered renowned New York-based programs, something just didn’t feel right. An open-ended search instead led her to a visit to Temple’s theater program. The fit was immediately apparent.

“The second I walked in it felt like I was home,” Smallwood said. “Everyone I met was so lovely … I felt seen and I wanted to know more.”

But Temple also challenged Smallwood. Suddenly she had to audition before people whom she’d never met. 

Temple really helped me get out of my shell,” Smallwood said. “And taking a road less traveled paid off when it came to auditioning for Hamilton. They were like ‘Oh, you’re a breath of fresh air."

Paige at a Glance

A rising star

Smallwood says Temple also helped her expand her literal horizons. Between her junior and senior years, she visited England on a six-week study abroad program.

“I fell in love with it,” she said.

Following graduation, she applied and gained entrance into the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London. After earning her master’s in musical theater performance, she was quickly back stateside for her first major role as Eponine in the U.S. tour of Les Misérables, ultimately setting the stage for her casting in Hamilton.

So what’s next? 

Smallwood hasn’t decided yet. Perhaps Los Angeles for a chance at movies, or, as she half-jokes, maybe running a bison farm. Keeping it light and staying true to yourself are key, she offered.

“Life is forever changing and so is this industry,” she said. “Be yourself, wholly and unapologetically. Because there’s nobody else like you.”