By Kathryn Taleporos & Rachel Wolk | March 27, 2023
Actress Nikisha Williams is currently performing in the role of Eliza Hamilton in Proctors Theatre’s production of “Hamilton.”
Nikisha Williams is an up-and-coming actress and singer from Mobile, Alabama. Williams earned a bachelor's degree in vocal performance with a minor in musical theater, and a master's degree in choral conducting from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Williams sang in her church choir, but did not perform on stage until her senior year of high school with the role of a “street urchin” in a school production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Williams taught for about three years after university, then pursued performing through working at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a restaurant in Times Square, N.Y.C. where the waitstaff sing and dance.
While teaching, Williams was introduced to the historical musical “Hamilton” by her students.
“When I listened to it, I knew that it was something that she wanted to be a part of,” Williams said.
Williams began her on-stage journey with a touring production of “The Color Purple” with the Philip Company, the same touring group that manages “Hamilton.”
When the tour for “The Color Purple” ended, Williams saw her opportunity to join “Hamilton.” Williams initially performed in the ensemble and was an understudy for each of the Schuyler sisters. Williams left the touring company for a short time, and returned to play the role of Eliza Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s wife.
“Since I’ve played all the sisters, Eliza was the one I most connected to,” Williams said. “Navigating her through the music is similar to how I would navigate the world, approach people and help people.”
The role of Eliza, while rewarding, comes with challenges. According to Williams, one of the main challenges of the role is that she sings the highest vocal parts in the show.
“Not only are there solo parts for Eliza, but in every group number, Eliza sings the soprano part,” Williams said.
Constantly singing in this higher register makes it difficult for Williams to maintain her voice show after show.
“The hardest part is making sure you maintain your voice so that you make sure you’re able to do her justice,” Williams said.
Some ways that Williams maintains her voice are working with a speech therapist, lots of rest, drinking herbal tea, and a vocal mist.
Performing on stages across the country may be a dream to many aspiring actors, and Williams shared some advice for college students, especially those pursuing theater.
“If the thing that you are passionate about gets you excited to wake up in the morning and do it, then that’s the thing you need to pursue with all of your willpower,” Williams said. “I was [also] able to travel to cool places and see new things.”
According to Williams, her touring company, the Philip company, that she works with eases the challenges of touring.
“We can all work together really well,” Williams said. “We are just trying to make the show the best it can be.”
Williams also shared some cons to being a touring actor.
“[Some] of the difficulties of touring is never being in one spot and constantly being away from friends and family.”
While Williams feels a deep connection to “Hamilton,” she says the show is important to society as well. “Hamilton,” retelling the story of U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton and the building of America through rap and poetry, shows American history in a creative and engaging format.
“History can get put on the back burner sometimes,” Williams said. “The show's unique format and diverse cast allow it to appeal to multiple different kinds of audience members… it’s nice to look into the audience and see a wide range of demographics.”
According to Williams, there is a lot of rejection in the theater industry, but refraining from giving up is important to achieving stardom.
“Rejection is part of the job,” Williams said. “Students have to learn to deal with rejection because the job that is right for them will say ‘yes…’ You have to climb a lot of ‘no’s’ to get to your ‘yes.’”
According to Williams, coping with rejection, and using teaching as a stepping stone in her performing career journey was vital in reaching the role of Eliza.
“I was meant to end up at every job that I worked at, but Hamilton’ was my ‘yes.’” Williams said.
Hamilton is playing at the Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, N.Y. from March 14 to March 26. Tickets and more information are available on the Proctors Theatre website, proctors.org.