Around F.C., Arts & Entertainment

Former MHS Student Performs With Hamilton Cast at Kennedy Center

A former Falls Church City Public Schools student is achieving her dreams as a performing artist by finishing her role as a “swing” in “Hamilton,” the hit Broadway musical by the Philip Company performed at the Kennedy Center. 

Julia Estrada, a former student at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School and Meridian High School, has been a member of “Hamilton’s” Phillip Company since the Fall of 2019, and has covered roles as a “swing” for characters such as Eliza, Angelica and Peggy Schulyer, the popular “Schulyer Sisters” in the musical and more.

Julia Estrada performing in “Evita” as the lead role of Eva Perón, shortly before her tour with “Hamilton.” (Photo Courtesy: Jeff Butchen)

Growing up in the Falls Church area, Estrada said she was inspired to become a stage performer after renting movie musicals from the Mary Riley Styles Public Library as a child. She would often bring the videos home with her and sing along to the songs. Her personal favorite was “The Fiddler On The Roof,” which she shared that she memorized “the entire score” at the age of five. 

As she got older, Estrada was able to travel to New York and see Broadway shows, such as Hamilton creator Lin-Manue lMiranda’s debut musical “In The Heights,” a show with a large Latin-American cast. As a Latina actress, Estrada stated this was the first time she had “ever really kind of seen myself on stage” and wanted to begin a career in stage performing.

Due to living in proximity to the D.C. area and seeing performances at the Kennedy Center, Estrada said the Falls Church area had some inspiration on her path of becoming an actress. She said she had many people who influenced her decision in an acting career, such as her middle school theater teacher Barbara Piscopo and two of her vocal teachers Cara Cammarato and Tricia Lepofsky. 

“Ms. Piscopo definitely opened me up to just how much fun theater could be,” Estrada said. “Ms Cammarato and Ms. Lepofsky are the people who took me from that girl who could kind of sing to where I am now.” 

Estrada’s first lead role in a musical was the character Jasmine in Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School’s production of “Aladdin” in 2008. She went on to play the role of Eponine in the George Mason (now Meridian) High School production of “Les Miserables.” 

After graduating from the Professional Performing Arts High School in Manhattan in 2013 and receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Texas State University in 2017, Estrada joined the Actors Union. Her first show was “Evita” at the North Shore Music Theatre in Massachusetts, where she played the role of the mistress. Later on, she would perform in “Evita” again at a theater in Connecticut, this time performing the lead role of Eva Perón, which she said was a big accomplishment for her since it was her first opportunity to be “a real leader in a cast.”  

As for how her journey started to securing a role in “Hamilton,” Estrada said it started when she first auditioned for the musical as a sophomore in college in 2015 and took up to four years to finally be a part of it. It wasn’t until she participated in a workshop for an off-Broadway show “Only Gold”  that she was casted in the swing role for “Hamilton.” 

“It literally took me four years to build up my own confidence and it was through those smaller, regional productions,” Estrada said.

Estrada said being a part of the “Hamilton” cast has been a “huge accomplishment” since she’s wanted to be a part of the show since its creation.  As for future goals as a stage performer, Estrada said her experience of being a “swing” has made her realize that not only does she have the “skill set” for that kind of role, but also really enjoys “swinging” and having the opportunity to cover multiple roles in a show. 

After completing her role as a “swing” for the Philip Company’s production of “Hamilton” at the Kennedy Center on October 9th, Estrada was asked to join the Broadway company of “Hamilton.” She will be performing the ensemble role of Women #5 and covering the Schulyer sisters through January 1st of next year. 

Her advice for those who want to follow in her footsteps and pursue a career in acting and stage performing, she advises those to not “be afraid to interrupt the script,” a piece of advice she learned from a friend. This means that one should listen to what they need and create their own path; not to worry about living up to others expectations and accomplishments. 

“It’s great to have people that you want to be like,” Estrada said, “but also recognizing that you have your own path and how you’re going to get from point A to point B is going to be unique to you.”