At the Ford’s Theatre through May 21, Packard plays the title role in the world premiere of “Liberty Smith,” a zany, far-fetched musical set during the American Revolution following Smith’s fictional friendship with George Washington, apprenticeship with Ben Franklin, and wild adventure with Paul Revere.
Packard has proven that he can rise to the occasion with a resume that includes performances in “Candide,” “Wicked, “and the “Phantom of the Opera.”
Arts Post was able to chat with him about being a pivotal player in the history books and those pesky ghost rumors that seem to haunt Ford’s Theatre.
Arts Post: How would you describe this character, Liberty Smith?
Packard: I like to think of him as a kind of Forest Gump, because he’s thrust into all these historical moments, and we get to see him grow and age.
Arts Post: How does an everyday 21st century man transform himself into an 18th century man?
Packard: I start preparing about hour and a half before the show. I usually recite speeches from the show and get my articulation down. In my dressing room, I keep a collage of literal and abstract images that represent for me different moments in the show. I’m a very visual guy. It helps me emotionally.
Arts Post: Any image in particular come to mind?
Packard: I found a picture of this kid with his face in his hands, and there is a moment in the show where Liberty’s world is turned upside down, and that kid’s expression made me think of that.
Arts Post: Tell us about your wig and how you keep it on.
Packard: I have to have my hair pulled back, and then there’s this elastic strip that keeps it back and then they have to put about 25 pins on me to keep the wig in place, and I also wear a stocking cap.
Arts Post: Does your girlfriend like this look on you?
Packard: (Laughing) She’s used to it. She saw me in “Wicked.”
Arts Post: How has this show influenced your feelings about patriotism and being American?
Packard: I love history, particularly 18th century history. I was in “1776” in high school, and that’s what got me into theatre. This musical goes off the historical path, and takes liberties with the truth, but it makes the men in portraits seem like living, breathing human beings, and I hope it captures the imaginations of young people like “1776” did for me.
Arts Post: We have to ask you about ghosts here at the theatre. Have you encountered any yet?
Packard: I have not, but I have heard stories, and there have been some creepy moments, because you feel the weight and spirit all around here, even on the street outside. Most theatres are not brand new and have a long history, so I’m used to it by now. I think I would hang out here if I were a ghost.