Leaving New York to study theater at Temple helped this alum stand out in a competitive industry.
Paige Smallwood, TFM ’17, sees theater as “a way to escape or express the hardships that come with life. It’s a beautiful tool to help people, even if it’s just a two-hour escape. It can help them digest something they went through.”
Smallwood grew up with theater but struggled with stage fright and credits Temple for her transformation. She had her first major role in Les Misérables quickly followed up with two principal roles in the 2022 North American tour of Hamilton, including Denver, New Orleans, Ottawa and more.
Paige Smallwood ’17
“Temple really helped me get out of my shell, 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.’”
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 Founding Father 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 playing 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.”
In some ways, Smallwood’s mid-play transformation mirrors her own path. Born in Queens, NY, 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.’”
A Rising Star
According to Smallwood, 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.
Smallwood hasn’t decided on her next move 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.”
Access to Opportunities of All Kinds
A Temple education is career- and community-focused. From learning opportunities across the country and around the world, to learning from faculty and industry experts and taking on internships and other opportunities across Philadelphia, all students have the chance to gain important experience when it comes to exploring the possibilities for their future.
Temple’s 30 Under 30
Our annual awards program recognizes trailblazing young alumni under the age of 30 who are disrupting the status quo to make a better tomorrow for all of us. We spotlight outstanding Owls who are trendsetters, problem-solvers and innovators, including Paige Smallwood.