Alum Makes Broadway Debut in “Pass Over”

By | September 14, 2021

Alphonso Walker Jr. ’14 debuted on Broadway last week—performing the lead role of Moses in “Pass Over” at the August Wilson Theater. Alphonso Walker Jr.

The play was the first to come back to Broadway after pandemic-related cancelations that began in March 2020—and has earned rave reviews from the New York Times and other outlets. 

“Being part of the first show back is history,” Walker said. “To make my debut, after all that we went through in the last year, it’s so rewarding.”

Cast as an understudy in the show, Walker has three guaranteed performances, including upcoming shows on Sept. 28 and 29. 

Even with daily COVID-19 tests and strict safety protocols for the cast and crew, Walker has to “be ready at the drop of a dime” to perform as an understudy to actor Jon Michael Hill.

“I’ve been preparing for this my whole life—and I’ve put the work in,” said Walker, a Buffalo native. “Still, when I’m not on stage, I’m running lines, staying ready.”Scene from "Pass Over"

The play, by Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, features just two characters for most of its 95-minute duration—with no intermission—challenging its two leads to carry the bulk of the show.  

The characters, Moses and Kitch, live on the streets of a nameless American city, which is also a plantation and Egypt during the show. They discuss their dream to “pass over,” a term that morphs in meaning—from a warm meal and a roof over their heads, to escaping slavery—drawing from the Book of Exodus and Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” along the way.

“Moses is me. He’s a leader. A fighter, a dreamer and warrior,” said Walker, who majored in psychology and minored in theatre arts at Daemen. “I want to see my friends do well and create opportunities for them to excel—while being inspiring, especially to those who look like me, people of color.”

A decade ago, at Daemen…

Walker’s first-ever theater performance was as a child, in church. 

His first as a young adult was in 2010, in Daemen’s Wick Social Room, in Fences, by August Wilson (the namesake of the theater where Walker is now performing on Broadway). 

Alphonso Walker, Jr.

Walker, speaking at ALHANA in 2019

Months later, he performed on campus in “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry. 

Both productions were staged by a student group—Creative Minds—he co-founded with fellow student Aishah Rudolph and was sponsored by Robert Waterhouse, associate professor of theater.

“Walking out on stage at Daemen, seeing all those people—in that moment I knew this is what I’m going to do with my life,” said Walker. “It was a feeling overtaking me saying this is my assignment and I never looked back.”

The day of his debut on Broadway was much the same, Walker said, remarking that he was “like a kid on the first day of school. I danced to the theater.”

When the curtain lifted on Sept. 7, “it was one of the most beautiful moments in my life. I’ll never forget it,” he said. 

In the audience were family, friends and supporters who have helped Walker reach the milestone. Alphonso Walker, Jr.

Notable is that Walker made it to Broadway without an agent (but is currently seeking representation).

After “Pass Over”’s run ends (currently slated to close Oct. 10 with an extension into November), Walker will continue to pursue film and TV roles, in addition to writing his own material. Soon he’ll be featured in an upcoming episode of Wu-Tang: An American Saga on Hulu.

“With the challenges of the last few years, it’s easy to be discouraged. But I’m grateful and determined,” he said. “It’s still surreal every time I walk into my dressing room.”