Sunday, June 12, 2011

Full Circle


The leads highlight the playhouse stage with astonishing charisma, comic timing and vocal talent...Beaman hits his own comedic stride as the cliche-confused Englishman with a deeply buried wild side.

Wrapping things up here at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, where our hit production of "Anything Goes" will close on June 22nd. It has been such a pleasure to work here and I look forward to coming back in future seasons! I look to the horizon now and to my next creative endeavors, which include "Victor/Victoria" at Stages St. Louis, and an exciting return to Shakespeare and the great theatre town of Washington, D.C. in a play that started my journey as a classical actor.

The year was 1978, and my Dad was working in the theatre department at Boston University. The graduating class was going to perform Shakespeare's "King John" and the director, who was also the head of the acting program, wanted a young boy to play the pivotal role of Prince Arthur. I was already a pretty precocious little actor, and I auditioned along with a few other faculty brats and won the part. To this day, I can remember everything about the process of rehearsing and performing that play. It was a dream come true to a 12 year old who had already decided he would be the next Laurence Olivier. Arthur is the best of Shakespeare's roles for a child actor and he plays several very dramatic scenes, one in which he manages to talk his jailer, Hubert, out of putting his eyes out with hot irons at the behest of the King; and there is a gripping death scene, in which Arthur leaps from a tall wall and perishes in his attempt. I can say without hesitation that playing Arthur on the Boston University Theatre stage was the catalyst for a passion for fine acting and for Shakespeare that has carried me through the last 30-plus years in my work as an actor.

This summer, I will return to "King John" as Arthur's would-be assassin, Hubert de Burgh, in the next of Taffety Punk Theatre Company's Bootleg Shakespeare productions to be performed at DC's Folger Theatre. I have written before about the great work my friends Marcus Kyd and Lise Bruneau have been doing with their company, and I related the story of the Bootleg series, but for those who don't know... Bootleg Shakespeare is a one day theatrical event. Weeks in advance, director Lise Bruneau assigns roles in the selected play to both company members and actors in the extended Taffety Punk family; the actors do their text work and memorize their lines, and then show up the morning of the scheduled performance for a day of rehearsal, which really is comprised of rudimentary staging and the sorting out of entrances, exits, a few props and bits of business, including any fight sequences or dances. Then the play is presented free of charge to a packed audience. It is a spontaneous and thrilling experience for everyone and a true test of the actor's ability to jump right in and make it work! I have done two of these and am delighted to be asked back to do another.

Hubert is a great character. Based on an historic figure, legend has it that Hubert was covertly enlisted by the usurping King John to eliminate the true heir to the throne, the young Prince Arthur.
In Shakespeare's play, while acting as the young boy's jailor, Hubert becomes attached to the child and when the time comes for him to carry out the execution, he finds he can't go through with it and spares Arthur's life. He lies to the King, putting him off with news that Arthur is dead until he can find a way to free the prince and return him to his mother and the King of France, who are at war with John. Tragically, Arthur takes it on himself to try and escape and dies in his attempt, and the devastated Hubert joins the fight to bring down the usurping King John. A wonderful journey for an actor--to go from hardened mercenary to noble hero in the course of the play. I look forward to savoring every moment of my one night run!

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