Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Won't Grow Up

Have you noticed how Peter Pan seems to be everywhere in our culture right now?  A major live NBC broadcast of the classic musical in the works; a new musical based on "Finding Neverland;" and a big screen feature starring Hugh Jackman, "Pan,"slated for release in 2015.  But perhaps the most original, disarming and artful interpretation of J.M. Barrie's classic story came rollicking on to Broadway a couple years ago: "Peter and the Starcatcher," based on the best selling novels by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  Like Gregory Maguire's "Wicked,"  which imagines what happened before the action of "The Wizard of Oz," "Peter and the Starcatcher" weaves the tale of the adventures that made Peter Pan Peter Pan!  This piece is so fresh, so magical... and the tour is still on the road, so it's a great gift to be able to do one of the few licensed regional theatre productions that are happening now: this one at Pioneer Theatre Company.

As a classical actor, I am never happier with Shakespeare than when it is performed simply, on a bare stage, with the focus on the actors and the words.  "Peter and the Starcatcher" is a true ensemble piece, a clever and imaginative adventure in which the players move in and out of narrating and performing numerous memorable characters.  My role is the pirate first mate, Smee, sidekick to the show's comic villain, Black Stache (who eventually becomes Captain Hook), the role that won Christian Borle the Tony Award.  Smee gives me many opportunities for hilarity and fun, including a potentially show stealing moment as a rather homely mermaid!
George Shelton, the original Smee, 1904

The legend of Peter Pan is so deeply a part of our collective consciousness, and the idea of 'the boy who never grew up' has beguiled generations with dreams of eternal youth, adventure and magic.  "Peter and the Starcatcher" enchants with all of this, while being decidedly a smart, sassy, sometimes shameless fairy tale for grownups!  I look forward to jumping into the work and sharing my adventures in Salt Lake City.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Even the Darkest Night Will End, and the Sun Will Rise…

At this writing, I am in my final week of “Les Misérables.”  What a fulfilling journey it has been, creating my own creepy, boorish Thénardier.  It’s a vastly satisfying part, shameless, dynamic—enhanced by the special relationship I forge with each audience—as repulsed as they may be, they can’t help but love me!  Who wouldn’t love that?

I am also proud of the fact that this has been the most successful production in Orlando Shakespeare Theater history.  Ticket sales at 96% capacity, excellent reviews, and the amazing reach we have had via the flash mob we performed of “One Day More” at the Mall at Millennia.  The major network morning shows featured the flash mob on Labor Day weekend, reaching millions of viewers, and the video has had nearly half a million views on YouTube.  If you haven't seen it yet, you can view it by clicking here!  Additionally, our participation in the annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fund drive has raised over $10,000 for people living with HIV and AIDS.  In every respect it has been a success.

I have made good friends amongst this positive and talented company of artists, and forged a new relationship with a new theatre.  OST gave me an opportunity to work with their interns and MFA students by teaching a Shakespeare text master class, and we had the opportunity to do talk backs and discussions with high school groups and musical theatre majors at University of Central Florida.  “Les Misérables” inspired me immeasurably when I was a college student, and I feel great pride in paying that forward.

Despite all the triumph and artistic satisfaction, this time in Orlando was shadowed by the death of my beloved father during our rehearsal period in August.  Donald G. Beaman died of complications from surgery at the age of 81.  A brilliant artist and set designer, he taught generations of theatre artists over his nearly three decades at Boston University.  He was also a scholar of ancient civilizations and universal symbolism, writing volumes on the subject, as well as designing and publishing his own Tarot card deck, The Tarot of Saqqara.  The inspiration he brought to my life and my work as an artist cannot be adequately measured.  I was helped so much in my time of loss by the kindness and generosity of my fellow artists here in this production, and the work itself was a source of solace in the midst of grief.  My father would have loved my performance in this role, and he would have approved of my turning to the work of theatre as a way through the process of coping with his passing.  And so, life moves forward.  If “Les Misérables” teaches us anything, it is about the endurance of the human spirit to survive and to find redemption.

For me, it is on to my next project!  For my final role in 2014, I will have the delight of playing Smee in the Pioneer Theatre Company production of the magical theatrical adventure, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”  This Tony-winning blend of theatre, music, and storytelling imagines how Peter Pan became Peter Pan, and how ‘Black Stache’ became the memorable villain we know as Captain Hook.  I am excited to do this fabulous piece, and to proudly make my fourth regional theatre debut of the year with this great company in Salt Lake City.  There is truly nothing like working at the holidays, enhancing the joy of the season and creating family memories for festive audiences.  Stay tuned for casting news and more as I venture into Neverland in November and December!