[caption id="attachment_10568" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Daniel Beaty"][/caption]
We are happy to welcome guest celebrity blogger Daniel Beaty, who is currently starring at Off-Broadway's Union Square Theatre in the solo play Through the Night, which he also wrote. The acclaimed actor, who received an Obie Award for his other solo play, Emergence-See!, will blog for Playbill.com all week; his third entry follows.
As I prepare to return to my first performance of the week, I revisit my character's physicality, voice, and emotional life. It is particularly interesting for me this week because I have spent much of my days off trying to find an outfit for opening night that will fit my body. First of all, I dread shopping. My mother was a shop-aholic (I diagnosed her) as I was growing up. She bought a new suit and a pair of pumps once a week. As a child I was often dragged along with her - cheaper than a babysitter - and I remember walking by the woman's department and silently praying, "Don't let her stop, don't let her stop!" Inevitably, I would end up sitting in one of those uncomfortable chairs as my mother shopped for at least an hour.
Even worse was when we went shopping for me. I still remember my mother saying with frustration, "Your butt and legs are so big, we have to shop for you in the husky section!" I was never a fat kid, but I do have "strong" legs and a big butt. And it affects my shopping till this day. I decided to try to find something nice for opening night, so I followed in my glorious producer Daryl Roth's Prada heel marks over to 5th Avenue. My director Charles Randolph-Wright always wants me to wear suits on opening night (he has beautiful ones), but they always feel too stuffy for the type of work I do when I wear them.
So, I went from Cavalli to Prada to Dolce and Gabbana to Gucci where I finally found some shirts I liked. After lots of working out, I now have a developed chest, shoulders, and arms. Playing on my childhood insecurity, the "highly experienced" sales associate kept giving me shirts that were way too big for my body. Finally, he says, "Oh my God, I can't believe you wear a medium skinny fit." Yes, bitch, I do (that's what I said on the inside). Okay, so it was little tight and I'll have to eat lettuce all week, but I had a point to prove. Anyway, no matter how hard we tried I could not find pants to fit my legs and butt in all of these fabulous designer boutiques. So, I had to head over to Bloomingdale's and have some tailored.
Bodies are funny. It's part of why I love acting multiple characters. In Through the Night I have a distinct body for each of my characters - several of whom of are women. My primary six male characters are the Bishop, Mr. Rogers, Isaac, Dre, ‘Twon and Eric.
The Bishop is a 300 pound, 60-year-old man with a big belly and bad knees - still he is charismatic and his energy is very open.
Mr. Rogers is a 50-year-old man who runs a health food store in the hood. He is very fit, but is a bit more conservative and less open then the Bishop. His wife says, "He's not the finest man in the room, but when I walk away, I know I can assume his eyes are following me."
Isaac is a marketing executive for a music company. He is in music and marketing, so he has some pizzaz and flair in his physicality, but he's also under a lot of stress with his job and has a secret that is revealed in the play. So, he holds a lot of tension in his shoulders and tends to close off his body by folding his arms around himself as he speaks.
Dre is an ex-convict and former drug dealer, but he is also reentering society, and his girlfriend is pregnant. He is cautious and skeptical, but also has an almost animal like physicality. He is down in himself, but looks like he could pounce at any second. He too has a secret that gets revealed that causes him to close off in an effort to not be fully seen.
'Twon has the most open physicality in the play as it is graduation day. He is on his way to college, and he is thrilled. His spirit and body are open. His arms are often outstretched like he is trying to grab the whole world and give it a hug.
Eric is a ten year-old child. He's a visionary and everyone is taller than he is so he is constantly looking up. He is also taking the weight of the world on his shoulders, so his young body carries some unexpected tension.
I am much more comfortable with this type of physical "dressing" than shopping in designer stores. As a writer and performer, I spend the most of my time exploring my internal landscape, and this informs my character's external physicality - it is my passion. So, it was a bit foreign and slightly awkward for me to spend so much time yesterday thinking about clothes and how I look. But the truth is, I enjoyed it. Perhaps I'm a fashion whore in the making. I'm flying my mother in for opening, and I hope she's impressed. Maybe you'll make it to opening, too. If you like my outfit, let me know. If not, you can fax Gucci and let them know. Oh, and if you come to the show and I pass out on stage, it's because I'm only eating lettuce this week. Vanity before art!!!!