BWW Blog: James Beaman of Cape Playhouse's 1776 - Becoming John Adams
I am a research fanatic; I admit it. With each role I play I become my own dramaturge, digging around to learn everything I can about the source material of the play, the period it is set in... anything that will enable me to get inside the skin of the character. Years ago, I created a series of solo shows in which I played screen siren Marlene Dietrich. I felt a huge responsibility, as I attempted to embody such an iconic and distinctive star, to see every film, listen to every recording, and read every book in my quest to be as authentic as possible in my portrayal. With 1776 and John Adams, I am dealing with American history and one of our founding fathers...Talk about responsibility!
Obviously, the writers of 1776 did exhaustive research to fulfill the task of dramatizing one of the seminal moments in the history of the United States, and capturing the characters of the legendary people who lived it. Much of the dialogue of the play is extracted directly from personal letters and writings from those great men and women. And while my responsibility is to bring to life their vision of John Adams, I also feel I owe it to this man-this singular, passionate voice for American Independence who became our first Vice President and the second President of the United States-to know as much as I can about him, and to educate myself about the events leading up to the revolution, as well as the world he lived in: 18th century America. Fortunately, there's a ton of information available and Adams's personal diaries and letters have survived-a window into the mind and heart of the man.
In this week's video blog I share some of my sources and findings, which I hope will excite the interest of other performers, as well as history geeks like myself! I have also been having fun on Pinterest, assembling a board there of images, videos, and scraps of inspiration you might find interesting:
Ultimately, all this research is more than just academic; it's about charging up my imagination so I can find a window into the man I am playing and the world he lived in. It's the closest thing to time travel I know of!