BWW Blog: James Beaman of Cape Playhouse's 1776 - Wigging Out
The 18th century was a wig oriented culture. Men wore them, women wore them... some of them were towering sculptures of hair, some were powdered with white powder. If you were a person of any stature, making a statement with your hair was the thing. It's true, historically, that John Adams wore a wig. Look at some of the portraits painted of him without his peruke, and you can see that he was bald on top. If you are familiar with the film version of 1776 you will remember that William Daniels had almost jet black hair as Adams, a luxurious shiny mane pulled back in a ponytail and tied with a ribbon. And that look has inspired decades of productions-it's rare to see a 1776 in which Adams is not wearing a dark, realistic looking wig. The white wigs and more artificial hair looks seem always to be reserved for the character men and the fussier types in the play.
For our production at Cape Playhouse, director James Brennan is keeping the white wigs to a minimum and opting for a look on most of the men that is a lot more realistic. For most of us that meant growing our own hair out as much as possible (mine has been growing steadily since I was cast in March and an unruly mane it is!) to which our wig designer Gerard Kelly will work in ponytail extensions which will give the illusion that they are our own. I like this more realistic look for Adams despite the fact that it is a diversion from the real history. Adams was a down to earth, unpretentious New Englander who grew up on a farm, and for all his education and his brilliant mind, he never lost that no nonsense attitude. So I like the idea of using my own hair for the part.
I had a fun fitting with Gerard which I captured in the vlog post, and came away with a greater appreciation for the contribution of the wig designer both to creating the world of the play but also helping the actor create character. I had a lovely surprise when Stephanie Rothenberg came in for her fitting after mine! Stephanie and I were in the world premiere production of Frog Kiss together last season, and I just adore her. And audiences are going to be blown away by her performance as Martha Jefferson, singing the iconic "He Plays the Violin!" What a voice! Now that the show is in rehearsal, upcoming vlog posts will introduce you to our stellar cast, and capture some rehearsal moments as we prepare 1776 for our opening at Cape Playhouse in July. If you have missed any of the vlog, you can binge view to your heart's content by going to the playlist I created on YouTube: