Daniel Beaty to Star in THE TALLEST TREE IN THE FOREST at Arena Stage, 1/10-2/16
Following the world premiere co-production at Kansas City Repertory Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse, playwright and performer Daniel Beaty brings The Tallest Tree in the Forest to Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Beaty, whose work has been seen at Arena Stage as a playwright with his play Resurrection and as a performer in his award-winning solo play Emergency, channels close to 40 characters in The Tallest Tree in the Forest in a "tour de force" (San Diego Reader) performance, giving audiences an intimate look at one of the most dynamic and controversial figures in history-artist and activist Paul Robeson. Tony Award nominee Moisés Kaufman (playwright and director for Broadway's 33 Variations, which received its world premiere at Arena Stage in 2007) directs this music-infused new play that features 14 songs and an onstage band. Developed and produced by Tectonic Theater Project, The Tallest Tree in the Forest runs January 10-February 16, 2014 in the Kreeger Theater and will play the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles following the Arena Stage run.
"Daniel Beaty is a quadruple threat: artist, scholar, activist and humanitarian," says Artistic Director Molly Smith. "It is by presenting important historical figures like Robeson and remembering our past that we know our present. Daniel inspires me and I am grateful to have his artistry at Arena Stage this season."
"Working with Moisés on this project has been an extraordinary process of experimenting with form, asking challenging questions and being relentless in our efforts to create a theatrical experience that endeavors to mirror the complexity and richness of its subject," shares Beaty. "Moisés and the entire Tectonic family have been amazing collaborators. I first met Moisés while performing at Arena, and am so pleased that has led to this remarkable collaboration and my return to D.C."
Tectonic Theater Project, Beaty and Kaufman have been developing this piece since 2011. During that period the play received multiple workshops and was selected by the Guggenheim for its "Works & Process" series. Employing multi-character transformation, monologues, narrative scenes, heightened poetry and video footage of the era, this theatrical work explores the evolution of Robeson as an artist/activist, his humanity, his courage, his contradictions and why many call him the "tallest tree in the forest." Robeson was a scholar, an athlete, an activist, a vocalist and an actor on stage and screen. Born the son of a slave, he was celebrated by the elite and rose to the heights of fame as the voice of the everyman around the world. Then, he saw it all put into question during the McCarthy era, as questions of his Communist leanings plagued his reputation and career.
"Daniel is one of the most brilliant artists working today in American theater and I was thrilled when he approached me about The Tallest Tree in the Forest," adds Kaufman. "As a writer and performer he gets to the heart of his characters through fearless exploration. Collaborating with Daniel for over two years has allowed us to envelop ourselves into Robeson's immense world."
Daniel Beaty (Playwright/Performer) last appeared at Arena Stage in Emergence-See! (now re-titled Emergency). His play Resurrection was performed as part of Arena's 2008/09 season. Daniel is an award-winning actor, singer, writer and motivational speaker. His critically acclaimed plays Through the Night, Emergency, Mr. Joy and The Tallest Tree in the Forest have been performed at venues ranging from Lincoln Center to the White House, and have garnered numerous awards, including an Obie Award for writing and performance and two NAACP Theater Awards. A highly requested keynote speaker and thought leader, Daniel has worked throughout the U.S., Europe and Africa, speaking and performing on programs with luminaries such as Bill Cosby, Deepak Chopra, Hill Harper, Jill Scott, Donnie McClurkin and Ruby Dee. An adjunct professor at Columbia University, diversity trainer and youth development specialist, Daniel has spoken at staff retreats and led leadership training for a myriad of non-profits and corporations. In fall 2013, Daniel launched a nationwide initiative, funded by W.K. Kellogg and Ford Foundations, among others, to use the tools of storytelling to help individuals and communities heal from trauma. He holds a BA with Honors in English and Music from Yale University and an MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theater. His poem Knock Knock became an internet sensation receiving millions of views, and has been transformed into a children's book, also titled Knock Knock, published by Little Brown Books. Penguin-Random House will publish his empowerment book Transforming Pain to Power in March 2014.