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Daniel Beaty's 'Through the Night' Shapes Black Male Experience

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Daniel Beaty in the one-man play Through the Night seeks to do the impossible. The Obie award-winning actor, singer and writer attempts to tell the story of “six interconnected black males ages 10-60: a child scientist, a young man from the projects on his way to college, an ex-convict, a corporate executive, a health food store owner, and the Bishop of a mega church,” and he does so flawlessly.

The openly gay actor interweaves real stories of fear, struggle, triumph, denial, rejection and hope to connect these men, who dominate the play, on a level that transcends race. They are each vital to the other’s survival.  

The New York Times writes:

The black men in “Through the Night” are striving, and that is taking its toll, even on 10-year-old Eric, who is determined to develop a magic formula for his herbal iced tea. His father, Mr. Rogers (whose neighborhood is Harlem), is trying desperately to make a go of his health-food store, but people, it seems, would rather clog their arteries with so-called soul food.

Mr. Rogers’s one employee, Dre, is fighting the temptation to use drugs again while he waits for his first child to be born, praying that the baby will, unlike its parents, be H.I.V.-free. Eric’s pal ’Twon has won one battle — he is graduating from high school — but is struggling for the courage to go away to college in Atlanta, to a world that is foreign to him.

’Twon’s mentor, Isaac, a music-industry executive, works long, stress-filled hours, but puts almost as much energy into hiding the reason he’s 40 and unmarried. His father, a successful minister with a congregation of 10,000, is fighting for his life. He weighs 300 pounds, is diabetic and joins Overeaters Anonymous, but still wants creamy, chocolaty HoHos in the middle of the night.

The play, which originally employed a range of actors, was converted to a one-man play because Beaty wanted to “take it to another level.”

“I have found, thus far, that I am able to reach the highest expression of my art when I am able to inhabit the characters as well,” Beaty said in his interview with James Sims, senior editor of BroadwayWorld.com. “I think most playwrights hear their characters’ voices and are clear about what their emotions are. Because I’m a trained actor, as well I can make that a reality,” he continued.

Women remain in the shadows throughout the play, but their roles are vital and represent the cherished parts of the men’s lives.  Mr. Rogers longs for his mother who cleaned offices to support her children and his wife who toils at a salaried job so her husband can keep his store going.  Beaty also invokes women through his demeanor and posture in astonishing ways.

The play has made appearances across the country including New York, Atlanta, Hartford and Philadelphia and is set to make an appearance on Broadway.

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