Daniel Beaty gives a tour-de-force performance, playing up to 40 characters in “The Tallest Tree in the Forest,” a solo play, which he also wrote. It tells the life story of Paul Robeson, a towering figure among our nation’s prominent African-Americans. Renowned director Moisés Kaufman returns to BAM (The Laramie Project, 2013 Winter/Spring) to direct this show which has delighted and enlightened audiences from Kansas City, to LA, La Jolla, and Washington, DC.
The play will be held at BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton St. on March 22 & 28 at 2:00 p.m., March 22 & 24 – 28 at 7:30 p.m., March 29 at 3:00 p.m.
Born in New Jersey to a father who was a freed slave, Robeson (1898-1976) rose from humble beginnings to become a Broadway star and international celebrity. Best known for playing “Joe” in the ground-breaking musical Show Boat (making “Ol’ Man River” one of the most celebrated show-tunes), he was also a scholar, athlete, activist, attorney, and an icon of the civil rights movement, whose career crumbled during the McCarthy era as questions arose about his Communist associations.
Employing Beaty’s swift vocal and character transformations, monologues, narrative scenes, music, poetry, and video, the production explores the evolution of Robeson’s career. It shows his humanity and courage, but does not shy away from his complicated character, including his marital infidelity and the controversy surrounding Show Boat.
Music direction, incidental music, and arrangements by Kenny J. Seymour
Set design by Derek McLane; Costume design by Clint Ramos; Lighting design by David Lander; Sound design by Lindsay Jones; Projection design by John Narun.
About the Artists
Daniel Beaty is an award-winning actor, singer, writer, and motivational speaker. He has performed at venues ranging from Lincoln Center to the White House, and garnered numerous awards including an Obie for writing and performance and two NAACP Theater Awards. A highly requested keynote speaker, Beaty has worked throughout the US, Europe, and Africa, speaking and performing on programs with luminaries such as Deepak Chopra, Hill Harper, Jill Scott, Donnie McClurkin, and Ruby Dee.
An adjunct professor at Columbia University, diversity trainer, and youth development specialist, Beaty has spoken at retreats and led leadership training for myriad non-profits and corporations. In fall 2013, Beaty launched a nationwide initiative using storytelling to help individuals and communities heal trauma, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg and Ford Foundations, among others. He holds a BA with honors in English and music from Yale University and an MFA in acting from the American Conservatory Theatre. His poem “Knock Knock” became an Internet sensation (receiving millions of views) and was transformed into an eponymous children’s book. Penguin-Random House published his empowerment book “Transforming Pain to Power” in February 2014.
Moisés Kaufman is a playwright, a Tony- and Emmy-nominated director, and a founder of Tectonic Theater Project. He directed the Broadway revival of The Heiress, with Jessica Chastain, and wrote and directed 33 Variations starring Jane Fonda, which received five Tony nominations. He also directed Rajiv Joseph’s Pulitzer Prize finalist Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with Robin Williams on Broadway in 2011.
Prior to that, Kaufman directed the Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play “I Am My Own Wife.” His plays “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” and “The Laramie Project” have been among the most performed plays in America over the last decade.
Other credits include: “The Nightingale” (La Jolla Playhouse), “A Common Pursuit” (Roundabout), “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” (Mark Taper Forum); “Macbeth” with Liev Schreiber (Public Theater), “This Is How It Goes” (Donmar Warehouse), “One Arm” by Tennessee Williams (New Group and Steppenwolf Theater Company), “Master Class” with Rita Moreno (Berkeley Repertory Theater), and “Lady Windermere’s Fan” (Williamstown Theater Festival). The film adaptation of The Laramie Project -which he co-wrote and directed for HBO-received Emmy nominations for Best Director and Best Writer.