A combination of singing, slam poetry and numerous monologues, Daniel Beaty’s one-man show, “Emergency,” tells the story of a slave ship that rises out of the Hudson River, right in front of the Statue of Liberty, and how it affects the lives of the people able to witness the event.
Beaty has structured his one-man show in the style of a wacky newscast, jumping from delivering eye witness testimonies to cataloguing the incredible event through the eyes of children and even explores why the slave ship was truly there. His presentation was flawless, seamlessly transitioning from one character to another with the ease and grace of a man who has known a million lives.
The show centers on a family of three – a father and his two sons. The father has not been himself in recent years and jumps into the Hudson River to explore the slave ship — called Remembrance — up close. His sons try to stop him and bring him back to safety. Despite this, his time on the slave ship, proves to be something transformative.
As the man comes to terms with his past, he gains a stronger grasp on the reality of the world around him and feels empowered to remember both where he came from and who he is. “Emergency” is just as much a show about the impacts of slavery, even a century and a half later, as it is about calling to light the impacts of institutionalized and systemic racism and most definitely succeeds at doing so.
Even though Beaty was the only one on stage, it never felt like he was alone. He carried the weight and the consciousness of every character he portrayed as if they were speaking to a dear friend, in confidence. It seems facetious to say that he displayed an almost unconditional level of humanity in his performance — and yet he absolutely did.
His creative process largely stems from his perspective on life. He says that he “writes the past, to create the future,” effectively learning and overcoming his past experiences in order to create something more beautiful and meaningful in their wake, allowing him to grow stronger both as an individual and as a member of society.
As a young boy, Beaty’s father would play a game with him in the morning. His father would come into his room and “knock knock” on his door until Beaty would jump into his arms, awake and smiling. But one day, his father could not be found to complete their morning ritual. Later that day, Beaty found out that his father was suffering from an addiction to heroin and had already found himself in and out of prison many times. These childhood experiences negatively affected Beaty’s view of himself and the world around him. Because of this, Beaty made the choice to become a champion for criminal justice reform employing his theatrical and story-telling gifts to educate and inspire.
Beaty now travels the world, speaking out against racism and classism while asking people of every background to think about how they are impacted by inequality and how they can change the lives of those around them. His one-man show, “Emergency,” was funded by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic Tours program, the National Endowment for the Arts and UMBC’s Center for Research, Innovation and Creativity in the Arts.