Daniel Beaty's "emergency" and The Healing Power of the Arts

September 15, 2018
Maggie Moe

On Saturday, September 8, an eager crowd gathered at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, CA for multi-talented artist Daniel Beaty’s powerful one-man show “emergency” presented by Children’s Institute.

Foster youth from CII’s Individualized Transitional Skills Program (ITSP) and high school students from Santee Education Complex arrived on school busses and were treated to a pre-show Chipotle feast before taking their seats in the Bram Goldsmith Theater.

The lights dimmed, cell phones were silenced, and Beaty immediately commanded the room through poetry, song, humor and an array of characters ranging from two young brothers with a mentally ill father to a little girl living with AIDs.

Following the performance, Beaty was joined by Judy Belk, President & CEO of The California Wellness Foundation for a conversation about his personal journey and the power of the arts to heal.

”Similarly, art creates a relatedness and a shared experience that touches us on a soul place. Who would think that I, as this big black guy, would be playing a little girl with AIDS? But I do that and that’s consistently a character that moves people the most,” said Beaty who continued,“In our core, despite all of the illusions of separation that are so pervasive in our society, we know we’re connected to each other. We know we’re made of the same stuff and we desperately need artists to remind us of that.”

As the young people exited the theater, many were moved by the performance and shared their reactions:

“I thought that Daniel was very inspiring for his strength and his way of expressing his lifestyle, what he’s been through. He really made an impact on the youth today, like how we can get through a lot of things through art. It doesn’t have to be what we’ve been through, it can be what we want to be or what we want for our future. He really models strength and creativity and that’s not something that I’ve ever seen before.”

“I thought it was incredible. I liked all the characters that he played, but when he talked about not having his dad around…his mom was the primary caregiver. The roles for me are reversed but I still understand what he was trying to say. I thought it was beautiful how he incorporated everybody’s life situation.”

In Beaty’s words, “It’s so important for young people to be exposed to different worlds and different experiences, such as coming to a beautiful theater like The Wallis…When I got to Yale and began to see how other people were living, I discovered that the trauma that was normalized in my childhood was not necessarily what everybody else was dealing with. And so my question became, How do I start to get free?”

With your help, CII can launch I DREAM in South LA high schools to help young people discover the healing power of art and begin to heal from trauma. For more information, please contact Ian Ryen, Director of Foundation & Corporate Relations.

Thank you once again to the sponsors who made this event possible:
The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, The California Wellness Foundation, David Bohnett Foundation, Southern California Grantmakers and The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.