Dan Beecher (Bill Fordham): “Empathy, understanding, growth”


Daniel Beecher

It’s funny: I’ve been acting for decades. My first turn on stage was at the tender age of 8, and then theater became my college major. And yet I still am not entirely sure what the hell acting really is.

On the surface of it, it seems to be little more than just pretending. Pretending to be someone else in front of a bunch of people who paid to watch the pretense. That strikes me as incredibly odd.

There’s clearly a deeper layer to this acting thing, though. I see it when I watch the incredibly talented people in “August: Osage County.” I see it when the kind, lovely women who are the lynchpins of our cast (Teresa Sanderson and April Fossen) become mean, horrible people. And then I see it when I still deeply feel and connect with the humanity in those characters, in spite of their flaws.

There is truly something magical that happens when great actors are given beautiful material to bite into, and I think it’s what has made theater last as an art form for thousands of years. When a great actor embodies a character in the way Teresa and April do, we are given a glimpse of what is universally human. Even when the behavior we’re seeing is something we, ourselves would never do, an actor can make us see ourselves in that moment. We gain a little empathy. We understand a little more. We grow a little.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet told actors to “Hold, as t’were, the mirror up to nature.” That’s what great actors do. They give us insight into our own humanity. In laying bare the lives of fictional characters, they end up showing us ourselves.

The inherent falsehood of pretending, as it turns out, is one of the fastest, if sneakiest, ways we have to get to truth.

Daniel studied with the Actor Training program at the University of Utah. He has most recently been seen locally at the Grand Theatre in “Noises Off,” “Our Town,” and “Death of a Salesman.” Other local credits include “Course 86 B in the Catalogue,” “The Caretaker,” and “An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuff” at Salt Lake Acting Company”; “Peter Pan,” “Macbeth,” “King Lear,” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” at Pioneer Theatre Company; and many others.