Beah Richards: Rise To Your Own Occasion
I met Beah Richards on the set of a television show on which we were both freelancing: she as a guest actress; I as a contract writer hired to "fill holes" in the script. Both of us approached our work warily, with good humor, with our eyes on the door. It was a job: nothing more.
Beah had remarkable gifts beyond her acting: concentration, intelligence, wit, a fierce honesty. I never witnessed Beah being cruel or curt with anyone, but I saw her disabuse several people of erroneous or romantic or prejudiced views on subjects that were dear to her. "Romanticism," she told me, "really serves no purpose. Reality is far more powerful and useful. Reality gives us all clear vision, clear purpose. Romanticism is a dream. It slows things down."
Tennessee Williams adored Beah, and he spoke of her performance in James Baldwin's The Amen Corner at great length. Many of his conversations with Baldwin concerned this woman who combined "the maternal with the dynamic; the divine and the demonic." Tenn's dream was to see Beah Richards take on the role of Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, so that he could see that woman played by someone capable of being both imprisoned by a dream and of enjoying the destruction of the dreams harvested by those around her.
One day on the set, Beah spoke at length about the theatre and the arts and life. I was particularly struck by the following comments:
A dream is implanted within you for a reason. It's yours. You need to work to make it happen; to share it. This is essentially what I am always saying to other people, whether they are actors or artists. I say it to human beings. Make the world you want to exist happen. It's a huge and glorious goal, but it's the only one that counts. Create your fair and loving world, and invite everyone in; welcome everyone who makes to the borders; make it a place that harbors and nourishes everyone who visits. Banish evil and prejudice and limitation. I have seen a lot in my life, but I've yet to see anything or anyone that is awful or misguided who can't be conquered or loved or encouraged or altered. Thrive rather than whine. Push yourself. Test yourself. Make yourself worthy of that glittering dream you carry around in your heart. Rise to your own occasion.
More to come.