Writing about the past for the future
Shawn Beasley is not a particularly humble person; many artists aren't. But one thing that sets him apart, other than his talent, is his most unusual and unwavering commitment to promoting artists around him.
Beasley, a Southern Oregon University Theatre Arts major and a published author is absolutely zealous about bring other artists up with him as he climbs the ladder to success. "I just want to push people out there. There is so much talent in this valley," says Beasley. "Helping people with their dreams, that's a good feeling."
Beasley's passion for the written and spoken word have deep roots. "My four brothers and I were taken away from my mom in Mississippi and placed in foster homes for several years," says Beasley. "Finally, my grandmother came down from Oregon on a Greyhound and took us with her."
From there, Beasley lived in North and North East Portland, as the family tried to get by. "She taught me stuff like how to stand up when I met someone and other Southern etiquette, but I fell in with a bad crowd," says Beasley. Eventually, Beasley wound up in a Boy's Home and then jail. After that it was back to a string of foster homes. When he was finally kicked out at 19-years-old, he moved in with his 27-year old girlfriend at the time and began the track back towards college.
"From the minute I got into the Boys' Homes, I got into poetry. I got into writing. I got a lot out of it, and there is just something very cathartic about it," says Beasley. "Writing is better than the Prozac pill, which I've tried too."
When Beasley speaks, be at an open-mic, a reading for hundreds of people or just one-on-one, his words are permeating with thought and art. He comes across as one who has never misspoken in his life, exuding a charisma that carries with it great inspiration.
"When I started with college, I couldn't decide what I wanted to be. I thought, since I'd known all these characters at the Boys' Home, maybe I could act," says Beasley. "Perhaps unfortunately, I was always the spokesperson for my brothers. I have a fraternal twin. He listened a lot, and I talked a lot. Now he has a psychology degree and I have one in theatre. Go figure."
Through his years at SOU, Beasley found a new self emerging; very self-directed, very driven. Working with various campus organizations, volunteering and working doggedly, Beasley finally found his voice. "The first time I ever really, really performed was at a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the (Historic) Armory. I felt really high from the performance," recalls Beasley. "Of course, theatre helped a lot, too."
Moving forward as a playwright and a Slam Poet, Beasley took to open mics, joined a hip-hop group and found every opportunity to get himself out to the public. This culminated in two great events in his life. One was getting to open for one of his heroes, slam poet Saul Williams, when he performed for SOU students and the Ashland community two years ago to a packed auditorium of hundreds of people. The other was Reno.
"I took a flight to Reno to meet with Famous Poets Press, who were having a contest," says Beasley. "First, I took the rent money, which caused trouble in paradise, of course. Then I met with the publishers." The first prize of the contest was $25,000. Second prize was a book contract. Beasley took second, finally publishing "Witts Worthy Poetic Plays."
"I try to get right to the point with these works," says Beasley. "I want to put out a sixty-or-so page play that people can digest in 15 minutes and get something out of." After publication, Beasley has appeared all over town, at venues, at the Public Library and at events. Now he's the one who is sought after.
Since then, Beasley is somewhat of a local hero, at least to the struggling writer crowd. Beasley has already helped local SOU students find publishers while himself struggling to find a place in the post-grad world. "This is really about helping starving artists," says Beasley," "&
166;Being one myself." Over the summer, Beasley worked a few unsatisfying, unappreciated jobs while trying to build a life for himself and his wife, Nursing student Nundu Maingi. Finally, Beasley found himself unemployed and desperate, actually considering male modeling when opportunity struck.
"I was having a down night at the I-pub when I got into a conversation," says Beasley. That conversation was with recent Rogue Valley addition and entrepreneur Mark Badal Anthony. This week marks the grand opening of Anthony's WI-FX live acoustic theater in Talent. The club is designed to promote local artistry and provide artists with an inexpensive, and occasionally free way to record their work in a live setting. Presently it is the only recording studio in the Rogue Valley to offer this, though it is only the beginning for Anthony, who has plans to open two more studios in the future.
"We got to talking, and commiserating and he said I might be perfect to be his host and promoter," says Beasley. "He saw me at a Def Poetry performance months back and I think he may have had me in mind for awhile"&
166; of course, I didn't know that."
Now Beasley is at top form, doing what he loves best, the work which defines him: performing to the masses and promoting other artists while providing them with the opportunity to move forward.
"I just hope to launch artists in the valley. WI-FX hates the term 'starving artists'."
For more information on upcoming events, or on how to obtain a copy of Beasley's book, visit .
Name: Shawn Beasley
Claim to Fame: Author of "Witts Worthy Poetic Plays"
Inspiration: Maya Angelo, Langston Hughes, Saul Williams, TuPac
Niche: Working with artists