Broadway veteran Shoshana Bean will bring a pre-recorded performance to the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards gala.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL HULL
This year, Desert AIDS Project’s largest annual fundraising event— the annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards on May 9 — will be a celebration of DAP’s “Hope Begins With Health” campaign. The bold $2 million fundraising initiative aims to propel DAP Health’s vital frontline work targeting health equity, COVID-19, mental health, and ending HIV for the organization’s ever-expanding patient population.
Which makes this year’s ceremony all the more vital as it honors individuals who have made significant if not sea-changing contributions to the community.
Typically an in-person gala complete with red carpet dazzle, the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards gala will be televised instead at 5:30 p.m. on NBC Palm Springs and also run on DAP’s social media channels. But no worries, the pivot still comes with a full entertainment lineup.
Hosted once again by comedian Scott Nevins, performances this year include Sheryl Lee Ralph, a tireless advocate for people with HIV, and the woman who created the role of Deena Jones in “Dreamgirls.” Look for a special appearance by cabaret chanteuse and local humanitarian Keisha D, celebrated for her work with the Black and LGBTQ communities in Palm Springs.
Expect Broadway vet Shoshana Bean to turn heads with her pre-recorded performances. Bean’s career took off after debuting as Shelley, Denizen of Baltimore, in the original cast of Hairspray. She also starred as the first replacement for Elphaba in Wicked, played Jenna Hunterson in Waitress, and performed with Brian McKnight and Bebe Winans, among others.
Bean opens up with Palm Springs Life about the importance of the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, what lies ahead for Broadway, and the personal lessons she’s learned during the pandemic.
What inspires you most about the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards?
Community. And this community means a lot to me. It’s remarkable how people show up for each other. I’ve been lucky to return to the desert a lot because my family often visits. What I appreciate so much about this event is the many different people who are honored and the kinds of work that they do here. I love how the Valley shines the light on people doing work on the ground every day.
This isn’t your first time participating in the event.
I performed a few years ago and it truly was a lovely time. I was really excited to have it come back across the table. I was particularly intrigued this year by how everyone was coming together to make things happen. There has been a strong sense of unity. I love being part of a group of people who find solutions to things. We need that now.
What can we expect from you musically?
They chose some great songs for me to sing, which speaks to the spirit of the event — hope — and the people being honored. I was all on board. I hope that the songs I sing will bring some joy. They’re powerful, and a bit reflective, which I think is important in 2021.
Is everyone being tight-lipped about the songs you’re performing or …?
Nobody gave me guidance on that really, but I feel I should keep my mouth shut about it. [Laughs] Besides, I love surprising people. I love that element of surprise in a performance.
What do you love most about performing?
I already knew that I loved connecting with the audience, but this last year solidified that for me because 99 percent of the performance have been virtual. I don’t necessarily mean I just want wild applause. It’s really about that human energy in a space. I had my first in-human performance a few weeks ago. I think the audience was as shocked to be there as I was as we all adjusted to being in the same room together with other human bodies. The best part of performing is having that human connection. When you’ve been performing into a screen for the last year, you suddenly realize how much you rely on that and how magical, special and unique it is.
How does it feel when you perform?
There’s a euphoria. There’s a joy, a sense of an out of body experience. A freedom. If I am doing it right, I feel completely powerful and free at the same time. Sometimes, if I am really doing it right, I don’t even know what I am doing or remember it. It’s a channeling, if you will … if I’m really out of “the way.”
People still want to know what you loved most about being in Hairspray?
I loved the family it created; the people who still are my family. Harvey Fierstein is my mother — and my brother and sister. That connection was rare. It doesn’t happen in every production. That was still one of the greatest gifts of my life and career — that show and those people.
What’s your biggest hope for Broadway in the next year?
That it will come back. In the absence of Broadway, people have been looking at what it is and what has been happening behind the scenes in terms of representation. So, there’s a restructuring going on for the institution and I think it’s going to come back differently. We are in the process of rebuilding the framework.
The pandemic affected everyone. On a deeper level, what do you think was the greatest opportunity it’s been offering us?
To shift perspective and reevaluate how we are treating each other — and ourselves. And to show us where we place our value and how we use our time. Hopefully, we are simplifying. We’ve been forced to sit with really uncomfortable stuff that has happened in the country and the world. I think we’ve all done some reevaluation with our own personal relationships and the relationship we have to the planet.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
That I made work the thing that I measured my worth and my value.
I think we’ve all had opportunities to learn that during the last year.
Yes. And I’m still reevaluating that. I spend way too much time measuring things through “work.” I can really spend more time “enjoying.”