Joe Bevilacqua: A Man of Many Talents…
By Sharlene Hartman
From the September 2008 issue of the Delaware-Hudson CANVAS. See the printed article with photos here:
Joe Bevilacqua is one of those enviable people in the arts, who always seem to be actively using their talent. If he’s not currently cast in a project he’ll produce a project of his own. His talents run the gamut from drawing detailed cartoons since the age of 5, developing and performing voices for cartoon characters and producing 100’s of programs for National Public Radio (NPR). He is an award winning writer, broadcaster, documentarian, and aside from about a dozen more accomplishments he understands quantum physics. And, no matter what project he is involved in, he is quick to state that “Lorie Kellogg, my wife, who came into my life 12 years ago, is the other half of my creative work”. In fact for 4 years they did a program on XM Satellite Radio called The Comedy-O-Rama Hour, which Joe co-wrote, produced, directed, and performed 80-90% of the voices.
“Joe Bev’s” been at it since he was 3 years old, when he started performing for his family; making up characters and mimicking what he saw on TV. At 6 his family moved from Newark New Jersey to a house in the suburbs that had a large attic that wasn’t being used. By the time he was 12 Joe had moved upstairs and created his own “fake apartment”. He furnished it with any and all furniture that would fit into the room, including a couch and a desk…and he would go downstairs just to bring his meals up to the attic. “I disassociated myself from my family because they were always arguing, there was always conflict”. He also felt he didn’t measure up to his father’s definition of “a man”. It was another time and Joe said “I was just a little different; I didn’t want to play sports, I didn’t care about cars…I was an artsy-fartsy guy”.
So Joe found sanctuary in an attic and turned it into his own fantasy world, “where I would draw cartoons, make up funny voices and perform for friends”. He even ended up forcing his friends to perform, “if you played with Joe Bev you had to be inventive…we put on shows”. And he still has some of those shows recorded on tape.
After seeing a Warner Brothers’ cartoon, where Elmer Fudd was a scientist planning to experiment on Bugs Bunny, he decided to make up his own cartoon characters; “a professor with a dumb assistant”, thus creating Willoughby and the Professor, characters he still does on the radio today. He made up the voices and created a story, “ad- libbing my way though…nothing was written down”. His father gave him a tape recorder with a microphone that had an on/off switch. If he needed time to think, he’d just pause the recording until he could come up with the next line. He ended up recording a number of 30 minute shows, “the length of a one act play, which is what Radio Theatre does best”. He had never heard Radio Theatre, so he thought he was actually “inventing it”, sound effects and all.
Having a private “studio”, to develop ideas in, paid off big time in High School. His first mentor, Gordon Inverno, of Thomas Aquinas High School, saw that Joe had talent as an actor, cartoonist, writer and director…and he let Joe “do all kinds of things” including a 5 minute weekly satirical news program on the school public address system. Suddenly the girls liked him and “the sports guys didn’t think I was so bad…everything that happens to you in life makes you who you are, so I have no regrets”.
At 16, he wrote a letter to Daws Butler, the voice of Yogi Bear and Elroy Jetson among others; both Hanna-Barbera cartoons (now owned by Warner Brothers) which were Joe’s favorite. He told Mr. Butler that he wanted to be a voice actor. Daws tried to discourage Joe with a letter telling him how hard it was. Joe wrote back saying “I know it’s hard but I’ve been doing this my whole life, this is what I’m going to do.” Daws wrote back saying “you’re the first kid that wrote back…you bounce back well. OK, let’s see what you’ve got.”
Joe sent Daws four half hour Willoughby and the Professor stories. Then Daws sent him back a 30 minute cassette; just talking to Joe and giving him a variety of voices to practice. Daws taught him the “details of elocution, speech and projection” and so much more. For many summers, Joe, his mother and sister traveled to Beverly Hills, to spend time with Daws and his family. He attended Daws’ workshops, and later edited a book Daws wrote on his voice methods. Joe became Daws’ apprentice, as well as “like a fifth son”. His mentor emphasized the importance of voice actors using their whole body as an instrument, “it frees you up”. A person’s posture and freedom of gesture all help to “develop ways of coloring the sentences. Daws called it ‘orchestrating a script, like a conductor orchestrates music’ ”.
Joe has always enjoyed teaching and mentoring people. He’s been a Broadcasting Professor at Marist College, taught Speech at SUNY Ulster, English as a Second Language at his alma mater Kean University, English and Creative Writing at Rutgers University, and he’s always worked privately with people wanting his coaching expertise in voice-work and acting. In fact he has clients that he coaches over the phone.
The principles that Joe learned in Daws’ workshops are what Joe passes on to his students today. In order to accommodate more students Joe has started having weekly workshops. The people that attend range from beginners to accomplished professionals. “A professional in the class usually raises the level for everyone, everybody learns from everybody”. Private coaching is good for fine tuning, “you can chisel away, focus on a particular problem you are trying to improve. But a group session accelerates learning, because you are developing better listening skills which helps you to learn faster…and everyone is sharing ideas.”
Not only aspiring thespians and voice actors can benefit from Joe Bev’s workshops. It’s an excellent way to improve communication skills, overcome shyness, and help with presentation skills…”it’s all the same tools”. Joe says “anybody that’s ever worked with me goes away totally energized, doing things that they couldn’t imagine they were capable of. We go through enunciation, articulation, and cold reading techniques. You’ll just communicate better. After the first session people go away with more confidence. They did something they thought they couldn’t do. We sit around the table with scripts; there is no ego involved and no judgment. It’s all supportive. When people keep coming back, it becomes like a club; a safe place to try things, learn, experiment and have fun; and doing it using a method that was developed by a guy who did the happiest, most joyful cartoons that have ever been made.”
A Joe Bev workshop sounds great to me, in fact I’m thinking of going myself. However, he has a very busy Fall Calendar**, so call now: 845-647-9475. I’m sure he’d love you to join the club.
**He’ll be recording a number of audio books, has another book of his own coming out in 2009 “Uncle Dunkle and Donnie”, and he was just hired to write and direct a new murder mystery dinner theater show for 90 Miles Off Broadway of New Paltz. It’s set during a 1940s radio show and the audience will be involved! That will run Nov. 7, 8, & 9th at Casa Mia Restaurant, 515 Route 9W, in Highland 845-256-9657. Joe has also been a frequent contributor to The Ellenville Journal, Orange Magazine and Canvas. Find more Joe Bev info at: http://www.joebev.com, http://www.dawsbutler.com, http://www.comedyorama.com
“A Tale of Two Willoughbys: 35-years Apart”“The Holmes Parodies”
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