Bryan Terrell Clark: Motown The Musical’s Marvin Gaye
A Journey To Somewhere
It’s about 25 degrees in New York on a Wednesday afternoon and Bryan Terrell Clark is navigating through the city with two destinations on his agenda. The first causes him to compete with a noisy sandwich shop where he’s ordering lunch and an “old lady” screaming in the background while he engages in this phone interview – amidst the static.
We laugh about it.
En route to the main agenda, he looks to his left and notices his face on the side of a building. It’s disguised in a sense, but for an artistic cause. The advertised image depicts Bryan wearing a beanie hat, full facial beard, and microphone in his hand with his head tilted back as if he’s belting out soulful notes.
The Production: Motown The Musical on Broadway
The Role: Marvin Gaye.
His Reaction: “It’s crazy! It’s a blessing that when as a child artist you daydream as to what you want your life to look like and then one day, your face is driving by on a bus. It’s a blessing,” the usually shaven-faced gent expresses.
On his way to another Motown rehearsal, the fact that he becomes Marvin Gaye on stage at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in Manhattan eight to nine times a week is a reality that Bryan is still processing.
He says while still finding his words, “It’s a blessing on so many levels. Not only is this my first Broadway show as a principle but I’m playing Marvin Gaye who is actually one of my favorite Motown artists.”
With excitement, he runs down brief similarities he and the free-spirited Marvin Gaye shared, “Our birthdays are a week apart, so I feel extremely connected to this man. Both of our parents were ministers. Just to be privileged enough and graced enough to play this role, I’m still at a lost for words.”
Motown The Musical, which continues on Broadway through August and begins its tour dates on April 22, 2014, brings to stage producer Berry Gordy’s behind-the-scenes view of what went on during the process of creating Motown and introducing artists who would later become the voices that gave America an impactful soundtrack. Much of the storyline derives from Gordy’s 1994 memoir, “Motown”.
Within the musical production, the audience receives snippets of Marvin Gaye that function as pockets of social awareness that keep the energetic artistry of Motown in tuned with what is happening outside of Hitsville. (i.e. –the John F. Kennedy assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. shooting, and information about the Vietnam War.)
“This is Berry Gordy’s story; it’s more about the snapshots of Marvin Gaye that he wants to tell to push the Motown the Musical story forward.”
In preparation, Bryan, a Yale School of Drama graduate with an extensive acting resume in film/television and theatre, connected with the inspiring words and aura of his drama teacher, Ron Von Lieu.
“He always watches people play their idea of the thing as oppose to just being the thing.”
The lesson Bryan carries with him: “Bring your humanity to whatever you’re doing; don’t play your idea of “it”. Just be it. Embody it.”
Art & Mission
It was the first week of Motown The Musical rehearsals when Bryan received a life-changing phone call. On the other end of the call, information shocked his ears when told his cousin had been shot and killed in their hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. A day of hanging out with friends and walking to the car to plug-in his dying iPhone led to being caught in a crossfire of gunshots.
Another life lost.
That moment, an internal shift happened.
“… that was kind of my beginning with Motown on Broadway. It was also the beginning of using my art to be a voice for an area that needs awareness,” he shares in a calm but reflective voice.
“So, the first thing I want to do, as an artist, is bring awareness to anti- gun violence and how it affects every demographic in America and the fact that people don’t really know how to stand up and do anything about it.”
This experience, though tragic, further shaped Bryan’s self-identity as an artist. This gave him purpose where as before he believed his purpose in life was just to sing, write and act.
“My art and my talents are the gifts and tools that I’ve been given to create the platform for my purpose, which is to give voice to areas that are voiceless and to shine light in areas where there is darkness.”
With creativity and art, there is, at times, an internal struggle with how much to reveal and when or if to do it at all. There are times when fear triggers the urge to hold back when, sometimes, it could be used to work just the opposite and push toward a needed journey of release.
As a singer and songwriter with co-writer credits on Mary J. Blige’s single, “Irreversible” from her “My Life Part II” album, and performances with artists ranging from Ne-Yo to Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams and Michael Buble’, Bryan’s music formulates to a space where reconciliation is invited. Listeners are able to freely adapt and understand the universal topics of love and life re-connections.
Whatever existing fears and doubts felt are released through pen, voice and a microphone.
“You give a piece of yourself away every time you open up and give your art. There’s a part of you that’s vulnerable,” he says. “What makes you unique as an artist is your voice and the way you see the world.”
Within that statement comes to light the honesty held within Bryan’s artistry and that of Marvin Gaye’s body of work. That authenticity speaks volumes and exudes with selfless purpose carving out a dynamic presentation.
Perhaps, it’s that same truth in artistry that resonates with us when we hear anything “Motown” even the word – Motown – sculpts something special.
There’s an energy that permeates and transforms lives … if even momentarily.
“It’s magical and it’s a powerful thing when a person can stand up for what they really believe and can build upon that,” expresses Bryan. “When you use your gift for a purpose, your focus is on the purpose and that’s when you really shine.”
Create art with impact.
For Motown The Musical information: www.motownthemusical.com