Fred Beam is a familiar face—or at least a familiar name—to many in the Deaf Community, thanks to his performances with the acclaimed all-male Deaf dance troupe, the Wild Zappers, co-founded with Irvine Stewart and Warren "Wawa" Snipe in 1989. This high-energy troupe uses not just dance, but gesture, storytelling, and physical theater to great effect. The Zappers have zapped deaf and hearing audiences across the nation and abroad; they've performed at prestigious venues like the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
Actor, dancer, choreographer, and director, the charismatic Beam was recently elected President of the National Deaf Black Advocates.
He was born in Covington (near Atlanta), Georgia, and grew up in suburban Tampa, Florida, the only deaf person in his family. His parents, both teachers, were firmly committed to education. His early education was oral and mainstreamed. He earned his A.A.S. in Electromechanical Technology, and a B.S. in Electronic Engineering at Tampa Technical Institute; he's now pursuing an M.Ed. in Deaf Education at Gallaudet University, although it's on hold because of his busy performing-arts schedule.
Among his inspirations, he cites his family, former NTID dance teacher Jerome Cushman, Linwood Smith, Andrew J. Foster, and Michael Jackson.
In fact, it was seeing Jackson on American Bandstand (during his Jackson 5 days) that sparked Beam's ambition. At NTID, he took his first dance classes and began performing. After moving back to Florida, he established a local Deaf-dance company, but it didn't last because there wasn't much support for it. When he relocated to Washington, "my dance career blossomed there." He joined the National Deaf Dance Theatre, was invited to be guest performer with the Gallaudet Dance Company, and that led to the founding of the Wild Zappers, which Beam now directs.
Of course, he didn't stop there. He became a choreographer, and has taken roles in professional "mainstream" productions, including music videos. He has a one-man show, Black Deaf Male: Who Am I?And he's used his expertise in theater, and his experiences,to educate and inspire young audiences.
He's won several awards for his work. For his outstanding work in the community, he was chosen one of Essence's 2006 "Real Men of the Year."
He's currently director of the award-winning Invisible Hands, Inc., which promotes Deaf awareness through performing arts. One of his ambitions is to establish a performing-arts studio for deaf people, especially ethnic minorities and Deaf people of color. He'd also like to break into TV or movies, so that Black Deaf people gain more visibility. And, of course, he'll keep dancing.