Prepare for a truly ‘EPIC’ time with composer Scott Evan Davis
When it comes to talent, Scott Evan Davis’s cup runneth over. Davis is an actor, director, and award winning composer who’s currently blowing up on TikTok as the Prince of Snarkness. Throughout various genres and media, Davis’s work consistently centers ideas of empowerment and inclusivity in ways that leave actors & audiences alike beaming from ear to ear.
Scott Evan Davis is currently working with the theater company EPIC Players (Empower, Perform, Include, and Create) to perform a musical show like no other. “EPIC: Villains: A Wickedly Inclusive Cabaret” opens at the iconic Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater with performances occurring on Sunday, October 24th and Monday, October 25th.
We were fortunate enough to have a conversation with Scott Evan Davis in the midst of a packed schedule of rehearsing and creating. He talked with us about music, inspiration, and the power of theater. This is a conversation we know you’ll love.
Tell us about your journey as an actor. What first got you interested in the craft?
I think my journey as an actor began when I was 12 and saw a production of Sweeney Todd on PBS. I was drawn into the world that all I wanted to do was be able to one of them on stage. I was also deeply obsessed with the “Wizard of Oz” and that led to my first role being the Scarecrow in middle school. Somewhere there is a video of me after that show, on VHS if you can believe it….and I looked right at the camera and said, “The next time I put straw in my shirt, I’m getting paid for it”. I was hooked.
How did you first get your start in the field?
As I got older, I ended up doing tons of community theatre and then auditioned and was accepted into a performing arts high school. But it really wasn’t until my time at Emerson College and then the American Musical and Dramatic academy, that I really started making connections. However, I will always be grateful to Jane Staab, at Wheelock Family Theatre, for believing in me enough to cast me in a show which required me to be Equity, so because of that, I started in the union in my early twenties.
What actors most inspire you?
All of my life I have admired Meryl Streep. Her ability to become someone else authentically, and to live and breathe in the moment was always mind blowing to me. The small and simple choices that she makes were always breathtaking.
Another is Barbra Streisand. I have been pretty obsessed with Streisand for almost all of my life that I can remember. I could write pages on why that it is, but to sum it up…it’s that I think she is the most unique and gifted person I’ve ever seen.
You’re a composer and songwriter as well as an actor. Have you always been musically inclined?
Music sort of found me in a strange way. It’s true I always loved music, and when I started performing, of course singing was my biggest passion. But it wasn’t until I was about 12, when I went to school one day, and we were being offered period long workshops. You could choose everything from pottery to knitting to music. I chose music. The teacher gave a brief overview of the piano. Told us there were only 8 notes that kept repeating up and down the piano, and the period was over. I went home and couldn’t stop thinking about how it easy it sounded, so I made my mother get me a small keyboard, and then proceeded to lock myself in my bedroom and teach myself how to play. Because I loved the “Wizard of Oz” so much, my dad got me the music and I taught myself how to read the notes and play. I wouldn’t write my first song until I was 30 years old, but I have played piano since I was 12.
At what point did you really start pursuing composing, and what made you decide to take the leap?
I was doing pretty well as an actor. Some regional productions had gotten my equity card and was getting great call backs. Then, I was cast in an Off-Broadway production called JOY. I was so excited because Off-Broadway was a big deal to me, and I couldn’t wait. I was about a month into the run, when I had a dream that would sort of change my entire life.
The backstory is…when I was studying at AMDA college in NYC, I had a teacher come into my life and became a very important mentor for me as an actor. He believed in me when nobody else seemed to and made it his life’s mission to get me ready professionally in any way he could. Sadly, had been diagnosed with cancer and wasn’t being given very long to live, and I would help take care of him when he needed me to. We ended up having a falling out right before he passed away and I had always regretted him leaving before we resolved that.
Fast forward ten years, I was in this show JOY, and I had a dream, where he appeared sitting on a park bench, arms outstretched and hugged me. As he hugged me, he hummed a short melody. The next day I couldn’t get it out of my head and felt very pulled to go to the piano to play it. That became my first song, which I called Cautiously Optimistic and subsequently became the name of my first album that I dedicated to him, and the rest is history.
Has your music informed your acting and vice versa?
That’s a fantastic question. Yes, it really has. I am an actor at heart. I will always be. And I wouldn’t say no to performing again if I’m honest. But I find that my writing is deeply informed by my story telling sensibility. I would much rather write a song about a specific character in a specific moment, than a nebulous love song. Actually, when I am writing a song, I usually walk around my apartment acting the lyrics out like a monologue to see what is natural and what isn’t.
Can you tell us about how you got involved with Epic Players?
Sure. My first full length musical is called INDIGO, about a nonverbal autistic girl and a grandmother suffering from dementia and how Emma (the lead character) teaches everyone her how to communicate. I am so lucky to have Broadway Producers (Sing Out Lousie Productions) attached to the project and we were in rehearsals for our third development workshop, and had come across Epic Players, which is a neuro diverse professional theatre company. They were performing Little Shop of Horrors at the Sheen Center so as a team we went to see it. It blew me away. It was such an amazing experience. So, a few weeks later I went to a cabaret they were doing at Joe’s Pub and met the founder Aubrie Therrien and we set up a lunch date and I’ve been involved with them ever since.
What do you love most about working with the company?
What I love most is the constant sense of passion and talent and love of the theatre that fills the room whenever we are together. It’s unbridled, it’s exciting and it makes me remember why I fell in love with theatre in the first place. It has the power to transcend everyone in involved into a deeper understanding of the human condition. And experiencing it with a group of people who have a different human experience than I have is one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given.
What’s been your biggest challenge while working on the show “EPIC: Villains: A Wickedly Inclusive Cabaret”?
Honestly? The amount of songs there are! We are doing two nights, and each night is slightly different with a slightly different set list, so that’s been the biggest hurdle. Other than that, any challenges that come up are the same that usually would. Scheduling conflicts, long hours etc., but it never really feels like work. It just feels like fun. Which, coming from someone who has been musically directing for a long time, says everything.
What do you hope your audience takes away from the production?
I hope that the audiences see how much this company puts into creating a show. The talent of the performers and most of all, I hope they have fun. The songs are really exciting and entertaining, and because the theme is Villains the players get to become a different version of themselves for the night and I think the audiences will love it. I also hope they hear me play the right notes, but that’s another interview.
You’ve built up an impressive following on TikTok at the Prince of Snarkness. How is performing on TikTok different than performing for a live audience?
It’s funny. I never think of the content I create as performing. Mainly because I make short video as myself, but the truth is, I love it. Something I have learned about myself throughout this pandemic is that I am an introverted person. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m in front of an audience I can turn it on with the best of them, but my truest nature is not being around a lot of people. But the desire to connect and reach a lot of people is a very strong one. So, social media has given me the best of both worlds. I can do it all in my apartment. I go live every morning from about 9-10am eastern standard time on Tik Tok, and it’s actually my favorite part of my day usually. Now, if I did it live and in front of 200 people every morning, I think it would take a different amount of energy.
Do you have any secrets to social media success you’d like to share?
Consistency. I think humans by nature are creatures of habit. So, if something doesn’t click right away give it time. Then if it doesn’t after enough time, try something else. I have learned that Tik Tok specifically favors niche and content that knows it’s audience. But other than that, just be authentic. It feels funny to say that because my persona is a sarcastic, coffee drinker, which is absolutely me, but I definitely heighten my sarcasm and snarkiness for the content. But that is what makes it fun. It’s still authentic, but just a different side.
How do you stay so motivated creatively?
I think it’s the gin…I’m kidding! I think it’s my compulsive need to prove to myself that I can achieve things. I feel like I have a lot to prove and a short amount of time to do it. I started so late comparatively speaking and that has always driven me to try and beat the clock. It also helps because I do a lot of different things. I do the social media thing, I musically direct, I compose, I teach private voice and piano and when you do a lot of different things, you are usually involved a lot of different projects that require your full creativity.
Do you have any advice for new actors or anyone struggling to get going in a creative field?
I would say to treat yourself with kindness and patience. It has been a hell of a two years, and none of us really understand how that has changes us and the world. The business itself is constantly changing, so my best advice would be:
- Always hold yourself accountable. Be the person that other people know they can rely on.
- Train your heart out and allow yourself the time to grow and really discover what makes you unique and what you love about yourself.
- Understand that everything takes time, and everything takes energy. Know your limits but also know how to self-motivate and push yourself. Because nobody else will do that for you.
You’re currently developing the full-length musical “Indigo”. What can you tell us about that project?
I mentioned the plot a bit earlier, but i can say that it is my life’s project. It’s been something I started developing years ago because I wanted to have a musical with an autistic character played by an actress who was herself autistic. Once I met my producers, we were finally able to realize that.
We have had four successful readings and workshops, and the next step is an out of town production, which we are optimistic will be produced in a theatre next year. The pandemic really put a pause on a lot of things, but things are coming back and it’s our main priority. Nothing will excite me more than to see it finally on stage.
Have you encountered any unique challenges working on such a long piece?
Writing a musical is the single most frustrating, exhausting, scary, wonderful, exciting, mind numbing, tedious, exhilarating and fulfilling thing that anyone can do. It also takes a very long time and a lot of luck and money and determination. Writing for a universe of characters is always going to be a monumental task, but it’s the most rewarding thing in the world when you get it right.
What do you think has been your biggest success so far?
I think my biggest success so far musically is a song I’ve written called “If the World Only Knew” It is sung all over the world, and has touched a lot of lives, and I am constantly reminded and amazed at the power music has. Personally, I think my biggest success was getting married and having a happy and loving home life. That makes me feel pretty successful.
You’ve accomplished so much already. What’s still on your creative bucket list?
I would love to see INDIGO on Broadway. I would love to have a talk show. Going live every morning on Tik Tok has made me realize how much I love that format and how wonderful it would be to connect with so many more people. And I want to see my work at Epic Players continue and to see that company being something everyone around the world knows about.
Who would compose the soundtrack to your life’s story?
Me. I know what keys I look good in. :)