When Dillard University theatre department thinks of greatness in acting, physique, and the man who scared the daylights out of the audience in Dillard’s production of "Zooman and The Sign," no one else comes to mind more than Mr. Zooman himself, Derrick Deal.
This senior drama/speech communications major extraordinaire has once again been cast this seasons as the principal character for one of Dillard University’s fall productions, "A Raisin in the Sun."
Deal returns to the stage to grace the audience with his presence as Walter Lee Younger, the money-driven, self-loving, belligerent "only" son to Mama, father to Travis, wife to Ruth and sister to Beneatha.
Walter Younger is also the character renowned musical artist/producer P. Diddy is playing in the 2004 Broadway rendition of "A Raisin in the Sun." Dillard’s director for the play, Andrea Fry, said, "this is the greatest part for a black actor in the American Theater Canon."
Dillard’s theater department selected the historic play to coincide with its 45th anniversary.
"It was selected mainly because it’s a great play with beautiful dialogue, and because it hasn’t been done at Dillard in a long time," said Fry, who is also acts.
Fry also said that approximately 40 people auditioned for this play and out of the 40, seven auditioned for the role of Walter.
However, after working closely with Deal in "Do Lord Remember Me" and after seeing him "serve the text so beautifully" at his call back, Fry knew "her" Walter was right before her eyes.
"Derrick works so hard. He takes his work seriously. He is always well prepared, he’s bright, and his timing is excellent," Fry said.
What makes Deal so unique to Fry is the fact that he makes acting seem so natural, she said.
In addition to classifying Deal as a natural, most would agree with Fry and identify him as a hard worker too.
As a graduating senior trying to balance his classes in the daytime, he is faced with merely four weeks to memorize lines, practice his blocking and bring to life a play during evening rehearsals.
But because Deal first fell in love with theater in the 10th grade – he played Asagai from "A Raisin in the Sun" – and because after performing in 12 or 13 plays at Dillard, he considers himself far from being an amateur.
Deal said he’s confident he has the process of preparing for a play, while still in school, down to a science.
"At first I read the script over and over. I then try to have my lines down within a week, so with studying and devoting time to rehearsals, I spend an additional two or three hours a day preparing," Deal said.
Although seeing Deal in a Dillard production is far from unusual, this play adds a bit of a twist for Deal. "This is the first play I have been in where I play the brother to my real-life sister," he said.
Fry said she intentionally cast them together because she thought it would be interesting to see that relationship played out. In sum, Derrick’s feeling on playing a brother to his real-life sister is that "it makes it easy because we already have a natural relationship."
"Derrick and Joyce are nothing like Walter and Beneatha. Derrick and Joyce take really good care of one another. I have never heard Derrick say an unkind word to Joyce, which is unlike Walter to Beneatha," Fry said.
Deal said that playing a brother to his real-life sister "makes it easy because we already have a natural relationship."
Deal also agreed that he and Walter differ in a lot of ways, but he also sees their similarities.
"Walter and I both want some of the same things. We both want the best for our families and sometimes that does take money, but we don’t go about that the same way. Walter is a bit more selfish and instead of talking with his family first, he makes a big decision on his own," Deal said.
Given his triple threat abilities; lyrical talent, musical gift and dancing capabilities, Deal said he is also happy to acknowledge that he is not the only member of his family in the entertainment business.
In fact, Deal and his siblings have won first place in many talent shows, performed at different events, including the city events hosted by the mayor and the Southern University at New Orleans festival. The family’s group has also posed as opening acts for both Gladys Knight and Mystikal.
"I want to do it all. Anything that deals with acting I want to do; films, television, commercials, and of course, theater. I also do music and I want to do that as well," Deal said. "I just want to do entertainment-period."