Who wouldn’t love a man like this? A tribute to Daniel Escobar

We are sad to report that actor Daniel R. Escobar, a Helen Hayes and Mary Goldwater Award-winning actor who subsequently made his mark in a half-dozen television shows, died Thursday, December 12, 2013 in Los Angeles of heart failure. He was forty-nine.

Michael Russotto and Daniel Escobar in She Stoops to Comedy (Photo: Stan Barouh)

Michael Russotto and Daniel R. Escobar in She Stoops to Comedy (Photo: Stan Barouh)

He won the hearts of many an audience member for his dual performance as Simon Languish and Daniel Firth in Woolly Mammoth’s production of She Stoops to Comedy in 2007.  In that play, he has a memorable scene as Languish in which he looks at various portions of his melancholy life with a monologue which circles back to the phrase, “who’d want to see a play about that?”

Howard Shalwitz, who directed him in the play, told us: “As an actor Danny was very funny and could easily make audiences laugh.  But it was unquestionably his depth of emotion that set him apart.  Danny found a way to personalize every role and bring whatever struggles he was facing in real life onto the stage. He could shift from hilarious to heart-breaking in the blink of an eye.  In his best roles, like that of an aging HIV-positive man in She Stoops to Comedy, he had the qualities of a sad clown, and I literally saw him make audiences weep night after night.  I had the privilege of directing Danny five times, and there’s no one who brought more intelligence, discipline, joy, and raw emotional power to his work.”

“He was a comic genius.” Michael Kramer wrote us. “He made you laugh,  nothing daunted him on stage.  He and Michael Russotto worked so well together, because they were both so so smart and shared a great sense of humor.”

The critics agreed. Here’s one example: “Escobar is a true emotional catalyst as he explores what lies beneath what could be a stereotypical gay role. As the only character not in a relationship during the show, his internal conflict bursts forth with great passion — first amusing, then heartbreaking.” Metro Weekly’s Tim Plant.

As did the Helen Hayes Award judges, giving him the Most Outstanding Supporting Actor Award in 2008.

Escobar won his Mary Goldwater award – which is given for overall contribution to the stage, and not for a specific performance – as a thirty-year-old in 1993, joining such stage luminaries as Rick Foucheux, Kimberly Schraf, Stephanie Mumford and Michael Russotto.

In addition to his stage career, Escobar frequently played character roles on various television series, including Dharma & Greg, Weeds, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Malcolm in the Middle, NYPD Blue, Two and a Half Men, Charmed, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Desperate Housewives, Whitney and How I Met Your Mother. He is perhaps best known as a character who shared his name: “Mr. Escobar” on the Disney Channel’s Lizzie McGuire,which he played opposite Hillary Duff on 2000-2001.

Daniel R. Escobar

Daniel R. Escobar

News of his death first appeared on Facebook pages over the weekend. Rick Hammerly, Washington actor and Factory 449 Artistic Director, reported that Escobar had a heart attack on Wednesday, December 11th “and was dealing with kidney failure related to his diabetes,” passing the information along to us from an unnamed source close to Escobar. “His cousin was with him at the hospital at first, and his mom and sister came immediately from Texas. They had three good hours where he was conscious and making jokes and keeping them laughing. He was doing better and his sister left his mom to have some time alone together [when] things took a turn for the worse.  “They were all there with him when he passed.” He was a great person, loving friend and such a talented actor.

“Danny loved performing in Washington and being part of the Woolly company, and during the last couple of years he talked about moving back here,” Shalwitz revealed.  “Sadly he won’t have that opportunity, but we’ll remember his warm friendship, his ironic sense of humor, and the many electric moments he gave us on stage.”

No memorial services in our area have been announced as of press time.

If you knew Daniel, or remember his performances, we invite you to share your comments here.

Comments

  1. Christopher Henley says:

    I was lucky enough to see his wonderful performance as Chiclet in Psycho Beach Party at Source Theatre Company, in the early 90s, which was the role that really put him on the map. It was a big hit and a terrific production, and they revived it with some recasting. I saw it with both casts and each time he was just great, nailing all the wit and the tour de force transitions among the multiple personalities, while also imbuing Chiclet with a lovely sweetness – a perfect performance.

  2. Jeff Walker says:

    Long before I started writing for DC Theatre Scene and began to teach theatre in Virginia, I was a college student working my first theatre jobs as an actor at the Virginia Shakespeare Festival in Williamsburg. Danny was a few years older than me and came with the small group of actors who came up from Houston and SMU. With a wicked sense of humor and amazing talent, Danny was a lifeblood of the festival on and off-stage. I admired him very much and was so glad to have been blessed to work with him for two summers (’87 and ’88) before he went off to his work in TV, film, and the stage.
    God bless his family and friends and may they remember him with smiles. Adios, Danny.

  3. Jayne Blanchard says:

    The first time I saw Daniel Escobar he was wearing a dress–playing Chiclet in “Psycho Beach Party” at the Source. Not the most subtle of shows, but loads of fun, and what struck me was how Daniel brought sweetness and nuance to a role that just could have been a broad parody. Over the year I saw him many times and his ability to add layers of emotion and wisdom to every part he played.

  4. Jim Ferguson says:

    I just happened upon the news that Danny had died, and I want to extend my sincerest condolences to his family and friends. This may sound a little odd, but I only knew Danny as a customer at the video rental store I used to work at in Studio City, so at most I’d see him only occasionally – maybe once or twice within a week, and only every so often at that. But he was an absolute sweetheart of a man. Smart, funny, kind, and absolutely charming. We had lots of great conversations about film, TV shows, politics…everything, really, and he always had a great insight or an hilarious take on any subject. When you work in a service industry job, you come up against all kinds of people. Most of them are really nice. And a few are exceptional – the kind of people that remain in your memory long after the fact. Danny was certainly one of those people, and I’m glad I got to know him, however briefly.

  5. I went to school with Danny and loved him a lot. He was an incredibly gifted man.

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