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.
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.
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.