Beatboxer Overcame Homelessness To Be A Broadway Star
There's only one way to meet Chesney Snow for the first time. You have to see him in his element.
That's how I met him back in December, when I saw "In Transit" during its previews at the Circle in the Square Theatre.
I had no idea what to expect from the play, but I knew it was centered around New York and the stage itself was a subway platform.
What I couldn't have predicted was I would fall in love with it, guided by its narrator, the connector of all characters.
Chesney plays “Boxman,” a subway performer who — in addition to wowing riders with his unbelievable talent — possesses a quiet wisdom that reveals the depth of his experiences both in and out of the subway system.
Something told me his acting was coming from actual, lived experiences.
After the show, I was dying to know more about the man behind the character, but I was too scared to talk to him.
I left the theater believing I had squandered the opportunity, but the next day I DM'd him on Instagram, telling him how much I loved the show and inquiring about his life.
I successfully slid in his DMs. When I finally got him on the phone, I was amazed — but not surprised — to learn that his journey to Broadway stardom had been a tragically beautiful one.
I like to call Chesney a consummate American.
When asked about his childhood, he likes to say, “I moved around a lot,” a calamitous understatement.
Due to his unpredictable family situation, he moved from Oklahoma to Mississippi to Chicago to North Carolina to Wisconsin to Arizona, all before the age of 20.
Along the way, he experienced more pain and heartbreak than many do in a lifetime. Yet, the whole time, he was honing his skills in a variety of artistic mediums, from beatboxing with his cousin B-Fresh to writing poetry and raps of his own to becoming a classically trained actor.
When he eventually descended upon New York City for the first time by way of a cross-country Greyhound, he came equipped with an abundance of stories to tell.
Keeping journals while bouncing from homeless shelters to the streets and back, he developed an innate awareness of the struggles of those around him and an ability to create captivating ways of communicating those struggles.
In his 15 years in the city, he's managed to galvanize the American beatboxing community, teach beatboxing and creative arts in public schools and win a Drama Desk Award for the off-broadway production of "In Transit."
Chesney, a man who's never been comfortable doing just one thing, is acting in six shows every week on Broadway, and has also created his own show called "The Unwritten Law," which weaves his family's history of the past 100 years together through spoken word, beatboxing and contemporary dance.
It's a gut-wrenching, eye-watering, smile-inducing 60 minutes of deeply personal storytelling.
Where Chesney's journey will lead, no one knows.
But one thing is certain: It will be a captivating one to watch unfold.