She Loves Me

I had the enormous pleasure of directing one of my favorite musicals, She Loves Me, last fall at Lipscomb University. Check out my directorial approach from the dramaturgy packet, excerpted below. The production team, cast, crew, and I had a fantastic time working on this show!

She Loves Me Poster

She Loves Me is a charming, unpretentious, and satisfyingly sweet show about romance, friendship, love, and vulnerability. In a world focused on aggression and cynicism, this musical offers simplicity and the chance to laugh. It also provides the opportunity to return to a time of respect, courtship, and the value of an honest day’s work. This jewel of a musical, however, is not saccharine to the point of a toothache. Darker personal dramas like Marazcek’s breakdown and the romantic leads’ deeply vulnerable moments hold the weight of the play, keeping it from floating into the ether. In the end, She Loves Me reminds us that true vulnerability takes courage, and that the people in our immediate lives are worthy of our attention and care.

The show’s setting is Budapest, Hungary in the 1930s. It’s almost the Budapest version of Much Ado about Nothing! While the Hungarian quality of the play sits mostly in people’s names, the play simply carries a romantic, vintage European quality. It’s quaint and other-worldly in the best of ways. It’s a comedic musical, but not a farce. These characters are funny in a truthful way. We should see a bit of ourselves in each of them (and like it). We all get the drudgery of daily life — this shop is busy and the work is repetitive. So how can we live more fully? We can learn from these characters to celebrate the small victories, cherish the memories, and express gratitude to others. The shop workers literally sing it every time a customer walks out the door.

There’s romance to this show. The lead characters fall in love through letters, even though they don’t know it’s each other! What a world. It’s hard in today’s age to navigate the realities of getting to know someone, much less to fall in love. Isn’t to be known what we all want? To be known in a deep way and loved for who we really are? The letters provide that opportunity for Georg and Amalia; they just have the impossible task of getting over each other in person.

Avoiding overwrought sentimentality and schtick, we will dive into a fast-paced, heightened, and truthfully comedic version of this production. The musical will be played moment-to-moment, as all great comedy must. Pauses will be earned, and heartfelt moments will be born out discovery. This musical waits for no man – we will have to stay on our toes to keep up!

I look forward to working on this show with our team. I have loved this musical since I was in college (Side note: I auditioned but did not get cast). I did summer stock theatre in Vermont right after that and, lo and behold, they did that production and I was cast in the ensemble. I loved every minute of it! There’s an energy around this show that is irresistible. I hope you’ll feel as entranced as I did. Directing this show has been a long dream of mine — thank you for making this happen. I’d write you each a love letter if I could.

Beki Baker, Director

What a Wild Year

I just completed my third year as Chair of Lipscomb University’s Department of Theatre — whew! We made it! It was a very full year. I produce every show in our season, and this year included The 39 Steps, Beauty and the Beast, Peter and the Starcatcher, Elevate: Still I Rise (dance concert), and an all-female Richard II, co-produced with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. I also had the pleasure of performing one of my favorite roles, Northumberland, in Richard II. It’s been a full year, for sure!

My first year as Chair was all about listening. Really, all three years have been about that. Listening to faculty, listening to students, listening to the dean, listening to the patrons, listening to Nashville theatre, and listening to God. I’ve also been listening to the machine of the university and department. I hope to soon function like a well-oiled machine, because I believe that creativity flourishes in well-structured environments. That’s not to say it can’t flourish under less-than-ideal circumstances; this is often the case in theatre, and we all push through to find the sweet spot. But what if we didn’t have to “push through” so much? What if we had enough structure and support to really spread our wings and fly?

I love what I do. It’s hard. I teach 18 hours a year, cast the vision for the department, run the budgets, serve in recruiting and marketing, develop the degrees, serve on the Academic Curriculum Team, direct one show per year, produce all of the shows, and much more. Oh, and then there’s my real job: connecting with the students and leading the faculty. It’s a wild time, but as I told my dean the other day, the joy of the work is in the problem-solving. It’s not kittens and rainbows all the time, but those moments where we figure things out are extremely valuable. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give something here. I learn so much too.

This is the first year I’ve felt any courage to listen to my instincts, like maybe I really have something to offer here. So before I head off into a summer of planning and strategizing for next year, I will celebrate all that my department and I have accomplished this year. HUZZAH!

Oh, did I mention my twins just turned one and my daughter turns six this week? Wild times.

The Crucible Experience

This past winter I had the immense pleasure to work on one of the most important plays ever written, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Although I was exhausted (seven months pregnant with twins!), this experience was one of the most fulfilling and synergistic moments of my career.  The production was a collaboration between Lipscomb Theatre and Blackbird Theater Company, which is our resident semi-professional company.  With a mix of students and Nashville pros in the cast, and a top-notch production team, I was enraptured with the entire process and the product.  Why this play, and why now? Here’s what I wrote as my director’s note in the playbill:

One of Arthur Miller’s masterworks, The Crucible encapsulates a dark, disturbing historical event from America’s early settlement period while resonating universal themes that continue to reverberate throughout time.  While Miller wrote the play to address 1950s McCarthyism, his work exploits elements of humanity that transcend single application.  Of all of the ideas explored in The Crucible, including the perversion of justice, the power of collective hysteria, the ramifications of religious fundamentalism, and the unquenched need for societal scapegoats– all boil down to one driving element: fear.

Miller’s Puritans, as many of us do, operate entirely based on fear.  While they specifically fear rebellion, God’s punishment, and the devil, people throughout time have mirrored their beliefs and actions, if for their own reasons. Fear, however, is one of our basest instincts, and this play captures the repercussions of how unbridled terror in a few people can bring down many.

What are we doing TODAY, even in small ways, that perpetuates fear?  

This play serves more than to point fingers at religious figures and political systems from over 300 years ago; we must see ourselves in this story, and not just as the victims.  On both macro- and micro- levels, we behave like the Puritans did that fateful spring.  And the truth is, we all pay the price.  As John Donne put it:

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

Thank you for joining us for this special production. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have in creating it. May we all hear fewer bells toll in our lifetimes.

Directing STAND for Nashville and a major city tour

I recently directed the remount of STAND by Jim Reyland starring Barry Scott and Chip Arnold.  Directing a remount is always tricky business, and it took some effort to figure out how to marry a previous vision with a new experience.  In the end, it came together well and I was really proud to work on a play about such an important topic: homelessness.  I direct a lot of plays that I’d like to claim challenge my audiences, but at best these works come off as mostly entertainment and food for thought.  This play, however, really calls for immediate action: to take a stand to end homelessness.  It’s a powerful work and I’m grateful to have participated in it’s recreation!  It showed for a week at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for both public and school performances, and is now going on tour to San Jose, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and a few other cities.  Onward!


Dancing at Lughnasa

In April, I directed one of my long-time favorite plays, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel. This beautiful, haunting Irish play has been on my “Want to Direct” list for a while, and I was not disappointed.  I had the most lovely cast and production team, we enjoyed wonderful feedback and reviews, and overall I am deeply artistically satisfied with the whole process.  Enjoy these production photos and don’t forget about the review on my “Reviews” page.  Photo credit Kristi Jones.

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