Bright Star at Lipscomb University

I had the enormous pleasure of directing Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s bluegrass musical Bright Star this fall at Lipscomb University. This was one of my favorite experiences ever! This musical is about love, loss, and redemption, set against a backdrop of rural Appalachia in the 1920s and 40s. Here’s what I wrote in the program’s notes from the director:


“If you knew my story…”

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s quiet yet powerful bluegrass musical Bright Star opens with these simple words. The main character, Alice Murphy, invites you directly into her life story. “Tell me I’m not alone,” Alice begs, as her memories unfold and the events of her life play out on the stage. The ensemble, like spirits of the past, help her recount the highs and lows of her moving tale. 

When I first saw this musical a year ago, I was deeply touched by the earnest detail in which Alice recounts both the beautiful and haunting moments of her life. There’s such power to owning our narratives, isn’t there? In Bright Star, dark and unruly moments are as essential as beautiful ones. 

Crafted as an imaginative story inspired by a mysterious historical event, Bright Star travels time and space in an unapologetically sentimental manner to depict sincerely human characters mired in complicated circumstances. Incorporating the traditional instruments of bluegrass music seamlessly aligns this tale set in the heart of Appalachia. No other version of this musical would marry form and content this well. A perfect antidote for cynical times, this musical captures our need for connection, the power of forgiveness, and the human capacity for hope.

I hope that Bright Star fills your heart and reminds you that your story matters, too.

Beki Baker, M.F.A.

Photo credit: Sarah Johnson

Silent Sky Experience

I recently had the enormous pleasure to direct Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, which is about the extraordinary work of real female astronomers from the early 20th century. This was one of my favorite directing experiences so far! I had a lovely, hard-working cast, incredible designers, and a smart crew. Check out my director’s note from the program below. I’m energized by this work!


Director’s Note

“Women aren’t asking for special treatment, we are showing how special we already are and always have been. We’re not asking anyone to let us participate, we are exclaiming that we have participated in discoveries, breakthroughs, and wild achievements all along (despite being excluded, barred, and presumed incapable).” – Lauren Gunderson

In these few words, playwright Lauren Gunderson has put a very fine point on her own play. Silent Sky, which is based on the extraordinary legacies of real female astronomers from the early twentieth century, gives a voice to those lost to history. This story focuses on three women specifically: Henrietta Leavitt, Annie Cannon, and Williamina Fleming, each of whom overcame incredible odds to achieve great discoveries in their field. As the play unfolds, the playwright shows insightful ability to capture the highs and lows of their lives, the extraordinary sacrifices demanded by their careers, and the power of their passion to unlock the limits of the universe. Living in a world that cheapened their value to “human computers”, these female characters carry brave hope, and for that, the world is changed.

These women are like the stars they studied – resplendent points of light, shining to dispel the darkness for us all. They are just a few of the many, many women who have come before them, breaking conventions, rising above, and holding their own in the world. I’ve been changed by working on this play, and I hope it touches you, too. It’s time to let in the luminous joy of these women’s long-overlooked achievements shine. And let us ask ourselves, who in our own time is currently overshadowed?

Photo credit Kenn Stilger.

New Play Time!


I’m excited to be directing an Ingram New Works play for the fourth year in a row! This year’s play is The Very Last Wishes of Grandpa Joe, or Mia & Hector Go Sightseeing by Cristina Florencia Castro. It’s incredible. Really, it’s a beautifully-crafted play and I couldn’t be happier to help bring it to the next stage of its life in a staged reading. New plays are the best. The readings are May 11 and 17. There are also three other strong plays to see during the series — don’t miss it.

Synopsis: A successful, acclaimed pop-up book artist travels to Ireland on a mission with her best friend — per his late grandfather’s final request — as she secretly, silently grapples with losing her vision. A travel story about two different kinds of loss and the kind of friendship where you’re yelling one second and embracing the next.

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. Photo credit Kristi Jones.