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Saturday, 18 January 2020

Interview with Judith Beasley...Actor and Director in Dalton.

Judith Beasley has been in the Dalton community for a few years and has acted on two stages: Dalton Little Theatre (DLT) and Artistic Civic Theatre (ACT). I've seen her performed as well as seen a couple of shows she has directed, and I haven't been disappointed. I'm quite impressed with her dedication to her craft as well as her loyalty to others who grace the stage as well. She's directing "Becoming Dr. Ruth" written by Mark St. Germain. It is a one-woman show chronicling the life of renowned psychologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer from her early days as a child fleeing Nazi Germany to her time as a sniper in Israel and beyond. I recently watched a documentary on Dr. Ruth on Hulu, and I'm fascinated with her story. so I look forward to the show. Judith shares with me her love of the stage as well as her love for the Dalton community.

Introducing Judith Beasley...

What do you love about your life right now?

In a relatively short amount of time, I have been able to become a part of one of the most giving and supportive communities I have ever lived in. Through United Way, I have met and gotten involved in a number of organizations and met a large number of generous, caring, smart men and women.
My contributions have been accepted and valued; a huge gift to someone who is well into AARP years! I find great joy in live theater as well. Both Artistic Civic Theater and Dalton Little Theater have allowed me to join their theater families for which I am more grateful than I can express. I, also, love that my only child and her family are local and that they give me reasons to celebrate every day; my grandchildren continually delight and surprise me with their successes and the good, respectful young people they are. 

You have been acting and directing for several years; did you start with acting first?

Acting in plays came before directing plays. Since early childhood Sunday School plays, I have loved being on stage. Throughout school years and my career in education, I acted whenever the time allowed and the opportunity was available. I was an adult before I ever directed a full-length play. 

Judith as Ouiser in Steel Magnolias

Was there a particular film or actor that inspired you to be on stage?

No. My greatest inspiration came from a woman named Carmen Morris. While I had acted in plays before I came under the influence of Mrs. Morris, I had not nearly begun to tap the depths of wonder that immersing oneself in drama can reveal. Mrs. Morris, my high school drama teacher, cast me in the one-act play that went to competition when I was in 9th grade, and we won first in the state! I tracked Mrs. Morris down in the Atlanta area a few years ago and told her what an impact she had made in life. 

Judith as Sissy in Sordid Lives

Of the two, which hat do you prefer to wear - acting or directing?

I cannot choose one over the other; I find so much joy and fulfillment wearing either hat.  I will say, however, that I don't want to act in just anything, and I absolutely don't want to direct anything for which I don't have a clear vision and a passion. 

Right now, I know you are directing Becoming Dr. Ruth which will be on the stage at ACT in the Studio. What was the inspiration behind wanting to direct this particular play? 

The choice evolved from a desire to be able to offer local audiences plays that aren't the usual fare for ACT.  I asked Tammy Rice to be my partner; I had seen what she had created with the difficult, complex play ART at DLT under her direction. It was brilliant. I asked the board to allow Tammy and I to share directing and producing duties for a two-show Studio Series during the 2019/2020 season, and the Board gave a green light. Tammy and I started searching for small -cast plays that could be performed on a small stage and found several.  We decided on two plays by Mark St. Germain about the lives of well known, interesting people of history: Becoming Dr. Ruth, which I am directing and Freud's Last Session, which Tammy is directing. 

Tell me the joys and challenges of directing.

A major joy is working with actors to be the very best they can possibly be and seeing the joy they experience doing excellent work. Several times, I have worked with playwrights on play development and then gone on to direct the premieres; that joy is sublime.  When I sit in an audience watching patrons watch my directorial work, my heart races and my nerves are all on the outside of my skin!  

The biggest challenge, for me, is getting done what has to be done that I am incapable of doing!  I am not tech-savvy, so I lean heavily on others to make my sound and lights and set provide what the show requires to be the best it can be.  

How did you decide to pick Eileen as Dr. Ruth? Was there an audition? 

There is not a large pool of small, Jewish, 60something, talented actors to my knowledge. We did not hold auditions.  Eileen was the first person I thought of after we chose Becoming Dr. Ruth.  When I called her, she was very excited? She knew the play and had actually run lines with another Atlanta actress who did the role a few years ago. She, also, has great admiration for Ruth Westheimer and the life she has made for herself. We talked and she thought it over and talked with her family. A couple of weeks later, she called nearly in tears discussing all the practicalities of living and working in Atlanta and doing a show in Dalton. After another couple of weeks, she said she just felt she could not do it. So, I started looking for another actor who fit the casting needs. I talked to someone local who had been recommended, but she said she felt she wasn't the right person to do the role. So, I kept looking and following leads; Eileen and I kept talking; and joy of joys, Eileen could not get her mind off the opportunity and committed to doing the play. She is perfect for the role.

With this being a one-woman show and Eileen as Dr. Ruth, I'm guessing it might be easier to direct just one actor versus a whole cast, right? 

No matter the size of the cast, having the right people in the cast is the key element. So, if I had cast someone who was not dependable or directable or committed, doing a one-person show could be my worst nightmare.  I do prefer smaller casts because I like to work one on one with each actor during the rehearsal process. One is not easier than the other; just different.

What do you hope the audience's takeaway will be from the play?

I would like for people to leave wanting to know more about Ruth Westheimer's last 22 years. In the play she is 69 years old; she is now 91 years old. She has not stopped making a difference in the world. She has written more than 40 published books on a variety of topics; she is always educating, always spreading wisdom as well as knowledge.

 Who have been your biggest supporters?

For this project (Studio Series), you have been a major supporter spending time with Eileen and me to help us to connect to a broad audience, and you have offered time to Tammy and Freud's Last Session in the coming months.  Other theater friends have been tolerant of my blathering on and on about the show, and several have offered very helpful suggestions. The ACT Board has given me the opportunity to stick my neck out and do this project; each will be supportive in his/her own way, I know.  Eileen’s significant other, Barry Zipperman, has been incredibly supportive. He is bringing in family and friends from Atlanta, Toronto, and Chattanooga (to name a few locations), and he is renting a condo for the guests to stay while they are in town. 

Judith with her grandchildren, Kennedy and Garrett.

Tell me three fun facts about you.

- At one point in my life, I was into drag racing and helped someone build a drag car piece by piece.
- This is the first time in all my life I have been without some sort of pet in my home. 
-Education was my calling. I loved all my jobs in education, and the feeling of doing what I was put on earth to do was intoxicating.

Describe yourself in one word.


I share motivational quotes with my readers. Do you have one that has encouraged you that you would like to share? 

This comes from a Garfield comic strip showing Odie sitting in a tree: "It's amazing what one can do when one doesn't know what one can't do."

Tickets are on sale now for Becoming Dr. Ruth at ACT. The first performance is on February 14, 2020. Next, if you haven't already, read my interview here with Eileen Koteles who is playing Dr. Ruth. 

About Maria Rochelle

Maria is a writer of multiple genres, and author of the popular children's picture story book series Jasmine Dreams.
Find out more about Maria here →


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