Columbus Makes Art Presents: Behind the Scenes with Beth Josephsen of Actors’ Theatre
In her ninth season with Actors’ Theatre of Columbus, Beth Josephsen is an actor, director, acting coach and artist educator teaching theater techniques in schools throughout central Ohio. She has performed around the world, on stages big and small, with highlights including A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Virginia Arts Festival, Ordinal Five at the Tate Modern Museum in London, and, most recently, portraying the role of Mrs. Cheveley in the Actors’ Theatre of Columbus production of An Ideal Husband. As Actors’ Theatre’s Outreach Coordinator, Beth has had the opportunity to work with students throughout the Columbus City School district and lead professional development opportunities for their theater instructors, while also conducting and directing student productions for the Columbus Gifted Academy.
We sat down with Beth to chat in anticipation of her role as the eldest Bennet daughter in ATC’s upcoming production of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.
Scott: Describe your art and your creative process.
Beth: I am an actor currently in my ninth consecutive season of performing with Actors’ Theatre of Columbus. Whenever I am cast in a role, I like to read the source material (when possible), research the time period, society, social structures, etc. of the character that I am playing. I want to know how this person would move, think and speak. Sometimes that means rehearsing in long skirts or a corset in order to move naturally in them as the character would, sometimes it means learning a new skill such as loading a black powder pistol in order to use it realistically in a scene, or learning a new dialect such as French or Irish. It’s not just about wearing a costume or memorizing lines, I am bringing to life another human being for an evening and the audience should see and hear them, not me.
Scott: How do you recharge and/or refine your artistic process?
Beth: I am blessed to have a supportive husband and strong circle of friends with whom I can laugh and share life. Gardening and travel also make my heart happy. I like to try new things and find that doing so helps to inform character choices.
Scott: How long have you been acting and what is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself along the way?
Beth: I started creating plays and performing them with my friends in elementary school. We used to rehearse them on the playground during recess and perform them for our families during sleepovers. I’ve always loved a challenge which is probably why I was drawn to classical theater (that barely has any female roles written for it, averaging seven male roles to every one female on stage) and performing outside (that is not for the weak of heart as one is exposed to the elements and distractions of nature while performing).
Scott: What role are you most proud of?
Beth: Mrs. Cheveley in last year’s production of An Ideal Husband. Oscar Wilde describes her as “Lamia-like” in a stage direction in the play so I tried to embody a half-woman, half-snake character slithering out of Greek mythology and onto the stage. As Mrs. Cheveley, I would “coil” around my victims, err… fellow actors, never broke eye contact first, found places to verbally “hiss” and “strike,” and only moved in curving arches (never a straight line) across the stage. It was my first time being type cast and it was a delightful change to release my inner villainess on stage.
Scott: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Beth: I was at a talk back for a SITI company show once and Anne Bogart talked about the origin of the word “enthusiastic.” It means “inspired by God” and she encouraged us to engage in art where we feel divine inspiration.
Scott: What’s the best advice you feel you can give?
Beth: If you want to act? Audition. If you have a penis you’ll probably be cast pretty quickly. If you don’t (have a penis or get cast), don’t give up, keep auditioning and remember that the opinions of the people behind the casting table do not define your worth as a person.
Scott: How do you feel about the difference between teaching and performing? Do you have a preference?
Beth: Teaching pays more. I prefer performing.
Scott: Describe one of your favorite moments working with Actors’ Theatre.
Beth: Stage fights are my favorite. Robin Hood was magical where I got to play a dagger stabbing, bow and arrow shooting Marian. I also loved getting to fire a pistol and fence as Mrs. Sullen in The Beaux’ Stratagem.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.