Columbus Makes Art Presents: Bethany Dickens on her Play “Five Word Recall”
Bethany Dickens is immersed in the arts. By day, she is the Executive and Advancement Assistant for ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, and in her free time, she acts, stage manages and writes. Her short play “Five Word Recall” will be featured in Madlab’s Theatre Roulette 2018, which opened May 10 and runs through May 26. We caught up with Bethany about her artistic life.
Stephen: Did you grow up in the arts?
Bethany: In many ways, I did not grow up with a traditional arts background. I spent my childhood years in rural Indiana amid a sports-oriented family. My mother quickly figured out that I needed an outlet for my creativity and did her best to connect me with whatever opportunities she could find and afford. She and my father gave me a Windows 95 laptop when I was nine: a giant brick of a computer where I wrote my earliest plays and stories. My parents were sometimes befuddled by their wildly creative daughter; however, they were both extremely supportive. I was also fortunate in having two very “up-for-anything” siblings as collaborators. One of our earliest efforts was an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery And Then There Were None, which upon reflection was totally unsuitable material for children under the age of ten. But otherwise, whatever arts experience I had was limited to a hodgepodge of library DVDs and school plays. I did not attend my first professional theater production until I was 13 years old – Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It completely rocked my world.
Stephen: What is your favorite form of self-expression?
Bethany: My favorite form of self-expression is writing: nothing else comes close. Writing is the most satisfying and complete way to capture the endless amount of ideas, words and images that run through my head.
Stephen: Tell us about your novel.
Bethany: My novel or my play? Coincidentally, I am writing a high fantasy novel with my 13-year-old brother and that has been a delight! But if you mean my Roulette play…
“Five Word Recall” attempts to capture and explore modern confusion over the changing nature of relationship qualifiers for sexuality, marriage and friendship, as each becomes more fluid in our society. The one-act begins and ends with three phrases that have the capacity to change a relationship: “I’m in love with you,” “I want to get married” and “Let’s just go for it.” Each of the three relationships depicted goes through a shift as the result of these words being spoken, as each person attempts to renegotiate how they perceive the other person – and how this new relationship might fit into their broader community. Specifically, the work interrogates the value of relational tropes as part of these renegotiations, without forcing any answers beyond a call for honesty and acceptance.
Stephen: Which is better: acting, writing, stage managing or directing?
Bethany: Writing… until the day of the performance. At that point, I am a nervous wreck, and would so much rather be on-stage saying someone else’s words. The sense of the work being beyond my control, and yet being judged, is terrifying, no matter how capable the director or outstanding the production.
Stephen: What’s your favorite Theatre Roulette experience been?
Bethany: Acting in last year’s Roulette was wonderful. The quiet intimacy that was required forced me to reckon with the insecurities I have about showing my feelings in relationships. Also, acting while in a hammock was terrific fun!
Stephen: What’s your go-to comfort food?
Bethany: Boxed mac ‘n’ cheese. Skip the milk, add more butter. I can devour an entire box like nobody’s business.
Now in its nineteenth year, Theatre Roulette 2018 is central Ohio’s longest-running shorts festival, presenting three very distinct nights of new works rotating over three weekends, culminating in the final day when all three nights of programming are performed. Performances are Thursday through Saturday, May 10-26 at 8 p.m., except for May 26 when they are at 2, 4, and 8 p.m. Tickets are $18, $15 for students and senior citizens, $13 for MadLab members madlab.net.
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 and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.