How the Light Gets In Director Emilie Beck wanted to be an actor her entire life.
Until she didn’t.
She started as a child actor performing alongside her father in Chicago, went to school for several years to be a professional actor, then moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career.
“I moved to L.A. and decided that I hated acting in L.A.,” Beck said. “I had a moment where I had to ask myself if I wanted to leave L.A. so that I could be an actor, or if I wanted to stay and figure out something else. I thought about it, and I realized that what I loved most about acting was being able to tell stories.”
Upon realizing this, Beck decided to delve into writing and directing plays with the idea that she could continue to tell the stories she loved in powerful and profound ways.
Since then, she has traveled all across the country, telling stories both through her award-winning directorial works and the premieres of her original shows.
In 2010, she won LA Weekly Awards for Best Director and Best Production for Block Nine, and directed the Ovation Award-winning production of David Wiener’s Cassiopeia in 2013. She has also written two original plays — Number of People and And Let the Skies Fall — the latter of which was nominated for six Garland Awards, including Best Playwriting and Best Director.
“Directing a play gives you amazing opportunities,” Beck said. “For me, when you live with a text and work with it for a long time, it’s so exciting to dig into it. When you add the actors, it comes to life even more. You get to stumble upon some really amazing discoveries and really bring the show to life.”
Now, Beck has come to the Institution to direct Chautauqua Theater Company’s first New Play Workshop show: How the Light Gets In, by E.M. Lewis. The show follows four strangers as they meet one another in a Japanese garden and come to rely on each other — more heavily than they ever thought possible.
How the Light Gets In opened for a brief run on Thursday, and has its final show at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, July 20 in Bratton Theater. The NPW is sponsored in part by the Roe Green Foundation.
This isn’t the first time Beck has worked with How the Light Gets In. Beck and Lewis have known one another for a number of years, working on several shows together prior to this one.
Lewis showed Beck a draft of How the Light Gets In early last year, and they workshopped the play at Boston Court in Pasadena, California, where Beck serves as literary manager.
Beck said she loves working on the show, and is continually and pleasantly astonished by Lewis’ writing.
“(Lewis) can write a very accessible play, but it leaves so much room for the true depth that is underneath,” Beck said. “She doesn’t feel like she has to explain the nuance and the complexity of her stories; those things are for the audience to unearth.”
Beck said she’s excited for Chautauqua audiences to experience Lewis’ writing. According to Beck, Lewis writes with an earnestness and warmth that can be difficult to come by in 21st century playwriting.
Since How the Light Gets In follows the run of CTC’s The Christians, a show that asked a number of heavy and introspective questions, Beck thinks Chautauquans are in for a positive experience with Lewis’ open and optimistic piece. Even the title itself, Beck said, sends a positive message.
“(The title) is related to this idea that the crisis that cracks us open or the flaw in ourselves — instead of those things destroying us — that opening becomes the most beautiful part of us,” Beck said.
According to Beck, that message, one of openness and acceptance, of growth and strength, is something that everyone deserves to hear.