Today we’d like to introduce you to Beki Baker.
Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Hello! Where to begin?? I fell in love with theatre when I was in middle school watching one of my brothers explore it at the high school level. I loved the passion, community, and creativity of the field, and pursued it through high school and college. I always knew that I wanted to be an educator (I used to line up my dolls and “teach” them when I was little), so I naturally began teaching high school theatre after college. After a few years, I went back to school for my M.F.A. in Directing at Baylor University, and in 2009, my husband and I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, with almost no plans except to discover where life would take us.
From 2009-2013, I freelanced in Nashville, which is code for “I worked a lot of part-time jobs.” I freelanced directed for different theatres, served as an adjunct professor at Lipscomb University, worked as an education director for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and did pretty much anything else I could do to jumpstart my career. It was a wild time, and we certainly didn’t have a lot of money, but I look back on that time as very precious and transformative. My husband and I welcomed our daughter in 2011, and so a good bit of that time was learning how to be a working mom, which is no small endeavor.
In 2014, I was hired as a temporary full-time professor to replace someone who had retired, and by that fall, I was made full-time AND Chair of the department at the same time! it was like riding a rocket, which was exciting but also intense. Since 2014, I have served in this position and am very proud of my team of colleagues, alumni, and students as we’ve built a collaborative, creative, and nurturing department together. In 2016, my husband and I welcomed twins to the mix, which made life quite adventurous. I have continued to also direct professionally at theatres including the Nashville Repertory Theatre, Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and Studio Tenn. My husband Scott is the bedrock of our family, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
There have been some big challenges along the way. Motherhood (particularly with twins) isn’t easy, and working outside of the home is challenging in a society that doesn’t really support mothers well. The last two years have had their distinct challenges. In 2020, the pandemic began, which was very difficult for education and the arts. Theatre completely closed down. It’s been a journey back.
In the fall of 2020, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which came out of nowhere and was a huge shock. Thankfully, it was not aggressive, and after a few surgeries, I was considered “no evidence of disease.” It was still a terrifying ride, and I continue to take daily medication, bi-annual infusions, and regular scans. Simply put, one is not the same after cancer.
I have also lost several important people in my life in the past few years due to accidents and illness, and it has absolutely gutted me. Grief has been heavy.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I specialize in directing for the stage. For the non-theatre person, sometimes the best way to describe what I do is that I’m like a head coach of a sports team.
I enjoy directing a variety of styles of theatre, including straight plays, both classical and contemporary, and musicals. I love both drama and comedy. I have a background in improv comedy, which helps me to understand timing in important ways. Ultimately, I love serving the story, and I seek stories that offer something important to the audience. If it’s a comedy or fun musical, the gift is a place to laugh, release tension, engage the imagination, and remember the light parts of life. If it’s a drama, I see great value in helping audience members connect emotionally, learn different points of view, and engage in activities that help heal themselves or the world around them. The story must hold the truth in some way, and it must speak to modern audiences.
Something that may set me apart from other directors is my belief in the sacredness of the artistic process. It’s not just the end product for me (although I hold myself to a very high standard). I believe in the value of the process itself, and how it transforms the artists as well. I seek to make the process excellent in collaboration, creativity, and community. I want the audience to love the show, but I want the actors, crew, and production team to love it too.
Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
Something surprising people might not know about me is that, like most artists, I doubt myself every time I start a show. I’m like, “What do I know about any of this?
Why did I say I could direct this? I’m a fool!” then after a rehearsal or two, I return back to my sane mind and say, “Oh yeah, I know how to do this. Trust the process, Beki.”
- Website: https://bekibaker.com
Sarah Johnson Photography, Shelby Mick Photography, and Ma2la Photography