NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

March 28, 2013

A comic view on survival, escape

Salem Theatre Co. showcases one-act plays by Nikole Beckwith

Nikole Beckwith started writing plays in New York because she was homesick for Newburyport.

She moved to New York in 2005 to be an actress — and to work as an assistant to actor, writer and Woburn native Eric Bogosian — but she missed the creative scene she had known locally.

“I was highly stimulated in Massachusetts,” said Beckwith, whose “Split — Tales of Escape” will be at the Salem Theatre Company through April 14. “A part of the draw of writing plays was to create a fictional community to be part of, because I was very new in the city and didn’t feel connected to a community anymore.”

The plays she wrote in New York included parts for herself, but it was her writing that found an audience.

“The plays themselves ushered me into the theater community and gave me a community to be part of,” she said.

That circle of support has come to include the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which last year awarded Beckwith a Nicholl Fellowship. The $35,000 stipend, one of five granted from more than 7,000 applications, was for a screenplay that Beckwith adapted from her play “Stockholm, Pennsylvania.”

This year, Beckwith was the first non-British playwright to be offered a residency at the National Theatre Studio in London.

But even as her new community has grown to include such generous benefactors, Beckwith has maintained a connection to the scene she left behind.

For 10 years, that included the theater company Independent Submarine in Newburyport, where she was an actor and eventually co-director with Greg Moss, who now teaches dramatic writing at the University of New Mexico.

“We did a bunch of plays,” Beckwith said. “Greg mostly directed, and I mostly acted.”

She and Moss have maintained a connection, sharing drafts of each other’s work.

Beckwith, whose father and stepmother live in Beverly, has also stayed in touch with John Fogle, artistic director of the Salem Theatre Company.

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