Beckwith wrote a play three years ago when she was struggling to make it as an actor in New York — a quick-paced comedic piece written with her friends in mind, that’s garnered more attention for her in New York circles than she could have ever hoped for.
“As soon as I wrote that play a lot of things started happening,” said Beckwith.
She earned a residency at the esteemed Public Theater in New York, where she ultimately wrote the script that won the Nicholl fellowship. The play also earned her a residency at the famous National Theater in London, where she will spend two months this January.
Beckwith recalls where it all began, as a third-grader in Newburyport, when she was encouraged to write and direct a play for the elementary school stage.
“I used to write things for school all the time,” Beckwith said. “I remember writing this extremely intense skit in elementary school for the DARE program about overdosing on cocaine. I was really intense about it. I had this huge bag of powdered sugar.”
She recalls writing the skit in the shadow of the playground slide, where she could form her thoughts without interruption.
“That’s the only place where you can be without an adult standing right next to you,” she said.
In the eighth grade, she performed a skit she’d written for the Nock Middle School stage that she recalls being equally intense.
“I wrote a really horrible scene for the eighth-grade talent show at the Nock Middle School where I had schizophrenia,” Beckwith said. “I was playing cards with myself in a mental institution. It was classic middle-school angst.”
Sandwiched in between two performances of girls crooning the popular theme song from “The Rose,” Beckwith’s poignant portrayal definitely got notice — though she’s not sure if it was a favorite.
“I got applause,” she offered.
Today, her work is standing out to a larger audience.
“I wrote this screenplay by myself in my bedroom,” Beckwith said. “Nobody knew about it. Now I’ve won this fellowship and it’s, ‘What are you working on next?’”