Concept, Dynamics, Finesse, and Passion: A delve behind the screen with Erinn Dearth and Dan Beckmann

Special Report by Journalist Luscinda Dickey

A mysterious alien called Flogg has taken control of the earth. All human beings find themselves held captive in their own homes. As the lock-in takes over, suddenly nothing is the way it seems. And what will happen next? Only Erinn Dearth and Dan Beckmann know.

“…We knew we wanted to keep the Spring Theatre community together working on a project,” says Erinn Dearth, the Executive Director of Spring Theatre, “Especially with all of the new uncertainty that was happening at the world. So, we decided to do a Digital Performance Project and structure our writing of the project very much like we have done with our Christmas show each year at Spring—writing the story around the talents of the folks who want to participate. We had no idea we would get so many! Coming up with the storyline was crazy. We knew about 3/4 of the performers already, and got to know the entire company during our recording of the Alex Boyé song “Lemonade” which we used as an introduction to the Project and to our cast. After that, we literally took 100 tiny sticky notes with each actor’s name on it and put them all over a white board with potential roles for them.”

In the words of Dan Beckmann, the theatre’s Artistic Director, “The writing process was similar to how Erinn and I wrote Holly Jolliday…We eventually arrived at this alien concept which turned out to be the perfect blend for completely outside the realm of realism and a very close comparison to what people were going through…And then the script-writing came.”

“…I would go through and speed write the scenes,” says Dearth, “And Dan would come after me and clean up, finesse, or sometimes completely rewrite the scenes.”

“ …We had a timeline of events that we tried to connect completely through what I call the “rope” concept…linking everyone and everything together in the universe through a television, phone, or radio.” Beckmann tells, “The challenge with the script was to sculpt these 100 characters into distinct people and give them distinct voices and of course to make them all feel relevant and important to the storytelling.”

As Dearth muses, “Our work flow is best as we say when I ‘splash the paint’ and get something on paper, and Dan comes after me to make it into a beautiful or absurd painting.”

With the storyline set, the scenes written, and the finished videography back in the directors hands, the ball of making a movie out of bunches of clips begins to roll. So what is key to the finished product? Editing.

“One of the cool things about the editing process,” shares Beckmann, “Is that it has been that similar to molding characters around people, I’ve been molding the editing around the performance—so each of the characters and scenes has a distinct editing voice, which both lends itself to the tone of the show (being recorded from over 70 different households), and also supports the performances of the actors therein.” He chuckles, “The whole thing has been such a whirlwind that I don’t have a very distinct memory in time when it started. Suddenly, I woke up one morning and we were doing a feature film with 100 people alongside us. And now here I am…50 hours into editing with only a scratch off of the surface of the final product. It’s massive but amazing.”

The world is filled with aspiring play writes, screenwriters, and authors. But when uncertainty pops in, many would shy away from such big and amazing endeavors as Erinn Dearth and Dan Beckmann have tackled.

“Never doubt yourself!” Dearth encourages, “I think that there are so many genius people out there who don’t put their work out there due to overthinking or fearing starting a project. I believe that everyone has a story to tell and the world is always in need of new perspectives and art…so truly, just do it!”

“DON’T DO IT!” Beckmann laughs, “Kidding. Call upon your experience and listen to your gut. Base your characters on real people, because it gives them more tangibility and makes writing them—the actual dialogue that is—more dynamic, specific, and more fun and easy to write.”

Dearth smiles. “Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid of rejection or judgment. So much of the world is an awesome accepting place that wants to hear from YOU!”

Beckmann agrees, “Another thing I’d like to convey is that this project is SO weird and new, that I have been living in a world that is completely improvisational and whirlwind-like, but it’s absolutely 100 percent affirmed to me that if you have an idea, and you’re feeling creative, you should just jump…because doing so can make pure magic.”

Spring Theatre’s Digital Performance Project will proudly present: Lock-In, a full lengh feature film on Friday, May 29, 2020 at 8PM EDT on Spring Theatre’s YouTube page.