In the Oculus

K. Partridge: Movement Director
Luscinda Dickey: Choreographer, Musical Composition, Dancer (The Girl, The Shadow, The Witch)
Carrie Dickey: Costumes and Hair, Cinematographer and Video Editor

I like to think of “In the Oculus” as a piece of “living art.”


Back in late summer of 2021, my dance teacher and I were trying to come up with a concept for our next dance: something different that would push the boundaries of what I had done before. 

I had meanwhile been playing around with a melody on the piano. The melody had evolved into the beginnings of a song. That’s when the idea hit: what would happen if we completely flipped the way that most dances were choreographed and, instead choreographing a dance to a piece of music, I wrote the music to a dance? 

The dance itself, we decided, would be inspired by a piece of artwork that I had loved ever since I’d first seen it: John Coyne’s “Oculus, 2021.” The watercolor shows a table and a chair in the middle of an otherwise empty oculus. What was a seemingly broken chair doing in that massive oculus? What could be lingering in those strange shadows and that black doorway? What story could have taken place there? 

This mysterious room was like the Hall of Charn in C. S. Lewis’ “The Magician’s Nephew” with its empty courtyards, yawning arches, curious light, and frozen figures. I worked to turn my thoughts into movement, and one month later, I had about two minutes of choreography. At that point, the dance was about a Girl who wanders into the oculus and encounters a dark enchantment that holds everyone in it captive. But as beautiful as the dance was, I still felt like something was missing. It wasn’t enough to know that The Girl was encountering an enchantment, we needed to see the enchantment itself. 

It was then that I decided to split the dance into two parts giving one to The Girl and the other to a new character: The Witch, who embodies the room’s enchantment.

But why just have two characters when we could tell the story even better with three? Inspired by the shapes in the painting’s darkness and that looming, black doorway, I created the character of The Shadow. 


“In the Oculus” is the story of The Witch, The Shadow, and The Girl. The Witch is a dangerous and evil Queen. She has the strength and the magic of many women. The Shadow is The Witch’s minion. Tortured and in constant agony, she embodies the spirits of those who have fallen under the Witch’s enchantment. The Girl is a normal, everyday person who has wandered in The Witch’s oculus and finds that she has more power than she ever knew. The music gives each character a distinct voice.

The video of the dance was shot in three parts and overlaid.

Show Reviews

Stained Glass Playhouse’s Smoke on the Mountain

It is a hazy, summertime, Saturday night in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina. Lazy June bugs buzz through the balmy air, a lone pickle floats down stream from the pickle factory, and the new-fangled electric light bulb in the sanctuary of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church shines down on a tiny congregation awaiting the arrival of the Sanders Family Singers. So, the stage is set for Stained Glass Playhouse’s production of Smoke on the Mountain. Directed by Maggie Gallagher, this story of family and bluegrass gospel is playing it’s last three performances November 19th, 20th, and 21st.

Just a few minutes into Smoke on the Mountain, it becomes clear that this is a show of winsome characters. Lovable Mother Vera Sanders is portrayed by the rich voiced Lauren Harris, while the head of the family, Burl, Sanders, is played tenderly by Archie Collins. The eldest Sanders child, June (who is the only one of the family without musical talent, but makes up for it with comical results), is performed with exuberance by Annette Wood and real life husband and wife Mark Graves and Jennifer Raiford Graves act alongside each other as the Sanders twins: Dennis (a jittery preacher-to-be whose attempt at sermon giving was one of the evening’s highlights) and Denise (who may or may not have almost become a movie star…I’ll let her explain). Richard Johnson gives a heartfelt performance as the wayward Uncle Stanley as Miles Stanley’s Cousin Darryl strums away bringing an extra layer of depth to the musical numbers. Last but not least, we have Mount Pleasant Baptist Church’s pastor himself: the Reverend Mervin Oglethorpe is skillful portrayed by Vince Hancock.

Although Smoke on the Mountain may have a simple storyline, the talents needed by it’s actors are many. Not only do they have to sing their way through some very challenging harmonies, but they have to act as their own orchestra playing array of instruments from the quintessential bluegrass bass to the lap harp!

Congratulations to the cast, creative team, and crew of Stained Glass Playhouse’s Smoke on the Mountain! Thank you for bringing us the gift live theatre!

Feel like a night at the theatre? Visit: for more information and to purchase your tickets.


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.

Show Reviews

Standing here with poison in my pocket.

Special Report by Journalist Luscinda Dickey

Lady Hyacinth: If I’m ever to show my face in society again, I’ve got to find a new cause of my own and quickly. Come, come, any ideas?

Monty Navarro: If I may your Ladyship, one hears about such an abundance of actors in Winston-Salem these days…

Lady Hyacinth: Winston-Salem. Land of the actors, directors, and wigs. Home to the arts and the dramatically obsessed. That’s it! We’ll establish an assembly of reporters, who will all write acclaimed reviews. Capturing national attention, to honor and admire the measly efforts of those Broadway types. As my first move of charity, I will take over publishing reviews on behalf of that Miss. Luscinda Dickey. My selflessness will be met with great acclaim! Come to think of it, what is the point of helping others unless you let the whole world know? Call the Winston-Salem Journal!

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder: a review by Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith

I am one of the starring—and most famous—characters in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. I most recently took the stage February 7-9 & 12-16, 2020 in the The Little Theatre’s of Winston Salem production which was directed by Chad Edwards and music directed by Rick Hendricks. But enough about me.

Richard “Trey” Cameron III offered a charmingly, engaging performance as as Montague “Monty” Navarro. He was so engaging that you found yourself feeling that the stage was lacking something when he was not there. Mr. Cameron has a voice that freely moves from a rich lower tone to a pure high falsetto that was the perfect dose for the complex yet fun vocal parts of the lead role.

The two leading ladies—Ms. Kaitlyne Colbert as Sibella Hallward and Ms. Kira Arrington as Phoebe D’Ysquith—gave beautiful performances as Monty’s two love interests. Ms. Colbert brought to life what Monty says about Sibella: “…There’s that smile with a secret inside, and here are two eyes that are bright with a mischievous light…I know that your embrace is a treacherous place. There’s danger in your smile.” The flirtatious Sibella pushed and pulled Monty’s emotions back and forth raising his hopes in one scene only to let them crash in the next. Ms. Arrington embodied the tender, strong, and well-bread characteristics of Phoebe. You could not help but get caught up on Ms. Arrington’s storytelling especially when she sang. She boasted a pure soprano voice that flew up and down the musical staff like the voice of a nightingale.

Of course, how can I not mention that terrific actor who played me and rest of the D’Ysquith Family. This actor is the best of the bunch—Seph Schonekas. He is the talent of the quick change and one amazing character developer. His comedic antics and expressions brought bouts of roaring laughter from the audience.

Before I finish, let’s hear a round of thundering applause for the talented ensemble lead by Heidi Shafer as Miss Shingle. Last, a standing ovation for Tara Raczenski who designed the stunning costumes and Bland Wade who created the lovely set!

For adorable musical theatre enthusiasts, I think they all did rather well don’t you?


Spreading Christmas Cheer

Special Report by Journalist Luscinda Dickey

I love Christmas! Wait—put that in all caps: I LOVE CHRISTMAS! And add periods: I. LOVE. CHRISTMAS. I mean who doesn’t? More than anything I want to be a part of Christmas. I have wanted to be a part of it for years. I know it sounds weird to say that I can’t, but it’s true. On Christmas day, I sit with nothing to do painting Christmas trees onto eggs… I mean cookies… and watching The North Pole Holly Jolliday Christmas Yule-A-Palooza! But I have never been able to really participate in Christmas. “That’s crazy!” you say, “why, everyone can be a part of Christmas!” That is true. BUT there is one teensy-weensy itsy-bitsy practically microscopic problem: I have a bunny ears. And I have bunny ears because I have a bunny’s head. And I have a bunny’s heads because I am a bunny. In fact I am The Easter Bunny.

Now, imagine it’s Christmas Day and you happen to see me waltzing down the street covered in tinsel and mistletoe with a basket full of brightly wrapped Christmas presents. What would you do? Well, you would either run the other way screaming: “Ahhhhh! A bunny covered with tinsel and mistletoe with a basket full of brightly wrapped Christmas presents!!” Or—and this is the most likely choice—you would begin laughing and pointing and shouting: “Hey, look at the crazy, weird bunny thing!” Then you would start throwing rotten eggs and moldy carrots at me. “No we wouldn’t” you say, but you would and you know it. No one would accept me.

So, that’s why I came up with my wonderful, amazing, terrific, spectacular idea! Here it is: I am going to masquerade as the Wistful Witch of Winter. So what is the Wistful Witch of Winter? I have no idea! I just made her up! All the duckies, chickies, and bunnies say that I must be going mad. But oops, I already am mad so who cares?

Thus far, my brilliant plan is working out perfectly! I am going to be part of Christmas and take part in this year’s broadcast of The North Pole Centennial Holly Jolliday Christmas Yule-A-Palooza! What could possibly go wrong!?! (I just hope no one takes off my hat!)

From first read through to closing night’s final bow, the Wistful Witch of Winter has, out of all the characters that I have played, been my favorite. And The North Pole Centennial Holly Jolliday Christmas Yule-A-Palooza, written and directed by Dan Beckmann and Erinn Dearth, was a show fresh and different from all others.

The North Pole Centennial Holly Jolliday Christmas Yule-A-Palooza only performed in a theatre one out of nine shows. The rest of the time we were dancing around the Triad spreading Christmas cheer to nursing homes and retirement communities. From singing a joy filled version of “Jingle Bells” with a sweet lady who when the song went into a slower three part harmony asked: “why did they slow down?” to shaking the hand of a grinning gentleman who although looked frail had a grip of steel, there was truly magic in the air. The true beauty of Christmas wasn’t in the classic songs we sang like “Oh Holy Night” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” or the favorite Christmas characters on stage like The Grinch (Brandon Lloyd Hicks) or Mrs. Claus (Mary Cain), but the true beauty was in the amazing people we met and talked to.

Spring Theatre’s The North Pole Centennial Holly Jolliday Christmas Yule-A-Palooza had its final performance Tuesday, December 17, 2019. From tour start to finish, the cast, crew, and audience shared the magic, joy, and love of the season. In the words of the Wistful Witch of Winter: “Christmas is the time of year where for one day families are joined together under one roof. Everyone is so very, very happy! Strangers are kind to one another! The true quality of the human spirit shines through. And [we got] to be a part of that.”

Photos credit of PB and J Photography