Dramatic Drive

October 30, 2018

By Rob Humphreys ’16MBA

Decorated playwright Beth Lincks ’75 traces her success to lessons learned both on and off the stage as a Rollins theater major.

It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon in Manhattan—if that’s even possible—but on this summer day, in a second-floor, Upper West Side apartment one block from Central Park, there’s no time for the energetic Beth Lincks ’75 to sit back and relax.

Lincks, an award-winning playwright who leads theatrical workshops around the country, is furiously tackling some much-needed housekeeping after six weeks on the road. In an hour, it’s off to a rehearsal. Tonight, there’s a reading of a short play.

“As an artist,” she says, “you have to keep going. Nobody’s going to make it happen for you. I always have a number of irons in the fire.”

Raised in Sarasota by parents from eastern Kentucky, Lincks got the acting bug at age 10 when her mother, an English teacher, took her to the theater. In high school, fate intervened when she saw Man of La Mancha at Rollins while visiting family in Orlando.

As a Tar, Lincks haunted the Annie Russell, Fred Stone, and Edyth Bush theaters, often pulling sleepless nights to build sets, rehearse scenes, or put the finishing touches on a big production. For three summers, she worked as Rollins’ box office and house manager, honing a bevy of skills that would soon be put to good use professionally.

Three weeks after graduating from Florida State with her MFA, the Big Apple beckoned. Success didn’t happen overnight, but Lincks kept busy on the edges of showbiz, selling subscriptions at Lincoln Center, landing small acting parts on soap operas, and handling costumes on Broadway shows and Saturday Night Live.

“I had enough experience to keep working in all kinds of little jobs here and there,” says Lincks. “I’ve never had to be a waitress or tour guide or all those jobs that actors tend to do.”

In the mid-’90s, Lincks started writing and self-producing one-act plays under the pseudonym Arlene Hutton. The first, I Dream Before I Take the Stand, premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1995 and has seen a resurgence of late, as the plot is something akin to a nightmare #MeToo experience.

“I would’ve really hoped that play would be out of date by now,” she laments.

Lincks is best known for The Nibroc Trilogy, which is based on her parents’ tales of mid-century Americana. The New York Times wrote that the trilogy—Last Train to Nibroc, See Rock City, and Gulf View Drive—“ought to be seen by anyone who doubts the capacity of front-porch drama to tell a meaningful story beyond its own perimeters.”

Beth Lincks backstage at the Annie Russell theatreBeth Lincks backstage at the Annie Russell theatre
Photo by Scott Cook.

In 2012, Lincks returned to the Annie Russell stage to help students put on the Holocaust-based Letters to Sala, which has since seen about 300 productions.

Today, in addition to writing plays that have been performed on-, off-, and off-off Broadway—as well as in theaters across the globe—Lincks serves on the faculty at The Barrow Group, a nonprofit, off-Broadway theater company and performing arts training center. There, a young Anne Hathaway was in the first reading of her play As It Is in Heaven.

“Most playwrights write a play and submit it to theaters and wait for someone to pick it up and produce it,” says Lincks about what sets her apart. “I’ve gone straight to making the production happen on my own, from raising the money to assembling a team to renting a theater. All those skills—fundraising, grant writing, marketing, management—came from my work at Rollins.”

Over the course of a 40-year career, Lincks has won the Samuel French Short Play Festival three times, held numerous residencies, earned a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and been commissioned as the first playwright of the Big Bridge Theatre Consortium (12 universities committed to developing new plays dedicated to peace and interfaith dialogue).

Now she can add one more honor to the list: Rollins’ 2018 Alumni Achievement Award.

“If you had gone back and looked at me at Rollins,” says Lincks, remembering her days in the Chi Omega house, “you would not have predicted me to win that award. I worked at the box office, I sewed the costumes, I turned the lights on and off. This is one of the most rewarding things to have happened to me.”

Lincks speaks highly of the “level of commitment to quality” that has always characterized the College’s theater department—and provided the foundation for her success.

“At Rollins, there was a culture of trying to do the best art you could do,” she says, pointing to influential figures like costume designer Mary Amlund, theater manager Steven Neilson, and English professor Alan Nordstrom. “Discipline, hard work, and a kind of noble aesthetic were encouraged from the top down.”

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