Collegiate Theatrics: Lipscomb University's BROOKE BETHEL
For Brooke Bethel, now enrolled at Nashville's David Lipscomb University, the road to becoming an actor - or, more to the point, majoring in theatre in college - has taken a circuitous route since her childhood in northwestern Idaho.
"There is hardly any theatre in that area besides a few community theatres sprinkled every fifty miles or so," she explains. "My parents had VHS tapes of about every Rodgers and Hammerstein musical ever made. When I was a kid, before they put me to bed every night, they would let my siblings and I pick out a musical to listen to as we fell asleep. Then my grandma started taking me into Spokane yo see the touring musicals as they came through (my first was Cats. I am a shameless fan of Cats the Musical).
Theater became an important part of her life at an early age, but instead of wanting to pursue a professional career as an actor when she grew up, Brooke Bethel instead had her sights set on becoming a concert pianist. In fact, she entered Lipscomb as a piano performance major.
"Theatre was important to me at a young age, but it took a long time to realize that it was something that I wanted to pursue," she says. "I had played piano since the age of six and was training for college. I wanted to be a pianist professionally. I took a few theatre classes in high school and loved them! I was a in a few shows and it was amazing! I think every actor has that feeling where their soul vibrates on stage. You feel like you shouldn't be anywhere else."
With the decision made to pursue a career as a pianist, she made the decision to go to college in Nashville: "I ended up deciding to come to Lipscomb as a Piano Performance major, however," she remembers. "My parents had invested in my lessons, and I had been working toward that since I was in elementary school. It seemed like the right thing to do. I took Beginning Acting that first semester though and felt my soul vibrating again. I ended up switching majors in November. I have been an Acting major ever since."
Get to know Brooke Bethel, "the acting major," in today's installment of Collegiate Theatrics:
What's your college experience at Lipscomb University been like so far? Has it lived up to its advance hype and what's your favorite thing about studying at Lipscomb? I came to Lipscomb because I wanted a small school experience in an exciting city. It has definitely given me that. Lipscomb has really helped mold me into who I am. In the theatre world, it's so easy to get overly-competitive. It can feel like everyone is on a different team. At Lipscomb, however, it definitely feels like we are all on the same team. We are all cheering each other on and truly do want each other to do well. There are so many students and professors here who truly believe in me and will go the extra mile to see that I have the tools I need to succeed. The theatre department at Lipscomb is also intentional about creating well-rounded artists. I have had so many opportunities to explore the arts outside of performance. I have been able to work on sets, lights costumes, dramaturgy, directing, writing, etc. The ability to learn and grow in so many different areas of the arts, is one of the things I value the most about Lipscomb's theatre department.
What does the future hold for you and have your aspirations changed since you're now an experienced college student? It took me a minute to find the right fit when I came to college. I switched majors a couple of times, but I found before the end of my freshman year that the BFA Acting track was where I really needed to be. As for the future, I am just trying to take it one step at a time. I am still exploring options and trying not to close myself off to anything just yet. All I know is that I want to keep creating.
What collegiate theatrical moments loom largest in your mind? There are so many moments that stand out and for such different reasons! The moments that impacted me the most are the ones that not only made me a better performer, but also a better person. For instance, after saying "I'm bad at that" one too many times, my professor, Andy Bleiler, asked: "Are you really bad at it, or have you just never practiced that before? How do you know you're bad at something you've never practiced?" It sounds so simple looking back on it but, that moment truly changed my life. That began a season of never telling myself "no" or "I can't." I inserted hard work and a positive attitude where all of the "no"s were, and it's made me a better artist and a better person. I'm not perfect, but at least I'm working on it.
What advice would you offer to high school student considering making the plunge? Do what makes your heart sing! If that's theatre, then that's where you need to be, friend! It's an important decision, but it's one that only you can make. Don't let anyone make it for you. Know that it's going to be wild and chaotic, but if that's where you thrive: go for it! Remember that just because it's fun, doesn't mean it's easy. You still need to work hard, but it's a good, fulfilling kind of work.
What's your latest theatrical project and what comes next? I am playing Dorine in Lipscomb's production of Tartuffe! We opened September 14 in the Flatt Amphitheater at Lipscomb. It's been an amazing process and I'm so excited to share the show with an audience! After that I am assistant directing our production of Godspell which opens November 2! I am also on the production team for Second Stage Student Theatre and we are about to kick off our 2018/2019 season with a miscast cabaret on September 30th in Lipscomb's Black Box. So much is going on, and I love it!