“My brain is weird; it tries to create things that will never happen,” said Elizabeth Beckett, fiddling with a misshapen twig. The wind whistled through the surrounding trees in the deep woods behind Tabler Quad at Stony Brook University, where Beckett had been spending a lot of time studying the surroundings and taking notes on the bleak features of the forest.
As the sunlight cast a harsh glow, Beckett said that the woods have a different quality at night, which helps her as she constructs her version of the “Little Red Riding Hood” as a performance piece.
Beckett, 22, is a theater arts major and a creative writing minor, an avid swimmer, a horror movie enthusiast and an aspiring filmmaker. Starting at the age of six, Beckett developed a knack for analyzing movies as she began watching and understanding them.
Beckoned by a swimming scholarship to Stony Brook, little did Beckett know that her life would pave way for a role on the stage.
For her senior final project, Beckett is working on an adaptation of her favorite classic, Little Red Riding Hood. Having thought long and hard about this, Beckett came to the conclusion that the wolf in the story represents a child molester. As she studied the way scanty trees grew and mossy stumps covered the ground, Beckett said that her vision of the interactive performance piece for Little Red Riding Hood came to her while she was alone in the woods, staring into the distance. Her idea is to have each audience member enter into the woods where she set her stage, and have the actors perform the scene around the individual.
“As far as working with her on the directing stuff, I think she has a really awesome vision and the way she sees things is unique,” said Stephanie Mirto, a junior theater arts major and Beckett’s classmate.
Beckett hails all the way from Swindon, a small town in southwestern England. Her mother is Irish and her father is from a town called Kilmarnock in Scotland. Growing up in Swindon, Beckett, better known as Lizzie by her friends and family, was always interested in exploring the world. Ever since Beckett was a little girl, she said, she knew she wanted to move to an exciting city even though she loved her quaint hometown very much.
Beckett’s wanderlust family of four have travelled far and wide from countries like Egypt and Turkey to famous cities like Paris. She was 16 when she first visited the United States and was enamoured with Manhattan.
“I was trying so hard not to cry, just trying to hold it in,” Beckett recalled. But when her sister Jenna shook her shoulders and brought her back to the reality of being physically present in Times Square, Beckett’s eyes brimmed with tears. She was ecstatic.
“I mean, this is where all the movies are shot, it’s Times Square!” she cried.
At that moment, Beckett knew she wanted to be here. “I had a connection with New York” she said.
When she learned that a boy from her neighborhood had moved to the U.S. to pursue his dreams right after finishing high school, Beckett thought, ‘If he can do it, so can I!” and began applying for swim scholarships in Florida State University and Stony Brook University.
Upon receiving a phone call from Dave Alexander, then head coach of Stony Brook’s swim team, Beckett was surprised that her father and the coach shared the same hometown. She made up her mind in an instant.
“I ran down the stairs to my parents and my dad was like ‘Woohoo New York!” she remembered fondly.
Beckett came to Stony Brook University on a swimming scholarship in 2011. But, after a year of swimming and touring with the team across the Northeast, the team disbanded because the pool was in a decrepit condition and needed renovation. The critical maintenance money for all State University of New York campuses was cut and the pool at Stony Brook stopped repairs. The team was lost. More so after Coach Alexander’s tragic death in 2012 of cancer.
“We all really liked him a lot. He was amazing and built the team from the ground up,” Beckett said. The death and separation of the team forced the swimmers to turn and pursue different interests.
As a result, Beckett said, her freshman year was “ kind of a struggle.” Learning American customs and adjusting to her new college life was definitely not a breeze. When Beckett told people about her Catholic school background, she discovered people’s’ stereotype about it, which irked her greatly. “We do not wear skirts, the school is not run by nuns and we didn’t have to go to mass every Sunday,” Beckett said. She doesn’t consider herself to be too religious because “religion has too many restrictions,” she said.
Besides studying film, Elizabeth Beckett is interested in theological studies, histories of old English monarchies and is fascinated by witch trials during the 16th century.
Liam Wallace, a sophomore pre-med major, is currently working with Beckett by acting in her self-directed projects and has a lot to say about her creative thought processes.
“She’s focused but also calm during rehearsal, and she has a very good vision of the scene. She can give clear, simple direction because she already has a picture of what’s going on in her head,” Wallace said.
Echoing Wallace, Mallory Catlett, an assistant professor in the theater department, said that Beckett has “a set of very complex ideas which she expresses well in her work.” Catlett also added that Beckett is “very good with sound,” a crucial skill in the world of theater.
At the time, with only less than a month left to graduate, Beckett was excited as she looked towards the future. “I’m definitely thinking of getting a job in film, maybe at the BBC,” she said. Beckett will return to the U.S to spend homecoming at Stony Brook University with her American friends.
“Fate is a big thing. Certain things are meant to be,” she said.