One-time Malibu “drama mama” enters play for Fringe Festival

In the 20 years Lynn Grant Beck lived in Malibu, she described herself as a “drama mama” engaged in the dramatic arts. Her children were involved in theater at Malibu Middle School and Once Upon a Time Children’s Theater at the now-defunct Malibu Playhouse.

Years ago, in her 20s, Beck ran her own theater company in New York, The Chelsea Players, producing “off-off Broadway” productions. 

“It was one of the most satisfying times in my life,” the playwright said in a phone interview while recovering from COVID-19. 

Hollywood then came calling, and Beck moved to Malibu to begin a screenwriting career. Two years after earning an MFA in creative writing, Beck returned to playwriting and is thrilled her play, “All American,” is premiering at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival.

The HFF is an offshoot of the original Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. The original festival has spawned some notable talent including Phoebe Waller-Bridge whose production at the festival, “Fleabag,” became a hit television show and who now writes James Bond movies. There are now more than 100 Fringe Festivals around the world, but Hollywood’s is one of the biggest and the biggest theater festival west of the Mississippi. 

“It’s an amazing opportunity for writers, actors, and directors,” Beck said. “There are more talented actors in Los Angeles than any place in the world because they come in from everywhere. We’ve put together a phenomenal cast.”

“All-American” covers weighty topics including school shootings. “They are heartbreaking to me,” the playwright commented. 

“All American” Cast from left to right, Dan Pousson, Carla Betz, Noemi VanSlyke, Theron LaFountain, Cameron Blackmun, Madison Pullman. Contributed photo.

The 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting hit home for Beck as she has relatives who had attended the school and her daughter had known some kids who survived the tragedy that left 17 dead. “It made it very personal,” Beck said after talking with her young relatives who had previously attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and were traumatized by the senseless horror. 

Beck is troubled by the rash of school shootings that’s plaguing the country. 

“This isn’t something that was happening when we were kids and it’s a pretty American phenomena,” she said. “It doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened elsewhere, but it doesn’t happen with the frequency it does here.” The writer made it clear she favors gun control, but said, “The story is bigger than that.”

“All American” looks at how “societal issues are giving rise to these school shootings especially with these young men,” according to Beck.

“Most of these kids are horribly depressed,” Beck said. “What can we do as a society to reconnect these young men with their own humanity so they value their own life and the lives of others? Until we do that no amount of gun control is going to prevent these shootings because the guns are already out there. 

“We are a gun crazy country,” Beck asserted. “I don’t think we should allow teenagers or anyone to buy automatic weapons, but a lot of Americans disagree with me.”

Beck struggled with how she would present serious topics without overburdening the play with depressiveness. She solved the problem in a creative way by depicting two separate families who live in the same house, but at different time periods. One family occupies the house in 1971, the other family 50 years later in 2021. “The house acts as a portal,” she said.

Beck describes both time periods as “very chaotic.” 

“The idea is that when the world is in chaos time itself cracks,” she said.

Both families, depicted through clever stage and lighting techniques, are somewhat dysfunctional. 

“Through the course of the play, they connect with each other and help a young man reconnect to his humanity,” Beck explained. “It’s laced with comedy, time travel, magical realism, and hope for the future. I do want people to know it’s an uplifting hope-filled play with a positive ending.”

Tickets to “All American” written by Beck and directed by Michael Strauss are available at hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7477. Wearing of masks is strongly encouraged

Showtimes:

Sunday, June 12, 2 p.m.

Friday, June 17, 9:30 p.m.

Sunday, June 19, 2 p.m.

Saturday, June 25, 6:30 p.m.

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