Chances are most Dallas theater patrons wouldn't recognize Beth Lipton — out of makeup, that is. The in-demand actress has appeared in several of Pegasus Theatre's Living Black & White productions, where the actors, sets, and costumes are done entirely in shades of gray.
Lately, though, Lipton has been appearing in full color, showing up as everything from a violin-playing lady-in-waiting to a gruff European roadie (complete with sideburns). She's about to step into Dallas Theater Center's holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, as the Ghost of Christmas Past (or Scrooge's mother, in director Kevin Moriarty's version), starring Friday Night Lights' Brad Leland as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Before Lipton opens the annual show on November 22 (it runs through December 28 at the Wyly Theatre), she took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun, and sometimes ridiculous questions.
Name: Beth Lipton
Role in A Christmas Carol: Ghost of Christmas Past, Laundress
Previous work in the DFW area: Hood: The Robin Hood Musical Adventure (Dallas Theater Center); Julius Caesar (House Party Theater); Death On Delivery!, It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Murder!, Death Is A Bad Habit! (Pegasus Theater); Chicago (Mainstage Irving Las Colinas); Dancing At Lughnasa (Contemporary Theater of Dallas); Spring Awakening, Cabaret (Runway Theater).
Hometown: Highland Village, Texas
Where you currently reside: In Dallas itself, tucked away in the Preston Hollow area.
First theater role: Molly in Annie at age 6.
First stage show you ever saw: It’s got to have been Sesame Street Live (Rosita totally sat down next to me and it was GREAT), but I keep having dreams about having seen a show when I was three or four in which somebody in a gorilla costume ran around in the audience, and there was something Christmas-y about it. I’m sure that’s fictional, but it’s such a vivid picture, it’s hard to shake off.
Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: I think it was either during my first theater dance workshop at Hofstra University, when the "steps" to becoming a professional performer (as much as there are any sort of universal steps) were laid out, and I realized I could make this fun thing I did a thing to pay the rent.
Most challenging role you’ve played: My latest resume add: Yitzhak in Hedwig and The Angry Inch. I’m not an angry person, and there’s so much anger that Yitzhak harbors while at the same time being incredibly tuned-in to everything happening with Hedwig’s performance, serving as her main crew person. But you can’t really hold that tension if you want to sing that rock music without destroying your voice. It’s a workout for your focus.
Special skills: Arching a single eyebrow, actually being set on fire (no one asks for this in auditions and I don’t understand why), playing the violin, whistling like a champ, horseback riding, and various dialects and impersonations.
Something you’re REALLY bad at: Contemporary social dancing, oversharing.
Current pop culture obsession: The takedown of the patriarchy. And stupid Buzzfeed quizzes. They’re uncanny.
Last book you read: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (my first time through the Harry Potter series).
Favorite movie(s): The Lord of The Rings trilogy, hands down. Treasure Planet. A Mighty Wind.
Favorite musician(s): Nightwish, Enya, ABBA, First Aid Kit, Helium Vola, Tori Amos, Lady Gaga, The Orion Experience.
Favorite song: This is SO DIFFICULT. For now, probably the third movement from the Schumann Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54, the Van Cliburn recording.
Dream role: John Adams in 1776; Roger De Bris in The Producers; Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I figure everything else I want I can make a reality if I play my cards right.
Favorite play(s): Amadeus by Peter Shaffer and anything Anton Chekhov.
Favorite musical(s): 1776; A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder; Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812; The Light In The Piazza; Assassins; Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Elisabeth; Mame.
Favorite actors/actresses: Cate Blanchett, Kelli O’Hara, Laura Michelle Kelly, Robin Wright, Samira Wiley, Bryan Cranston, Sir Patrick Stewart, Nick Offerman, Benedict Cumberbatch.
Favorite food: Sushi, pho, really good barbecue, pretty much all bread always.
Must-see TV show(s): Bob’s Burgers, Derek, Schitt’s Creek, The Handmaid’s Tale, Transparent, Bojack Horseman.
Something most people don’t know about you: I’ve got at least 40 wigs in my home at this point.
Place in the world you’d most like to visit: I’ve never gotten to go to Europe. I dream of riding trains across Scandinavia and Russia.
Pre-show warm-up: Light stretching and cardio — like squats, lunges, or twists — and as much of a full-range vocal warm-up as possible. I’ll also run through any trouble spots with lines, spoken or sung, to gauge where I am for the evening.
Favorite part about your current role: The way Kevin Moriarty has adapted Christmas Past makes it so that she has an intense connection to Scrooge and the events he’s going through. That kind of emotional investment is like candy. It’s all the feels.
Most challenging part about your current project: Past has some really quick changes in color and tone, with great intensity. I’m still working on it, because my sense of logic wants to make it work and understand it.
Most embarrassing onstage mishap: Opening night of Mary Poppins, going into "Practically Perfect" I trip and almost take a dive onstage as Mary, which is about as un-Mary Poppins as you can get. I’ve been lucky to avoid anything truly mortifying onstage so far. Don’t ask me about my most embarrassing offstage moments — they are legion.
Career you’d have if you weren’t in theater: I still want to have my glam Rococo punk rock symphonic metal collective, but I think I’d probably be an athletic trainer or an astronaut. I’ll go to space one day, regardless.
Favorite post-show spot: Anywhere that’s relatively quiet with a good frozen margarita. I drink like a teenager.
Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: The sense of community. People care in DFW, and I believe that looking out for one another is the factor that differentiates our progressive cities from others around the country that also have boast robust arts communities. The barbecue here is also better, generally speaking.
Most memorable theater moment: I was six or seven, backstage at a dance recital, waiting to file into the wings for a quick showcase of ballet or tap or whatever we were queued for.
While I don’t remember that so much, I can vividly recall looking up to the ceiling, dim blue lights shining through the grid, rigging as far up as I could see. It was a strange image, maybe a little eerie. But in all the bustle of getting hundreds of kids shuffled onstage, offstage, and back to the dressing rooms without making an audible fuss, I got a strong sense of belonging.
It wasn’t so much a need to be in theater somewhere the rest of my life, but an expectation I would be. I wish I could find the perfect complex German word to describe the feeling of being so perfectly comfortable and quietly certain, beyond hope.