A Dream Deferred: MaryBeth Killian ’20 sees her production finally come to life

MaryBeth Killian standing outside in front of a sign that says Sipe

Though she graduated from Bridgewater College at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, MaryBeth Killian has persevered in her work and in her art to see some of her dreams come to life over the last three years.

Killian came to Bridgewater from Roanoke, Va., originally thinking she might want to be a teacher, as her two favorite high school teachers were both Bridgewater College alumni. When she realized teaching wasn’t the path for her, she chose psychology as her major. But the class that changed everything for her was an improvisation class (THEA-320) in her sophomore year. She loved it and ended up auditioning for the main theatre production that semester as well.

From that moment on, she took a number of theatre classes, was involved in the major productions each semester and added theatre as a second major. In February 2020, the Theatre at BC production Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind had just concluded. Killian and her friend and classmate Katie Downing ’20 were planning Downing’s senior capstone show—the one-person play Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan. Downing would act in it and Killian would direct. They had just started the rehearsal process a couple weeks before the pandemic caused the College to send students home to finish the semester.

Many months later, Killian and Downing, now living in the Bridgewater area, met up with Holly Labbe, Adjunct Professor of Theatre at BC, to reconnect and catch up. She introduced them to her friend, Aili Huber, who had just built an outdoor stage for productions at her home in Dayton, Va., during the pandemic. That introduction would eventually lead to Downing and Killian’s Every Brilliant Thing becoming the Silk Moth Stage’s first major production in August 2022.

MaryBeth Killian ’20 (center) at Silk Moth Stage in Summer 2022. Photo by Tiffany Showalter Photography.

Silk Moth, conceived as a summer outdoor community theater in Rockingham County, Va., was an opportunity for artists to gather and perform again in front of an audience. Downing and Killian embraced the opportunity to challenge themselves and decide on every facet of the production’s staging. Killian says of the experience, “It became so much more, so much bigger than it would have been originally. It felt very full circle.”

Killian, who worked in the Bridgewater College Admissions Office for two years, is now Associate Performance Manager at the Sipe Center in Bridgewater, Va.

“It’s a lot of fun. I love working with the town,” she says.

She’s embracing this opportunity to make use of the skills she gained in classes such as stage lighting, as well as production experiences. She hopes to be involved with Silk Moth Stage again this summer and would love to bring community theater to the town of Bridgewater in the future.

Theatre at BC gave Killian the opportunity to grow and evolve throughout the years. She said that Dr. Scott Cole, Associate Professor of Theatre, “met me where I was,” and chose roles for her that “fit where I was on my journey” with theatre. She believes that the small size of Bridgewater’s theatre program allowed her to have opportunities she could never have had at a larger institution and be involved in some capacity with every production. But the skills she learned through improv and acting haven’t just translated to working in theatrical productions. She says they are “lifelong communication skills” that helped her be comfortable presenting to high school students in her admissions role and speaking in front of anyone.

— By Olivia Shifflett