OHC Faculty Member and Playwright Wins Theater Competition

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Melda Beaty, an assistant professor in the Communications Department at Olive-Harvey College, has set the stage for success—both for her students at OHC and in her professional career. Beaty was recently selected as one of four winners of Definition Theatre’s Amplify II Series, a play commissioning program developed to promote underrepresented theatre creatives.

Professor Beaty’s play, “Thirty”, was chosen for inclusion in Definition Theatre’s second Amplify Festival, which included play screenings, artist workshops, a community clean-up, and other readings organized by the theater currently building a permanent space in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

“Thirty” presents the story of “Sister” and her granddaughters who were separated from each other as children after their mother died suddenly. As the granddaughters come together to celebrate Sister’s 75th birthday, at Pine Gardens Nursing Home, the reunion unearths some hurtful family secrets.

The play was inspired by Beaty’s childhood memories of visiting her great-grandmother in a nursing home in Chicago. Her mother and other family members were her great-grandmother’s caretakers and showered her with weekly love and care so that she never felt neglected.

“They each had certain tasks they did for my great-grandmother. For instance, my mother would wash and buy her clothes. My aunt would wash and braid her hair. Their love and care for my great-grandmother inspired ‘Thirty’,” Beaty said.

Beaty has drafted six stage plays since she began writing in 2010 and is thrilled to be included in the Amplify II Series at Definition Theatre this year.

“I’m elated,” she said. “I applied for the first Amplify Series, and I wasn’t selected, so to be chosen as a winner this time around is special,” Beaty said.

Definition Theatre is intentional about celebrating stories created with, inspired by, and intended for people and communities of color. Their mission aligns with Beaty’s own passion and interests.

“I’m inspired by the narratives of Black people, especially Black women and our contributions to history,” she said.

Since joining Olive-Harvey College’s Communications faculty in 2014, Beaty has taught composition courses and has included plays and visits to theatre performances into her curricula. Additionally, for her sabbatical project, she is writing another play that students can read, perform, and use as a learning tool.

Beaty earned her undergraduate degree in Broadcast Communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her Master of Arts in Writing from Illinois State University. Her plays have been featured and premiered across the country, including at The Ensemble Theatre in Texas, the National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina, the Blackboard Play Festival in New York, the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, and multiple festivals, workshops, and theatres. Beaty also serves on the board of the August Wilson Society, contributes as a freelancer to Black Masks magazine, and is a proud member of the Black Theatre Network, the African American Playwrights Group, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.