JoBeth Williams ’70
JoBeth williams joined Actors’ Equity at age eighteen to participate in a musical company in her hometown of Houston. “I loved acting in high school,” she told the BAM two years after graduating, “but of course your counselors always discourage you, saying it’s not something you can make a living at.”
Thirty years after leaving Brown, Williams is more than making a living at it. She has received an Academy Award nomination and three Emmy nominations. She has appeared in about twenty feature movies, more than a dozen made-for-television movies, and several television series.
Williams got her big break in 1979 as Dustin Hoffman’s overnight guest in Kramer vs. Kramer. She went on to star in the 1982 Poltergeist as the terrified housewife, Diane. A year later she joined the cast of The Big Chill as Karen, the woman who has an affair with Sam (Tom Berenger) because her marriage is falling apart. In addition to her movie roles, Williams has received Emmy nominations for her role in a 1993 two-part episode of Frasier, for playing surrogate mother Mary Beth Whitehead in the miniseries Baby M, and as the anguished mother of a missing child in the made-for-TV movie Adam.
Like many actors, Williams has also tried her hand at directing. She received an Academy Award nomination for directing the 1994 thirty-minute short, On Hope, for Showtime.
John Lee Beatty ’70, ’73 M.F.A
When he was eight years old and growing up in southern California, John Lee Beatty already knew he wanted to be a set designer. Not only did he become one, but over the past twenty-five years he has been one of the busiest and most respected set designers in American theater.
Beatty’s sets have been the backdrop of dozens of highly visible plays. His innovative design for Lanford Wilson’s drama Talley’s Folly won him a 1980 Tony award, and he’s been nominated for Tonys a half-dozen times since.
In fact, the frequency with which Beatty’s name shows up on the playbills of promiinent works has been astonishing. During March and April of 1997, to take a typical example, three major Broadway plays opened with his sets: Alfred Uhry’s The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Wendy Wasserstein’s An American Daughter, and a revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. His busy schedule did not seem to affect the quality of his work, however. His sets for The Little Foxes won him yet another Tony nomination.
Richard Foreman ’59
Over the past three decades Richard Foreman has been a dominant force in American avant-garde theater. The author of more than forty plays—and the director and set designer for most of them—Foreman has managed to remain true to a vision of theater that abandons narrative in favor of ideas. “I’m interested in trying to find ways to make physical the various abstractions that one’s imagination spins and projects,” he told a New York Times reporter in 1988.
In 1968 he began the Ontological-Hysteric Theater, which he has headed ever since. Although Foreman has had success on Broadway—he staged The Threepenny Opera in 1976—he is much more closely associated with his own plays, which, one critic has written, “owe as much to vaudeville as they do to existentialism.” Foreman received one of the first National Endowment for the Arts lifetime achievement awards for theater, and in 1995 the MacArthur Foundation awarded him a $345,000 “genius grant.”