Last week, Olympia lost one of its great local theater boosters. Kathryn Dene Beall died March 16, 2017, at her home, surrounded by friends, after a struggle with cancer. Her passing was a blow to local theater—especially the community of Olympia Little Theatre, where Beall invested years of encouragement and direction.
Beall was born August 2, 1961, in Charlottesville, Virginia to Geraldine and John (Jack) Beall. Her first-known theatrical experience was performing as a butterfly in the play Pooh’s Expedition to the North Pole, followed by a role in Prokofiev’s Cinderella at age 7.
Beall held a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Virginia and spent most of her professional career as a lead data analyst, working for over 20 years at the state of Washington’s DSHS research and data analysis division. She was highly regarded for her problem-solving skills and was known as the “Swiss Army knife” because of her ability to work through difficult analytical puzzles.
After her early exposure to theater, Beall continued to assist theatrical productions in various backstage roles: doing makeup for the Albermarle Players, building sets, designing and hanging lights and occasionally, sewing costumes for a variety of Olympia-area theater groups.
In the early 2000s, Beall began to volunteer consistently at Olympia Little Theatre. In 2001, she took the director’s chair for the first time, helming Divorce, Southern Style by Jennifer Jarrett. Beall subsequently became a mainstay director for OLT: Between 2001 and 2017, she directed nearly 20 plays.
Titles under her direction included classics Arsenic and Old Lace; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and The Importance of Being Earnest. She also directed such modern plays as Boeing, Boeing; Love, Loss, and What I Wore and Sorry! Wrong Chimney! The two shows Beall directed most recently were Waiting in the Wings by Noel Coward in the 2015-2016 season and An Act of the Imagination by Bernard Slade, which ran from February to March of this year.
Over her time volunteering at Olympia Little Theatre, Beall contributed to over 40 productions. Her work backstage ranged from direction to lighting technician to stage manager to sound designer to costumes and set construction. Beall was a member of OLT’s board of directors and served in nearly every officer and leadership position there while continuing to assist behind the scenes.
Longtime friend Toni Holm described Beall as a “loyal and amazing friend, one of the smartest and strongest people I’ve ever known,” and declared Beall’s mission was always to “break down barriers of accessibility to the theater—her goal always to bring people into participation in this wonderful art form. She will be deeply missed.”
Director James Patrick is dedicating OLT’s new production of The Trip to Bountiful, which opens March 24, to Kathryn Beall’s memory.
Olympia Little Theatre invites the public to contribute stories, photos, drawings or other memories of Kathryn Beall to a memory book being compiled by the volunteer team at OLT. People can contribute by emailing this address or via postal mail: P.O. Box 7882, Olympia, WA 98507.
There will be an open memorial celebration at OLT on Saturday, April 22, 2017, from 7:25 p.m. to 9:25 p.m. with champagne, food, photos and tributes to Beall. Anyone inclined to send flowers is encouraged to instead contribute to any OLT fund in her memory. To contribute, please click here.