Leda Jo, oh, how I miss you! Ah, Beckinfield: the Web Series I loved
by N J Howell
enjoy a creative moment
need audition monologues?
can you cry on cue?
How my MPTV connection started: From 2010 to May 2 of this year, I participated in an incredible acting experience. It was a Mass Participation TV project about a supernaturally strange town called Beckinfield, peopled with extraordinary characters. For me, it was 2 years of pure creative joy and I admit I was pretty sad when it ended but the good news is that Theatrics had another idea up their sleeve.
MPTV stands for Mass Participation TV and it's an online space where I became a part of a fictional town called Beckinfield, California, created a unique character, Leda Jo Gupta, the owner of "Leda Jo's Bar and Grill". The bar and grill was my own creation and became the go-to spot for just about everyone in town.
We had awesome collabs involving lots of Beckinfielders. We had lots of parties at Leda Jo's Bar and Grill too. Our largest collab was the Poetry Slam and Sing Off, which had over 2 dozen Beckinfielders participating, each posting their video in 5 minute segments that made it appear as if they were all together at the bar and grill. It was AWESOME! I posted a playlist on youtube of one particularly fun Halloween Party.
We Beckinfielders were given topics each week by the creators of the series but we took it from there. It was a great writing experience. I wrote my own storyline and interacted with a lot of talented actors from all over the world. It was really a dream for actors as well as writers, but wasn't limited to professionals. Anyone could join and, as long as they adhered to the guidelines, could post video blogs of their own as part of this fictional town. There were instructions that help you structure your show, after you registered. I miss Beckinfield.
Who was Involved?
Theatrics was the brainchild of Bob Gebert, Tracy Evans and Biff Van Cleve. There was some change of hands before a new theatrics was unveiled, I am not sure who was involved at that point but it's all gone now. There were thousands of actors involved in creating the storylines for Beckinfield, though a lot of those did not post every week. There was a rather large increase in those numbers during the period that the Ultimate Online Audition Contest was running.
Jonathan Frakes temporarily created the character of Dylan Marks, Hollywood Director, who came to Beckinfield to cast a little theatre production. Townspeople (actors playing characters in Beckinfield) auditioned and were cast in roles for the play, The Legends of Beckinfield. Finalists each took home $200 prizes (I was one of those finalists) and the winner took $10,000 (My friend and accomplished L.A. actor, Michael Town).
Other Hollywood Tie-Ins:
Scott David, a well-known casting director in Hollywood, reviewed B-field videos every month and chose three of his favorite Beckinfielders to commend. These are called "Scott's Picks" and I had the honor of being chosen more than once. I really enjoyed opening up my email to see that I was a Scott's Pick for the month. I miss the collaborations, the contests, the whole nine yards.
Also, of my favorite L.A. folks, Marc Scott Zicree, was involved in the Beckinfield fun. Marc acted as a consultant and article contributor and even accepted audition tapes for his new movie from Beckinfield actors. I met Marc when I attended his Round Table and 6-week mentoring classes. His latest project is Space Command, for which funds were quickly raised on kickstarter.com. I've read some excellent articles by both Marc Zicree and Scott David on the website as well.
There were spin-offs from Beckinfield, where the actors from that web series were offered the formats for creating our own original storylines and casting the members ourselves. My creation was called Shadrach Village, about a loveable bunch of homeless people and their kind benefactors. I loved the Spirit of Shadrach Village and have not given up on the idea of making it into at least a short if not a feature film one day. more about MPTV and Shadrach Village
It's over ...
As of May 2, 2011, Beckinfield went on hiatus. Later, I think in 2013 or 2014, the site came down entirely. Theatrics is no more and Beckinfield is but a memory now, except for videos I was able to save before it all went away. In a creative sense, it feels surreal, like one of those Mandalas monks spend days to create, only to wipe it all away in the end. However, I have Leda Jo. I have Princess Oleska. I have Nurse Gertrude. I have Nanny Spratt. The characters I created on these shows are mine and will be with me forever.