Coast Monthly features people who keep the Texas Gulf Coast interesting.
Through her dining room’s tall glass windows, Rebecca Walker can see the ornate iron fence surrounding Darragh Park, a lush garden in Galveston’s East End. At its center, where most would see a simple pavilion, Walker sees a stage.
“Every place I’ve ever lived, I’ve had a little theater community,” she said. “Because of my training, I automatically assess space and I was drawn to Darragh Park.”
A native North Texan, Walker earned her Master of Fine Arts studying under director Paul Baker at the Dallas Theater Center. Her grassroots theater projects have spread across Texas, from Lubbock to Houston and now to Galveston.
Since settling on the island, Walker has directed four melodramas, working with some who are new to the stage and others who are seasoned actors. Each year, the core cast and crew gain new members and each year, the audience grows.
Did you know from an early age that you had been born with an artistic temperament?
Mama always said that at age 1-and-a-half I would pull a little step stool into the living room and I would get up on it and just emote gibberish and sing and then I would take a bow. She said she knew from then that I would be an actress.
What were your creative outlets as a child?
It’s so interesting for me to look back. Mama was a painter and a modern dancer, so she got me into dance first, but then I took painting lessons and voice lessons. Then, in graduate school, I ended up studying the Paul Baker method, which is integration of abilities. He believed that to be successful in the theater, you needed to have a broad range. So, it’s sort of like my mom did that unknowingly. She always said that every child should be able to experience as much as possible in order to find their passion. She did put me in piano lessons for a long time and I kept telling her, “Mama, this is not my passion.” So, we sold the piano.
How are you working those lessons in with the young actors you work with now?
I get my great joy out of finding people’s talents and watching them grow. It’s like beginning with a blank canvas. I get great pleasure out of the process. I’m not thinking so much of the end goal as I am about developing the character in the person, and the person finding these strengths that they can bring to a character.
When did you start directing?
My mom had taken me to see plays at the Dallas Theater Center since I was little. So, I was very excited when I was accepted to their MFA program, which was through Trinity University. I had gotten my undergraduate degree with an acting focus, which is what I did during the first year of graduate school. Like every young actor, you think you’re going to be a star. By the second year, Paul Baker, who was my directing teacher, said “I would like for you to direct a play in the down center stage theater,” which is the smaller theater.
What was the show?
“A Marvelous War” by Charles Beachley. It was bells and whistles and it was so exciting to cast it and work with these people individually and put it all together. I was hooked. It was the most extraordinary passion.
What was your dream role?
Blanche DuBois. I did get to play her in a studio production — it was not a main stage production.
What is so great about community theater?
Theater builds communities. There’s so much time that you are together and it’s such a team effort, so there are bonds that are made. It just sort of trickles out to the neighborhood and into the community. It’s a wonderful vehicle for bringing people together.