(NOTE: I'm trying to be very cautious of "spoilers" in my blog entries. However, I think I really toe the line on this one, so if you're keeping yourself in the dark on story elements of Women's Studies, you may want to skip it. You've been warned.)
"Beth, I hear you callin'
But I can't come home right now.
Me and the 'girls' are playin'
And we just can't find the sound."
I had to alter the KISS lyrics a bit. Gene Simmons, I beg your forgiveness, though to be honest, "Beth" is a bit dated. The whole glam ballad deal sounds pretty sub-par to these 21st century ears. Maybe Paris Hilton should do a remake. (I don't think my inbox is prepared for the leagues of hate mail I could receive from the "KISS Army" for that last comment.)
But I digress.
In the original forty-page draft of Women's Studies, there were only two interlopers: Mary (originally named Amy) and her boyfriend, Zack. Mary, instead of being intrigued and enamored by the women of the Ross-Prentiss Women's Academy, was acutely aware that something is rotten in Denmark at this particular college. As Mary's journey shifted into one that's more emotional and philosophical, I realized I still needed a character to act as a foil to the academy girls and Mary's fascination with them.
Enter Beth: "the best friend," stage right.
Perhaps "foil" is the wrong term unless we're talking about Beth's relationship with Iris, Mary's insecure student who also becomes seduced by the world of Ross-Prentiss. (Iris or Mary; whatever the case, this ain't Shakespeare.) However, Beth provides balance. If Mary is caught in her confusion of whether or not to join the Academy girls, Iris and Beth are the opposite terminals of that confusion. At Ross-Prentiss, Iris thinks she's found something which has been missing in her life. Beth, of course, falls squarely on the side of, "This school ain't cool."
Beth shoots from the hip and calls it as she sees it. To me, that confident, "Take no bullshit" attitude is her overriding character trait. Her sarcasm provides much of the humor in the script. In the earlier feature drafts, Beth's role was smaller, but I realized that much of the humor kind of slipped away when she wasn't around.
Plus, Beth is supposed to be Mary's best friend, right? If your best friend tells you that she thinks the school you're at is filled with homicidal cultists, you're going to at least hear her out. Unless maybe that friendship sits on some shaky fault lines. What if the uncomfortable tension between Zack and Mary, is countered by tension that's a bit more comfortable between Zack and Beth? I created a back story in which Beth and Mary had both dated Zack, but he eventually chose to be with Mary. Now, as Mary's emotional compass shifts towards Judith, will Zack's shift towards Beth?
"Like sand through the hourglass . . ."
I could go on, but I don't want Melisa Breiner-Sanders, the actor playing Beth, to go too far with all this before we've sat down with the script and done some proper table work. That's "MAY-LEE-SA," by the way. "Melissa" is bound to give you a sarcastic eyebrow raise that explains exactly why she got the role. More on Melisa can be found at www.MelisaBS.com.