Bess’ playwriting practice began through solo performance. She’s adapted/written and performed a half-dozen original solo works, and over the last decade has expanded to writing several scripts for multi-character casts. Her newest play with songs, Death Wings, won the 2020 Maine State prize of the Clauder Competition for New England Playwrights. The script was also a semi-finalist for the 2020 O’Neill New Play Conference and workshopped with Fresh Ink Theatre at Boston Center for the Arts. A monologue from the play was published in The Best Women’s Stage Monologues 2021 by Smith & Kraus. She was recently awarded a Creative Community Fellowship from National Arts Strategies to support her combined performing and visual arts initiative, The Death Wings Project, which will include the world premiere of the play in 2023 in multiple locations in Maine.
Her new full-length version of Madeleines was named a finalist for the 2021 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, a top 20 semi-finalist in the 2021 National Jewish Playwriting Contest, and received workshop readings with Maine Playwrights Festival, North Shore Readers Theater, and at Colby College. Her play Refuge Malja, winner of the Tel Aviv Jewish Plays Contest and a finalist in the 2020 National Jewish Playwriting Contest, is digitally published by DramaScripts, UK. Refuge Malja premiered on Portland Stage’s mainstage and was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2018. In fall 2020 she co-produced and performed Hausfrau: The Webseries on YouTube. Mergirl Saves the Waves, Bess’ feminist, environmentalist adaptation of The Little Mermaid, is in development supported by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission. Her solo comedies The Passion of the Hausfrau (2009) and Big Mouth Thunder Thighs (2013) premiered in Portland Stage’s Studio Theater, and her collaborative multidisciplinary project with live music and illustration, Legbala is a River, premiered at Mayo Street Arts (2017). In 2020 she participated as an invited writer at the National Winter Playwrights Retreat (HBMG Foundation) in Grand Lake, CO and was a member of Company One Theatre (Boston) PlayLab Unit. You can hear her 15-minute audiorom-coms “What I Miss Most” and “Under My Skin” on the Meet Cute Podcast (www.meetcute.com).
Bess is a Lecturer in Theater at Colby College, where she has been teaching acting and playwriting, and guest directing for the past 11 years. She has developed and facilitated independent creativity workshops for adults and adolescents exploring the theme of the inner critic, and recently created the Activist Storytelling Workshop, a combined writing and performance intensive.
Bess is actively working to transform her role as an independent producer, co-producer, and board member in Portland’s theater community by advocating for and leading creative processes that are artist-centered and move beyond the exhausting and often exploitative systems that have predominated white-led American theater production.