UM student dreams of a behind-the-scenes career in theatre

Morgan Quinnelly
Oxford Stories

University of Mississippi student Katarina Beck was raised by a single mother. She discovered her future career nearly four years ago as a high school sophomore, and is now adjusting to the freedom of living away from home.

Before age 2, Beck lived in a two-bedroom apartment with her mother in her hometown of Hattiesburg after her parents divorced. They lived there several years before her mother remarried and moved the family to a house down the road.

“I remember one time when I had spent the weekend with my grandparents and they were driving me home,” Beck said. “We went to this new apartment complex that my mom and I were staying in, because I was really little, and she had just gotten divorced. So, I remember getting home, and she looked at me with the biggest smile on her face, and she said ‘Welcome home, honey.’ … It was great; it was just me and her for a little bit.”

Through this marriage, Beck gained a brother and a sister, who are now 10 and 12, respectively. She joked about the comedy having two preteens in the house brings.

Beck joined theater during her sophomore year of high school because her friends were in it, but she was pleasantly surprised to discover she loved it. In fact, her previous dreams of becoming a doctor were replaced by a newfound dream.

“I made costumes, built props, and did hair and makeup,” she said. “I just fell in love with being a tech. It is everything I want and more. I get paid more than actors because not many people want to be technical theater. There’s an adrenaline rush during quick changes that’s just fantastic. I love it. I love being the person people go to when they need help. I love being needed.”

Through the UM Theater Department, Beck found her place among the thousands of students who attend Ole Miss. She enjoyed the career-driven atmosphere because she feels the people she works with in theater share her drive to make a career in this field.

“The people that I am stage managing with are the most fantastic group of people,” she said. “We all have the same drive in this department, and I feel like, had I gone to Southern, it would have been a continuation of high school because it was all the same people… I feel like all the people here in the theater department are just driven to get out of it and get into the world, which is something I really like. I cling to that. I like that idea. I like that we are all getting places.

Beck spoke casually about her transition into college and her subsequent growth in the events that followed. From living on her own, ending a long-distance relationship that became too controlling, and finding balance between work and play as she lived and worked in Oxford over the summer, Beck took on new experiences with the same drive and optimism.

“I absolutely love all the people I’ve met,” she said. “I don’t think I would have made it through the summer without the friends that I made. Right now, [I am] pretty content. Everything is going pretty much according to plan [with my life].

“Everything is working out scheduling wise and all my friend groups are working out. Everything right now is good… This is my home. This is where I am my own person. I don’t have anything to worry about, I don’t have any other people to worry about.

“I’m here for my and myself and who I want to worry about… I don’t have to worry about little things that I don’t have. There are bigger things like tuition and rent and all that jazz. But it’s so much nicer here. It’s so much more comfortable.”

However, Beck has gained a strong support system in her time at Ole Miss, and her friend, Richard Benton, spoke fondly in her behalf.

“We always have the same train of thought,” he said. “She always finishes my sentences. She became way more independent [over this past year]. I watched her break up with her last boyfriend… She didn’t like that relationship at all…

“She did not really hang out with that many people when she got here… but now she is trying to be a free spirit. She has her own house. She has her own car. I’ve watched her grow up in a series of months.”

All and all, Beck is looking forward to her remaining time at the University of Mississippi, and wants to move to New Orleans or Atlanta upon graduation to work.

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