By KIM ESTES, Four Points News
Beth Webster loves stories about people who have the passion to make their dreams come true, and now she has a similar tale of her own.
On her 60th birthday last year, the River Place resident realized it was time to unabashedly pursue a long-held dream of having one of her written works produced. And so, it happened.
Webster’s play, “The King of Texas,” was staged as part of Austin’s Frontera Fest this year.
An Austin American Statesman reviewer said, “Webster wants us to get to know Sam Houston in a way that reading about him just can’t accomplish…. The King of Texas offers a charming glimpse into the character of a Texas legend.”
Although Frontera Fest has ended, “The King of Texas” is not the only story Webster has written and she is hoping for more opportunities to produce her work.
“I’m 60; I’m not dead,” she said of her delayed fruition in the arts. “I’ve learned a lot. Everything I’ve written has been better than before. I think it’s okay that it has taken 30 years.”
Webster has received much encouragement in the time she has gone about pitching her works, all of which were screenplays.
When she first began writing, in moments stolen from motherhood, she and a friend were urged by their University of Texas professor to take one of their stories to Hollywood.
“We took 40 scripts and went from office to office telling people about our screenplay,” she recalled.
Eventually, the women got an agent and an opportunity to work for the famous Hanna-Barbera Productions. Webster said, “My husband was willing to move. He said he could find a job in California, but it was going to be 80 hours of work a week for me. It was going to be my whole life, so I turned it down.
“I chose my life,” Webster added. “I don’t regret it.”
She and her husband, Kit, have two sons, Brett and Matt, both in their 30s. “They have been my staunchest supporters,” Webster said.
In her decided role as a full-time mom, she took a Cub Scout pack to the French Legation Museum in downtown Austin and found a story that “had to be told”.
It was the account of a French diplomat’s arrival on the Texas frontier and his meeting with Sam Houston.
“I bought the book,” she said. “This is the one story I felt had to be told. I kept waiting, thinking someone’s going to catch onto this.”
Apparently, no one saw the potential of the historic, comedic tale. Webster’s own agent rejected it as a screenplay.
Fortunately, local director, actor and her friend, Ken Webster, had a different response.
“It was his idea,” she said of transitioning “The King of Texas” from a screenplay to the stage. “Ken and the actors guided me. Had it not been for them, it would not have been half as good,” she added.
“I had said I’d never write a play,” Webster recalled. “I grew up in New York and went to a Catholic school where the nuns took us to see a lot of Broadway plays.
“I loved the theater and I thought to go behind the scenes would ruin the magic. But it hasn’t. It has enhanced it.”
Webster attended every rehearsal prior to “The King of Texas’” performances. “Hearing the script back from the characters, it’s amazing how they become alive.”
She has about 20 screenplays on the shelf and another play in the works. Zeal animated her as she talked about how some of her work developed.
Webster said, “When I write a character, I love people who go for want they want. They’re desperate for it. When there’s that much passion, it doesn’t get any better.
“I want to get on that train,” she said, “with people that do what they want to do.”