Meet Beth Lopes, Director of "Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook"

Andy Knight and Beth Fhaner
 | Jan 02, 2018
Junie B. Jones and Beth Lopes

Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook director Beth Lopes.

Playwright Allison Gregory: Bringing the Story ​From Page to Stage

Allison Gregory’s plays have been produced all over the country and she has received commissions, grants and development from South Coast Repertory, The Kennedy Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory Theatre, the Skirball-Kenis Foundation, ACT Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, The Empty Space, Seattle’s Arts and Cultural Affairs, Seattle Dramatists, Northwest Playwright’s Alliance, ZACH Theatre, Austin Scriptworks and Hedgebrook Playwright’s Foundation. She has been the recipient of the Julie Harris Playwriting Award and South Coast Repertory Theatre’s California Playwrights Award (Forcing Hyacinths); Garland and Drama-Logue awards (Fall Off Night & Breathing Room); and a Seattle Times Award for Best New Play (Burning Bridget Cleary), among others.

Gregory’s plays for young audiences include Go Dog. Go!, adapted from the P.D. Eastman book, co-written with Steven Dietz; Even Steven Goes to War (“Zoni” Best New Script Award; American Alliance for Theatre Education and Unpublished Play Reading Project awards; Kennedy Center New Visions/New Voices selection); and several plays based on the beloved Junie B. Jones book series by Barbara Park. 

Beth Lopes makes her SCR directing debut with Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook, (Jan. 26-Feb. 11, 2018), but is known all over the Los Angeles area for her imaginative productions—from the works of Shakespeare to new plays. Before rehearsals began, Lopes took some time to answer a few questions about how a director brings Junie B.’s hilarious misadventures to life for young audiences.

What was your path to becoming a director?
I was a part of a spectacular drama program in high school that facilitated the upperclassmen directing one-acts with the freshmen. I knew then that directing was something I really loved doing, but it wasn't until much later that I realized I wanted to do it as a career. I liked being an actor, but I realized that I wasn’t getting the same satisfaction at the end of a process as I did when I was directing. I loved being a part of the entire storytelling process.

What drew you to Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook?
Junie B. Jones is such a special character! She’s a clever, lovable, oddball who is firmly in control of her own universe. That’s not to say she isn’t flawed, which is one of the best parts about Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook. This story teaches us that you can be a good person and still make mistakes. It’s how you handle those mistakes that is the true measure of your character. I think that’s a very valuable message for audiences of any age!

What happens during a normal rehearsal day?
For this show, rehearsal is like a giant playground! We'll work on a specific scene and all of us will be throwing out possible jokes and staging ideas, laughing and creating Junie B.’s world. As the day continues, I’ll start to edit our best ideas into the specific narrative that you’ll see in the show!

What’s the difference between directing a children’s play and a play aimed at adults?
Fundamentally, I don’t approach them differently. I’m always trying to tell the story of the script in a way that will have the most resonance with the audience. That being said, when your audience is largely young people, you should take that into consideration. What I love about children is their willingness to imagine and participate in the world of theatre. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to engage with our audiences in a more direct way than might be possible with another kind of show.

Do you have a favorite character in Junie B.?
While it’s super hard to pick a favorite, I will admit that I am partial to Grouchy Typing Lady. I remember being scared or intimidated by certain adults when I was younger and it was always a cool moment when I realized that they were just a person, like me. 

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