Beth May: 2015 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Performing Art

At only 23, Beth May is making a name for herself both on and off the stage.
At only 23, Beth May is making a name for herself both on and off the stage.
Katie Johnson

You submitted nominations for the best and brightest emerging Valley creatives, and the results are in. Presenting the 2015 Big Brain finalists.

Leading up to the announcement of winners at Artopia on May 9, Jackalope Ranch, Chow Bella, and Up on the Sun will introduce the finalists. Up today is Beth May.

Beth May is all about the show and tell.

When she's not making revisions to screenplays -- she's currently in the middle of a story involving a man who writes eulogies for a living -- or driving across the desert for a chance to compete in poetry slams, the Tucson-raised playwright and Arizona State University grad can often be found performing her written works on Phoenix's more progressive stages, making her mark at venues like Space 55 and Lawn Gnome Publishing.

May turns to her own uncensored experiences as content for her written works.
May turns to her own uncensored experiences as content for her written works.
Katie Johnson

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See also: Announcing the 2015 Big Brain Finalists

At the latter, guests can pick up a copy of her second spoken-word album, The Family Arsonist, a follow-up to her debut, The Dueling Compass, which tackles everything from feminism to mental illness in Beth May's signature style: eloquently raw.

May's alternative approach to her craft wasn't always appreciated. "The style that was discouraged in school, that's my style," May says. "I have the experience but not the wisdom, and I think that's what's great about youth. Writing when you're young, you don't have to be wise. People will kind of pick up and insert whatever they want into your writing."

But don't let her modest maturity fool you. At 23, May's already sold her first screenplay, Earthlings, an end-of-days play that debuted at Binary Theatre Company in 2014 and is currently being revised for a movie adaptation.


For May, writing isn't just a hobby. It's as much a career as it is a cathartic process.

"I started with writing as a way to get whatever I felt outside of me," says May, who holds very little back from the page and the $20 microphone she bought online to record her projects.

May was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18 after being hospitalized for manic behavior. Her extreme highs and equally extreme lows are treated though medication and electroconvulsive therapy but ultimately will remain part of a lifelong condition. This, along with her relationship with her family, past boyfriends, and her sexuality, is all laid bare on stage and on the tracks of her albums.

Content and accomplishments aside, what sets May apart is that she's not just in it for herself. She wants to set an example. "There's so much negativity when it comes to people sharing their work," she says. "It's so subjective. I think all people need is a push in the write direction. Everybody likes something."

When asked what she would with the Big Brain $500 award, May's mind immediately goes to the community with prospect of establishing more workshops for Valley writers to create, collaborate, and produce.

"This is a place where a lot people are raised here and there's this idea of 'I've got to get out of here,'" says May. "But there are people to interact with here and people to make great things with here."

Cancel your plane tickets, Phoenix. Beth May is keeping her creative endeavors close to home.

The 2015 Big Brain Award winners will be announced onSaturday, May 9, during New Times' Artopia, an evening of food, drink, art, and music at Monarch Theatre. For details and tickets, $25, visit

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