Theodora Elisabeth Beckman (February 18, 1877 - June 28, 1965) was an actress, director and stage director. Daughter of Johannes Martinus Beckman (1852-1913), railway officer, and Johanna Maria Bode (1852-1877). Elisabeth Beckman married Camillus Umbertus Joseph Ranucci (b. 1866), playwright, italian teacher, in 1905 in Amsterdam and in 1941 in The Hague she married Dirk Verbeek (1883-1954), journalist, actor and director. Both marriages remained childless.
Elisabeth (Bets of Betsy) Beckman was born into a civil service family. She remained an only child because her mother died shortly after birth. After going to high school, she obtained her teaching certificate in 1897. She then took the entrance exam for drama school. Thanks to that teaching certificate, she was allowed to start in the second year. During the transition exam to the third year, Bets won the first prize for nomination, but she would not finish school. In 1898 she joined the United Rotterdamsche Tooneelists of Le Gras and Haspels; she played boys' roles in drag. After that she worked for various companies and toured the Dutch East Indies with Henri Brondgeest. She was living in Utrecht when she married an Italian in Amsterdam in 1905 as a language teacher. In the following years she travelled a lot and stayed in Italy for a long time.
When Bets Ranucci-Beckman heard in 1908 that the theatre innovator Willem Royaards was going to start her own company, she came back to the Netherlands from Florence. She reported to Royaards and remained attached to his N.V. Het Tooneel for five years. As an actress she attracted little attention there, although she did get the opportunity to play the lead role in the self-written piece Sirocco (1912). After leaving Royaards in 1913, she was associated with separate companies, such as Verkades Die Hagheplayers. During this period she also wrote three new plays, all situated in the actor's environment and fairly well received: Monsieur le directeur (1918), 'That, what you do not have ...' (1919) and Tinsel (1921).
Bets Ranucci-Beckman's career really took off when in 1921 – together with Dirk Verbeek and the actors husbands Lobo-Braakensiek and Van Kerckhoven-Kling – she founded the company Comoedia. She also moved in with Verbeek, first at the Stadhouderskade in Amsterdam, later at various addresses in The South. The first performance of the new company was Carlo Goldoni's innkeeper star, who had translated and directed Ranucci-Beckman. The beautifully groomed, witty and fast-paced comedy was a success. At Comoedia, but also in her next companies – Het United Tooneel (merger of Comoedia and Die Hagheplayers) and Het Vereenigd Rotterdamsch-Hofstad Tooneel – Ranucci-Beckman developed into an important and productive pillar. Season after season, she signed on for several directings: especially new, now mostly forgotten comedies and society pieces that she often translated herself. Gradually, Ranucci-Beckman was less and less able to see herself on stage, although she also liked to play a part in her own directing and thus to guard the performance. In 1934 she played a role in the film Death Water.
From 1938, Bets Ranucci-Beckman and Dirk Verbeek led the Residence Tooneel, which they founded, which housed the Hague (Royal) Theatre. Once again she signed for the contemporary, lighter repertoire, although she also directed norman Macowan's anti-totalitarian play Radiant Dawn. A huge box office success was Lesley Storm's Show has signed a horse (1939). In 1942 the company had to make way for the Deutsches Theater and moved to the Princesse Theatre, where during the war years a few evenings a week were performed. In 1941 Ranucci-Beckman was married to Dirk Verbeek, but she remained active under the name of her first husband.
After the war, there was a disagreement between the Residence Tooneel and the Hague Art Foundation about the course to be followed, and in connection with that Bets Ranucci-Beckman was forced to resign on 18 February 1947. Her husband also had to clear the field; they retired to Laren, where they lived with the set and costume designer and artist Rie Cramer. Bets Ranucci-Beckman made some translations and directed some in the amateur circuit, but after Verbeek died in 1954, she and Cramer left for Mallorca. She described it as a flight from an existence that was 'too heavy with memories'(Het Parool, 16-2-1957). Ranucci-Beckman wasn't completely forgotten at the time. The press paid attention to both her seventy-fifth and her 80th birthday. Bets Ranucci-Beckman died on June 26, 1965, at the age of 88.
As an actress, Bets Ranucci-Beckman didn't build a great reputation: she played a lot of matron and modern mother roles and did so properly. In the 1920s and 1930s she was given more appreciation for her directing work. Reviewers and colleagues praised her well-prepared, well-groomed stagings, which were rooted in a broad, literary knowledge. She read a lot – always looking for suitable repertoire – and also translated more than fifty pieces, mainly from French and English, but also from Italian and German. Her trademark was the lighter, contemporary repertoire, but sometimes she singed out to more serious pieces. The prisoner (1926) of Eduard Boudet was about a lesbian who enters into a sham marriage as a cover; the play, which she translated and directed, was not allowed to be played in the Royal Theatre in The Hague and led to questions in the city council in Amsterdam.
Bets Ranucci-Beckman was one of the designers of the refined Hague style. She described her role as a director herself as bringing out the author's unwritten intentions: in tins, intonations and small pauses, but without it being emphatic. A piece had to be alive, and full. From the 1920s onwards, Ranucci-Beckman was known as 'our' only director. After her farewell, it would take ten years before another woman (Elise Hoomans) would profile herself.
The pieces written by Bets Ranucci-Beckman herself received good reviews, but once she had emerged as a director and translator, the production stalled. In 1933 she published the novel 10,000 candles, which – like many of her plays – is situated in an actor's environment. Ranucci-Beckman would write only two occasional pieces: 1813, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the reign of Wilhelmina (1938, together with Johan the master), and Marie Louise (1933), an anniversary piece for Fien de la Mar.
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