Bess Park is the artistic/executive director of The Institute of Creative and Healing Arts where she teaches classes and workshops and privately works with clients, focusing on stress management, positive self-transformation, and tapping into creative potential. At Wild Hare Productions, her non-profit performing arts studio, Bess teaches courses in somatics, ballet technique, pointe, modern dance technique, improvisation, composition, choreography, acting, movement for the actor, .
During her 24 years of teaching at the collegiate level, Bess has taught ballet all levels, modern all levels, improvisation/choreography, composition, somatic studies, theatre and dance appreciation, stagecraft, advanced stagecraft, scenic art, scenic design, lighting design, stage management as well as theatre and dance history. At several universities she has been tenured as the director of musical theatre and dance programs, also serving as a liaison between design and performance students working in specialty areas such as dance company, repertory, performance studies, dance lighting, lighting for musical theatre, scenic art techniques.
Bess holds her MFA from the UNC-Greensboro in Dance/Choreography and Design and her BFA from Western Carolina University is in Scenic and Lighting Design. She also holds an MA from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Depth Psychology where she is now a doctoral candidate in the PhD program in Depth Psychology with a specialization in Somatic Studies. She has worked in professional, academic, and community theatres around the country including shows at Centrestage in Greenville SC, Broadway Pops International in NYC and Germany, Flat Rock Playhouse, SC Governor’s School for the Arts, WV Governor’s School for the Arts, Asheville Community Theatre, Blue Ridge High School, Savannah Lakes Village, Marshall University, West Virginia Wesleyan University, Trillium Dance Collective, Gamble/Van Dyke Dance Company, Birmingham Festival Theatre, Catawba College, and Berry College. Her professional affiliations include SETC, KCACFT, KCACDFA, AACT, SCISA, ISMETA, USABP, as well as other local and regional performance groups and organizations.
Multi-disciplined, Bess also works as a director/choreographer. She has had extensive experience in modern dance performance and choreography, directing musical theatre and theatre productions, and has choreographed numerous musical theatre and concert dance productions.
My directing and choreographic process emerges from my design background and is informed by exploring the balance between organic flow and architectural specificity and detailing. I love to meet every project with strong imagery as well as a with a sense of fluidity and movement; movement that is responsive to impulses that arise from active engagement with the images. Each performance piece, each design, has its own rhythm and energy that needs fertile and nourished ground from which to emerge. Coupled with deep somatic inquiry, the essence of my creative process is a merging of body and image with curiosity and with a sense of mystery and wonder.
As a performer in theatre and musical theatre, Bess has performed a wide variety of roles. Favorite roles include: Aldonza (Man of la Mancha), Sarah (Quilters), Velma (Chicago), Celemene (The Misanthrope), Martha (The Secret Garden), Sylvia (Sylvia), and Lady Bracknell (The Importance of Being Ernest).
As a dancer she has worked with many contemporary modern and ballet artists performing and choreographing from AL to NY. She is presently collaborating with several southeastern dance artists, as well as working as an independent artist, creating solo and collaborative works for area concerts. Her studio, part of The Institute of Creative and Healing Arts, is located in Greenwood, SC. She is available for dance, somatic, and movement master classes, workshops and creative projects in directing, choreography, and design.
Certified as a Meisner Acting Teacher through the True Acting Institute with Larry Silverberg, Bess also teaches and coaches acting and audition classes. Her Green Shirt Series of classes and workshops as well as her Red Couch Series of Improvisational/Devised performances are all heavily influenced by her work not only with Meisner technique, but also with her modern dance work, her study at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York, and her work in Authentic Movement and as a Somatic Movement Educator.
Somatics, a term coined by Thomas Hanna in the 1970’s, means the “lived body experience.” Central to somatic work is exploring society’s privileging of cognition and the thinking brain and working to reengage and re-invite the body to speak its own unique language. This language is filled with experiences, sensations, feelings, and impulses that are unique to each individual. When accessed and brought into relationship with self and/or another, we learn how we can channel our somatic experiences into a re/telling of personal stories and myth-making through both performance and the witnessing of performance. Authenticity stands at the center of Bess’ approach which always strives to provide a sense of safety, freedom, and acquisition of skills and techniques that allow for fearless and playful explorations; explorations that support the emergence of individual and autonomous creative experiences to arise.
From 2006-2012 Bess served as the Executive and Artistic Director for Greenwood Community Theatre where she directed, designed and choreographed over 70 productions. She also taught classes in acting, dance, technical theatre and design as well as mentored many a new stage manager for the GCT stage. She saw the completion of a major renovation to the theatre and wrote several successful grant applications for GCT and its operations, reinvigorating the theatre and establishing strong fiscal and operational practices while developing a high artistic standard for community and regional audiences.
WILD HARE PRODUCTIONS is a performance group committed to staging innovative and evocative performances that especially supports the production of original material in non-traditional settings. Having launched its first production in winter of 2014, the company continues to plan seasons that present exciting works around the region, with specific attention to classics, particularly Shakespeare, and original/devised/co-generated material. The company is a state and regionally award winning group through the American Association of Community Theatres. WILD HARE is a 501 (c)3 non profit organization and operates at the Institute of Creative and Healing Arts studio and theatre.
Bess is revitalizing her dance company feMo Dance Theatre, which she began in 2001. feMo, which stands for “feminine energy in motion/eMotion,” is committed to developing original performance approaches that are grounded in somatic research and that invite nontraditional casting/participation. This inquiry, which supports deep dives into cross generational and diverse community involvement, includes staging of new work, re-staging of classic work, and support for emerging artists. All of Wild Hare performances find a home in the studio, in the theatre, or in the community in found spaces.
Bess is also a body worker who teaches yoga classes at her studio in Greenwood, Healing Arts Yoga, as well as in the surrounding community. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher (500 hours) through the Yoga Alliance and is certified through ISMETA and NCBTMB. She is available for group and/or private instruction in yoga, somatics, and health/transformational coaching. Her yoga, dance, massage therapy, neuromuscular therapy, Reiki, somatic movement education, and other modalities are deeply informed by her Body Mind Movement certification, through Mark Taylor, her studies with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, as well as her present studies in Somatic Experiencing, Laban Movement Analysis, and Bio-Dynamic Cranial Sacral work. She focuses on practices of mindfulness, embodied and experiential anatomy, and discovery of our potential for accessing fluidity and truth through several meditative, authentic, and ecstatic movement practices.
A renaissance woman with a heart for teaching, a soul for self-discovery, and a high standard of excellence, Bess always maintains that the arts are about transforming lives. Bess lives in Greenwood, SC and is always excited to see a new project emerge.