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ALTON - Leah Becoat’s first show was produced in a gravel parking lot. Her next show will be at the Alton Amphitheater.

“Honeysuckle Summer Nights,” a vaudeville written by Becoat, will premiere at the amphitheater at 7 p.m. on Aug. 3, 2024. Tickets cost $15. Becoat explained that the show will include several different acts with a “throughline” within each one. She looks forward to sharing her hard work with the Riverbend region, and she has some advice for other hopeful creatives.

“You have to have the grit, the grind and the grace,” Becoat said, adding, “This is my sweet offering to the community.”

Becoat began writing as a child to cope with a skin disorder. At age 22, she “put down the pen” to raise her children. In 2013, a major surgery cost her her job; with her free time, she decided to return to writing and wrote her first play, which was produced in the Mexico neighborhood in Alton in a gravel parking lot with black garbage bags used as curtains. She remembers her mother swept the rocks to make sure everything was perfect for Becoat’s first show.

The show’s success inspired Becoat to start 3 Purple Coats Productions, a production company based in Alton. Since that first play, 3 Purple Coats has produced several of Becoat’s shows. She is looking forward to this newest one and its production at the amphitheater, a dream she has fostered since the early 2000s.

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“I knew that once the amphitheater opened, once I saw it, I was like, ‘I’m going to have a show there one day,’” Becoat remembered. “Just having that aspiration and, I think, timing. I have ten years now, a decade under my belt with producing, writing, different levels of theater and productions.”

A few years ago, Becoat produced a digital project called “Honeysuckle Love” that chronicled local couples’ stories for Black History Month. “Honeysuckle Summer Nights” is an extension of this project, with several different acts featured throughout the night including Jaida Moore, The Jared Hennings Band, Michelle Ross, Erin Jo and more. Becoat characterizes the show as a vaudeville performance, with a recurring motif that connects each act.

As Becoat prepares to premiere her show at the amphitheater, she reflects that she didn’t always know what she wanted to do. She has trusted in “the courage and the faith” to guide her. She encourages people to follow their dreams, no matter what age they are when those dreams come true.

“There are some people, I think, who come out of the womb and they know exactly what they want to do,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t know. I don’t have any theater background. It just comes naturally. People are shocked when they come and they say, wait a minute, how do you know how to do all these things? I’m like, it’s a gift.”

This gift has guided her creative process over the years. Becoat advises her fellow creatives to pay attention to the world around them. A summer day when she was a child gave her the inspiration for the name “Honeysuckle Summer Nights.” Now, she is constantly inspired by what she sees, and these experiences guide her writing.

“Everything is inspiration. A walk. A drive. A picnic. A homeless person. Church. A flower. A scent. Everything can serve as a muse,” she said. “You realize that nothing is dead, it’s only dormant. It’s only sleeping. Ideas that you thought, ‘Gosh, I should have written that down,’ or ‘What happened to that?’ — it’s just waiting for the next opportunity or the right opportunity. It’s literally waiting for the right opportunity to show itself.”

And “Honeysuckle Summer Nights” was the right opportunity for 3 Purple Coats to produce a show at the Alton Amphitheater. Becoat can’t wait to share her story with the community on Aug. 3. The show is for audience members ages 18 and up. Tickets are available at Today’s Beauty in Alton, at the gate, or by contacting Becoat at 618-670-2395 or on the official 3 Purple Coats Productions Facebook page.

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