‘Mama Mead’ finds family on the stage

Beverly Mead is a local community theater performer with decades of experience. Over the years she’s taken the stage, she has found countless new family members, and even earned the nickname ‘Mama Mead.’


Contributed photo of Beverly Mead.

Parker Jones, Arts Editor

Ever since Beverly Mead began performing in community theater over 50 years ago, her career revolved around one theme — family. 

Originally from Marcus, Iowa, she moved to Iowa City in 1983, and has performed here ever since. She was recently awarded a lifetime membership of Iowa City Community Theatre in 2019, where she mainly performs. 

Mead first became interested in theater after losing her father at age 15. To help her cope, her junior high music teacher asked her mother if she could take Mead to an audition for a musical. Mead said that if her mother had not agreed to let her go, she would have had a much harder time getting through the loss. 

“Losing my father at such a young age really devastated me,” Mead said. “I felt like I missed out on a lot. So I thank [my teacher], I thank mom, and I thank God for getting me involved with community theater.” 

Her first performance was as a member of the ensemble of Fiddler on the Roof in 1972. Now 65, she has performed in the musical twice more since then, playing lead roles Yente and Grandma Tzeitel, and said it is one of her favorite productions. 

The aspect of community theater that Mead said affects her most is her found family. Whenever Mead takes part in a production, she tends to ‘adopt’ cast and crew members that are younger than her, and in doing so has earned the nickname ‘Mama Mead’ from many of her castmates, and even ‘Grandma Bev’ from others. 

“I don’t think it would be out of line for me to say I have hundreds of extended family members,” Mead said. “Watching them grow up, watching them become professionals or just continuing to just have fun in a local venue makes me so proud of them and so happy to be a part of all of it.” 

In addition to her large ‘extended family,’ Mead does have one biological son, Jeffrey Allen Mead, who she also performs with. She first took him to an audition when he was just three years old, and he has performed alongside her ever since. 

“I’m real proud of the fact that I was able to introduce him to something that’s given him as much joy as it’s given me,” Mead said.  

Although Mead has been performing mainly with Iowa City Community Theatre since 1995, she has also taken part in productions at other local venues, such as City Circle, and in other Iowa cities like Cherokee and Washington. Currently, the actress is looking forward to Iowa City Community Theatre’s 67th season, for which she is directing its chief play, A Lesson Before Dying, in October 2022. 

Ultimately, Mead emphasized that as a part of the arts, theater is extremely important to not just those involved, but those who come to watch it, those who help put it together, and those who donate to their local theaters so they can produce art.

“To be able to watch the face of the audience members, as they’re seeing something, or hearing the comments that are made after a show is over talking to them is just an honor, a privilege, and a joy everlasting for me.”