Beck Diefenbach

This San Francisco native has a passion for three things in life: theater, photography and aviation. Beck became involved in theater his sophomore year at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep after he broke his collar bone during a wrestling match; no longer able to do sports, he found a new hobby in the theater. He describes himself as a “mechanical kid” working first behind the scenes of shows as a techie for a year and a half. Then, during his second semester of junior year, he finally auditioned for a musical, “Hello Dolly” and got casted as a member of the ensemble, police officer, and Chef #2. After performing in “Hello Dolly,” performing in shows became a favorite hobby for Beck; he carried on his hobby from high school to University of Illinois by participating in Illini Union Board Musicals here on campus. His theater credits include “Hello Dolly,” “Grease,” “Servant of Two Masters,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Guys and Dolls.” Most recently, Beck played Cliff Bradshaw in the Illini Union Board’s fall musical “Cabaret.” Besides theater, Beck has a true passion for photography. He always liked taking pictures, but he never took his hobby of photography seriously until about two years ago. His dad, who is also a photographer, showed him how to use his old camera from when he was in college, and since then Beck’s love for photography flourished. He has taken photography classes the University of Illinois, taken photos for the Jewish Community Center back in San Fran, and has had one of his photos displayed in the Illini Union Board photo gallery. Currently, Beck is establishing a Web site of his photography so that he can make his hobby more of a profession and share his work with others. On top of all of this, Beck’s major at the University of Illinois Is Aviation Human Factors which is part of the only institute here on campus, the Institute of Aviation. Even though Beck keeps very busy, he made some time to answer a few questions for me.

Why did you come to the cornfields and farmlands of Champaign-Urbana all the way from San Francisco, Calif?

Well, I wanted a university experience, the ability to still do theater, to meet a lot of people, and I wanted a big campus. Also, there are not many schools in California that have aviation programs; actually, there are no major universities in California that have it. I applied to a couple schools in the U.S. with aviation programs, some in Florida, Purdue, North Dakota, and Illinois. U of I actually wasn’t my first choice because

I didn’t think I would get in. But I got in here and not into Purdue where I thought I was going to go, and here I am. And I actually wouldn’t have stayed if it weren’t for the IUB Musicals program – that’s where I really fit in and made friends. I love IUB.

How was your experience being Cliff Bradshaw in Cabaret?

Cabaret was the most mentally challenging show I’ve ever done; the most physically challenging show I’ve ever done was probably “HAIR.” It was challenging because the character Cliff in the First Act is so normal, and there’s nothing harder that acting like a real, “normal” person on stage. In the second act, Cliff shows his true colors and shows the audience how he has this issue with control. He thinks he has control over his girlfriend Sally Bowels’ actions and control over the rise of the Nazi party, but he does not. He basically falls apart. Playing this character was very challenging but that’s what makes it so rewarding. Performing in Cabaret was a great experience.

Tell me more about the Web site you created to display your photography.

My Web site is called the Pause Photo Project at I created it in hopes of trying to build a reputation, trying to get my name out there. When it comes to getting stuff,

I don’t like relying on other people if I don’t have to, so I decided that I had to figure out a way to get photos out to everyone. But I have NO computer experience, and I am not a software guy at all So, I found this Web site called where you can design your own Web site, and I basically built my Web site off of that. The Web site is currently under construction, but there are some of my portfolios on there and it’s a work in progress. My reason for doing it is because it’s a very professional thing to hand out my card with just a Web site on it to people who are interested in my work; they can go to the Web site, check out my photos and resume and contact me if they’d like me as their photographer.

What are your future plans?

You know a lot of people ask me why I am I doing photography and theater because I’m an aviation major. But there are not many photographers out there that are solely photographers. A lot of them have a second job. So that’s what I plan on doing. My job in aviation will be my source of income, and being a pilot will also be great for my photography because I’ll be able to travel to different places where people don’t normally get to go. And the kind of photography I’m interested in is primarily street photography, documentary photography and journalistic photography. So, my job as a pilot will coincide nicely with my passion for photography.

What are you plans for Thanksgiving?

I’m going home to San Francisco which is fantastic. As a freshman I used to go crazy here, I would sit around and I wouldn’t get to go home for so long. Now, I’ve gotten more and more used to it – I definitely found the good attributes of Champaign-Urbana that I didn’t know before. It’s such a contrast going to school here and going back home. My girlfriend, Whitney, is actually going back with me, and she’s meeting everybody. Even though most of my family actually lives in the Midwest, my parents are originally from Detroit, we’ve kind of created our own “family” in San Francisco. Family activities involve a ping-pong tournament and my “uncle” smoking some turkeys – so I’m excited to go home.

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