Alum spotlight: Jeff Stern (B.F.A.’89) and Beth Paradis Stern (B.F.A.’90)

jeff and beth at their wedding standing in front of a red telephone booth

Beth Paradis Stern, 1990 BFA, Scenic Design
Jeff Stern, BFA 1989, Scenic Design

jeff and beth in front of a red telephone booth
Beth and Jeff in 2023, returning the location of their wedding pictures a little over 30 years later (see header image from 1992)

Beth started college at UVA, “not thinking I was going to major in theatre, but I got involved and decided I wanted to major in it.” While she was there, she met people from TheatreVirginia and heard about VCU.

jeff beth and their son in a pile of leaves
Beth, Jeff, and their son, Conner. 2002

Jeff’s first role was at age 9, at Wayside Theatre doing A Christmas Carol. During his theatre apprenticeship at age 13, he was, “too gangly to be cast as a kid or an adult, so they threw me in the scene shop, and I really loved it.” By the time he got to VCU, Jeff was already resident tech director and designer for Wayside’s summer season.

Jeff recalls his first encounter with Beth, “When I first met her, I didn’t like her. I was pushing scenery at TheatreVirginia for My Fair Lady, and she came in to work follow spot.” Beth remembers showing up the first night, “the people I knew weren’t there yet, and there was nobody to vouch for me. Jeff came through the door and of course, he wasn’t going to vouch for me, because he didn’t know me. My friends came walking in and apparently, I was a little rude.” Jeff responds, “She pushed me aside to get to her friends, so it didn’t make the first best impression.”

Jeff and TheareVCU Scenic Design Professor, Ron Keller, at Beth and Jeff’s wedding reception in Winchester, VA. 1992

They were “just friends” for almost two years before they started dating. They married in October 1992.

After graduating, Beth, worked on some feature films in Virginia, but decided she “wanted to be at the other end of the fax machine in California, so I dragged Jeff to LA.” Jeff had been working in the Art Department for movies before they moved, but when they got there, “I could find work, but we both hated LA, so we wound up in San Francisco and loved it.”

jeff speaking on stage holding a microphone
Jeff giving the curtain speech for Arlo Guthrie at the American Theater in Hampton

They returned to DC in 1994, eventually settling in Strasburg, Virginia, where they have lived for over 15 years. Beth had a successful career in public communications for non-profits and public policy advocacy before moving to the National Park Service in 2011, where she served at Richmond National Battlefield Park and Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site in Richmond. She returned to DC in 2015 to work on the 2016 NPS Centennial and is now in the Service’s office of communications.

Beth speaking at “We cannot stand alone,” a National Park Service commemoration of the 150th birthday of civil rights pioneer Maggie Lena Walker in 2014.

Jeff explains his career switch. “It was hard to be married in the movie business, so I returned to my artistic roots,” he said. He became the Managing Director of the Franklin Park Arts Center, opening and leading Loudoun County’s first dedicated arts venue. Afterward, he served as the Artistic Director at the American Theater for the Hampton Arts Commission and later became the executive director of The Historic Masonic Theater and Masonic Amphitheater. Jeff successfully reopened the 130-year-old facility in Clifton Forge after its full renovation.

Currently, Jeff holds the position of Director of Community Engagement at Sinclair Health Clinic. His focus is on addressing the health epidemic of loneliness and social isolation.

jeff with legendary Chicago blues tenor saxophonist Eddie Shaw at The American Theater in Hampton
Jeff with legendary Chicago blues tenor saxophonist Eddie Shaw at The American Theater in Hampton, 2016.

Through all their endeavors—including parenting their son Conner who is now 26—Beth and Jeff agree that their relationship, “is the most rewarding creative experience of our lives.”

jeff and beth with their son
Beth, Jeff and Conner in 2022.


Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus), Jerry Williams (BFA ’71), and VCUarts Theatre for the February 2024 Theatre Alumni newsletter