Starkville High School students in the cast of “The Beggar’s Opera” prepare for competition at the Mississippi Theatre Association Festival in Gulfport. Pictured above, from left, are Elizabeth Underwood, Akane Little, Rex Ames, Allison Crow, George Bennett, Mary Kate Hughes, Lacy Claire Whitten, Barnes Locke, Steve Jones, Anna Shaw and, seated, Tyler Griffith.
Photo by: Courtesy Photo
January 8, 2012 12:37:00 AM
When the 2012 Mississippi Theatre Association Festival opens Jan. 12 in Gulfport, Golden Triangle thespians will be ready for their cues. Acting enthusiasts from Columbus and Starkville will compete in the four-day event, and local audiences are being offered some sneak previews.
Columbus' Laura Beth Berry will compete in the Adult Individual Events category, reprising a dramatic monologue from her role as "Hannah Jelkes" in Tennessee Williams' "The Night of the Iguana." The play was performed in September in Rent Auditorium during the 2011 Tennessee Williams Tribute and Tour of Victorian Homes.
Starkville Community Theatre is one of six community groups from around the state competing at the festival. Director Kris Lee and cast members Benjamin Lang, Rick Jordan, Paul Ruff and Jessica Taylor will take their "Cabin 12" before the judges. The play examines the tension and grief of a father and son who have come to a strange town in West Virginia to arrange for the burial of their son and brother.
SCT Publicity Chair Pattye Archer cautions the material and language of "Cabin 12" are much stronger than anything produced for the community group's regular season. It is not appropriate for children.
"The show was selected for its merits as a competition piece, and we're extremely proud of this production," said Archer. "However, we recognize this show is not a show for everyone."
Local adult audiences will have a chance to see the one-act play at McComas Theatre on the Mississippi State University campus Thursday, Jan. 12, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for college-age students.
"'Cabin 12' is a very powerful, moving play with an extraordinarily good cast and director, and I feel sure it will make an impact at MTA. Win or not, it's going to be one people will talk about and remember," said Paula Mabry, a frequent director for SCT productions, as well as a board member of the organization. Mabry also serves as drama consultant at Starkville High School.
Up through the ranks
Starkville High School will be among three high schools representing North Mississippi, thanks to a win at the regional level.
Student actors, directed by Carol Hairfield, will perform an adaptation of "The Beggar's Opera" for the statewide Secondary Division competition. They will also present a local public performance at McComas Theatre Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.
The comedic production, which Mabry suggests would be enjoyable for PG13 audiences, is set in the 1700s, in Europe.
Stephen Cunetto of Starkville is executive director of the Mississippi Theatre Association. The Secondary Division state award is named for his father, Dr. Dominic Cunetto, who originated the school competition in the early 1960s.
"Theaters from all over the state will be performing throughout the weekend, and attendees will be able to participate in workshops Friday and Saturday," said Cunetto. A Community Theatre Summit and Playwrights' Summit will also be presented.
To learn more about the MTA festival, visit mta-online.org.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.