Writer: Lisa Parker
Southern Arena Theatre at the University of Southern Mississippi is celebrating another year of upbeat summer entertainment for the Hattiesburg area with its 33rd season of repertory theater, appropriately themed "A Lovely Summer Evening."
"This is a big tradition for both Southern Miss and Hattiesburg," says Lou Rackoff, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance and producer of the 2009 season. "It's a major entertainment focus in the summer."
Southern Arena Theatre (SAT) is a collaborative effort between students and faculty of Southern Miss’ Department of Theatre and Dance. Like a professional theatre company, both cast and crew work during the summer months to produce multiple shows in a night-to-night full repertory.
This summer's SAT season will consist of two shows, John Cariani's "Almost, Maine" and Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest."
The season will open June 25 in the Gilbert F. Hartwig Theatre with "Almost, Maine," a heartwarming, modern romantic comedy whose characters are normally grounded, but have become very excited by love and other extraordinary occurrences under the northern lights.
The show has been popular throughout the country, says Rackoff, but is new for SAT audiences. Robin Carr, Southern Miss associate professor of voice and acting, serves as director.
"This romantic and magical production is a series of vignettes about the warmth of love during the cold Maine winter," Carr said.
Oscar Wilde's witty production, "The Importance of Being Earnest" will open July 2 in the Martha R. Tatum Theatre. It offers a lighthearted escape, and was described by Wilde as showing "that we should treat all the trivial things of life seriously, and the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality."
Sean Boyd, the department's assistant professor of movement and acting, has directed for SAT for the past two years. He will return this season to direct Wilde’s play.
For the students, SAT is a full-time commitment that is both challenging and demanding. The average rehearsal day is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and every actor has at least one role in each show. Students within the company also design and construct the sets and costumes used in the shows.
Shelby Cade, an SAT cast member approaching her senior year at Southern Miss, will be returning for a second season. Cade plays one of the young lovers in "Earnest" and three different roles in "Almost Maine."
"What's great about SAT is that it's so student-driven," says Cade, a Greenwood native. "Students make up the cast and designers, even the box office and publicity teams."
Boyd feels the summer atmosphere is "extremely vibrant" and "community-driven."
"It's so rare to have a [repertory] company like this," he said. "Only the biggest schools have this kind of thing. It's a unique situation here. We're not in a big metropolitan area, but the students have the same drive as those in a large theater company in a bigger city.”
"Almost Maine" performances are set for June 25, 26 and 27; and July 9, 11, 15, 17, 23 and 25, with a matinee on July 19. Performances of "The Importance of Being Earnest" are scheduled for July 2, 3, 8, 10, 16, 18, 22 and 24, with matinees on July 5, 19, and 26.
Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and matinees begin at 2 p.m. Individual show tickets are $12 for adults; $10 for senior citizens, Southern Miss faculty, staff and military; and $6 for students. Tickets will be available to the general public beginning June 15, 2009.
For tickets, call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at 601.266.5418 or 800.844.8425. Order online at www.southernmisstickets.com. Tickets may also be purchased at the theater box office one hour prior to curtain time for each performance on a space available basis.
For more information, on the Web visit www.usm.edu/theatre or contact Lou Rackoff at 601.266.4994.Chris Marroy and Twoey Truong in “The Importance of Being Earnest”
Brooke Aiello, Sean Scrutchins and Shelby Cade in “Almost, Maine”
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.