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Southern Miss Oral Histories Play to be Part of Theatre Association Festival PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Contact Tearanny Street, 601.266.6823   

A one-act play based on oral histories recorded by the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage will be presented Saturday, Jan.16 at the 2010 Mississippi Theatre Association (MTA) Festival in Tupelo, Miss.

The play, “TUMBLIN’ DOWN” was commissioned by the center as part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Mississippi Oral History Project, a state-funded initiative conducted in collaboration with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Mississippi Humanities Council in August 2008.

“The play is based on actual words from real oral histories taken from our collection,” said Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes, director of the center. “It covers the full expansion of our state’s modern history, from life during the flood of 1927, WWII, the civil rights movement and Hurricane Katrina. The play shares stories from the lives of everyday Mississippians from all walks of life.”

Previously performed in 2009 at the State Capitol and two South Mississippi high schools, “TUMBLIN’ DOWN” was written by G.M. Calhoun, founding patron of the Southern Miss Blaine Quarnstorm Playwright Series. He extended the play from its original 10-minute length to 25 minutes.

“It took several months of reading transcripts and working out which style of play would work best from the source interviews,” Calhoun said. “It was like wrestling an octopus.  With so many interviews and so many stories, the trick was to write a simple framework of a story and then combine parts from many stories into one.”

“TUMBLIN’ DOWN” brings the real experience of Mississippians to life on stage through the expression of high school actors of the WINGS after-school drama program at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport.

“These young actors are true troopers,” Calhoun said. “With a new play it’s tough for any actors to have the playwright there in rehearsal. Yet it’s also priceless for the playwright to be there with the actors and learn what works and what needs to be changed. We’ve all had a blast putting the show together.”

Through the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, Southern Miss has been collecting and preserving the stories of Mississippians since 1971. This oral history collection now contains nearly 4,000 interviews, by far the largest in the state and one of the largest in the South.

The Tupelo “TUMBLIN’ DOWN” performance will include a keynote speech at 6 p.m. by Calhoun about adapting the interviews into a play. The Community Theatre and Secondary Theatre productions will be held at Tupelo Community Theatre, located at 201 North Broadway. Tickets will be sold at the door and are $5 for a block of shows; $15 for the entire day and $25 for the entire weekend of shows and workshops.

After Tupelo, the next scheduled performance of “TUMBLIN’ DOWN” will be as part of the Gulf Coast Symphony Youth Orchestra’s “Mississippi Music” night. In collaboration with WINGS Performing Arts, the curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jefferson Davis Fine Arts Auditorium on the Perkinston campus.

For more information about “TUMBLIN’ DOWN,” visit the Mississippi Theatre Association online at To contact the Gulf Coast Symphony Youth Orchestra, online go to To learn more about the Mississippi Oral History Project and other oral histories of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, contact Dr. Kyriakoudes at 601.266.5622; or visit

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
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