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Released April 13, 2004

SOUTHERN MISS THEATRE ENDS SEASON WITH COMEDY

HATTIESBURG --The final production of the 2003-04 season for the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Southern Mississippi will be Bruce Graham's Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, a comic tale about the end of the world. The show opens April 22 and runs through May 2 in the Gilbert F. Hartwig Theatre.

As nuclear bombs destroy the United States, the working-class patrons of a small bar in the coal regions of Pennsylvania hash out their options for their last few hours on earth--until a rather calm visitor arrives and makes a strange offer. In the midst of the ensuing silliness, six characters cope with the trials and tribulations they face on the verge of apocalypse. Billed as a "serio-comedy," the play may deal with a very grim premise, but the script is filled with lots of humor.

"The play is about the faith we must have in each other to make it through the hardest, as well as the sweetest, of times," according to director Andy Elliott, a theater graduate student from Thibodaux, La.

Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill premiered in December 1986 at the Philadelphia Festival Theatre for New Plays, where Graham is currently playwright-in-residence and interim artistic director. WPA Theatre in New York City subsequently produced the play.

Graham's other plays include Moon over the Brewery; Burkie; Minor Demons; Devious Means; Belmont Avenue Social Club; Top of the World; The Champagne Charlie Stakes; A Very Nice Neighborhood; and Desperate Affection. In addition to his playwriting credits, he co-wrote the recent film Dunston Checks In, starring Jason Alexander and Faye Dunaway, and the animated feature Anastasia with Meg Ryan and Angela Lansbury.

Frequently compared to playwright Neil Simon, Graham has a knack for turning ordinary situations into the stuff of comedy. Audiences often see how he uses comedy to cut to the core of some of the fundamental issues of human nature--in the words of the playwright, "the stupidity and greed of people in general."

In a 1986 interview, Graham summed up the theme of Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, by noting, "It all comes down to human decency and common sense to keep us from wiping ourselves out."

This Graham play is not the first one produced at Southern Miss. His play Moon over the Brewery was a hit in the department's Southern Arena Theatre's summer 2001 season.

Student designers Scott Reeves (scenic) of Chalmette, La., Eric Griffis (costumes) of Camden, Ark., and Laura Happel (lighting) of Owego, N.Y., are responsible for developing the atmosphere of the bar and its habitués.

Tickets are now on sale at the Southern Miss Ticket Office. The show runs at 7:30 p.m. nightly April 22-24 and April 28-May 1 and at 2 p.m. May 2.

Tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for Southern Miss faculty and staff and senior citizens, and $6 for students. To purchase tickets, call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at (601) 266-5418 or (800) 844-8425 or order online at www.usm.edu/tickets.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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