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Released April 5, 2005


HattiesburgProduced by The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Theatre and Dance, Big Love--a provocative, sexy play by Charles Mee-- will open April 14 at the Martha Tatum Theatre.

The final production of the department's 2004-05 season, the show features men who drop in from helicopters; highly charged physicality that is athletic and sensual, yet explosive; and a climactic wedding dance between brides and grooms that has a surprising ending.

The play is inspired by what is possibly the earliest surviving play of the western world, The Suppliant Maidens, by Aeschylus (c. 490 B.C.). But, this play is no museum theatre piece--it is the story of 50 brides who arrive in Italy after fleeing Greece and the 50 cousins to whom they have been forcibly betrothed.

Andy Elliott, graduate director of the show, explained that Mee's Big Love takes the "heightened theatre of the ancient Greeks and places an old story in a contemporary setting."

Using universal themes of love, greed, control and imprisonment, the play declares love as the greatest human virtue, be it love for another, love of control, or even love for the material," Elliott said. "Love is what people live for, and to take that away is to take away the humanity of a person."

When the brides seek asylum with the villa's family--only to be confronted with an invasion of angry cousins bent on getting what they have been promised--the villa becomes a scene of carnage, seduction, and violation.

"This production gives our students the chance to work on a cutting-edge play from today's theatre, which is challenging and demanding from every point of view," said Lou Rackoff, visiting professor of directing at Southern Miss.

"Mee's play raises compelling questions and intentionally provokes controversy, and the production's high theatricality is exciting and very contemporary," Rackoff explained. "Big Love will be a very dynamic theatre event at Southern Miss, as it has been at many other universities and regional theatres throughout the country."

An historian by profession, Mee is one of the most celebrated contemporary American playwrights currently working in America, and his work has been performed worldwide, most recently in Paris. Hhis plays are often consumed by a longing to understand the nature of human love and its evolving definitions through place and time.

The playwright also has a local tie: he is the brother of Elizabeth Anglin, retired professor of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Southern Miss.

Stephen Judd, director of theater at Southern Miss, calls Big Love "a play of excess."

"It is theatre on a grand scale, almost operatic in its scope and its imagination," Judd stated. "It also uses icons of popular culture, including music, to heighten its effect and gain our involvement."

Part of the "grand scale" of the show was provided through a unique collaboration. The Southern Miss Army ROTC corps, under the leadership of Lt. Col. Kevin Dougherty, provided special training to several members of the cast for some of the physical elements of the production.

Cadets John Ferrell and James Alexander taught the actors how to tie a rappel seat and hook up and how to rappel off an inclined wall and vertical wall. David Stellhorn, technical director and assistant professor of theatre, was in charge of the "operation."

"This was a great experience for both my guys and David," Dougherty said. "I thought Ferrell and Alexander provided very comprehensive and professional training, and the actors did great. After a couple of rappels, they looked like they'd been doing it all their lives.

"I challenged one of the actors to make it to the bottom in three bounds, thinking that would really push him. He did it in two."

Elliott, a third-year graduate student of Thibodaux, La., also directed the 2003-04 season's successful Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grille. The technical staff also includes Phillip Wingerter, a senior B.F.A. student of Kenner, La., as set designer; M.F.A. student Eric Dahm of Ocean Springs as costume designer; M.F.A. student Ben Wheeler of Pensacola, Fla., as lighting designer; and senior Brandon Belote of Vienna, Va., as sound designer. Sophomore Myra Schodlebauer of Mobile, Ala., serves as choreographer.

The large cast includes Dori Garziano (Lydia) of Pass Christian; Mika Lanier (Thyona) of Rockwell, Texas; Beth Delozier (Olympia) of Silver Spring, Md.; Joe Styron (Guilliano) of Covington, La.; Kathy Newman (Bella) of Rome, Ga.; Keone Fuqua (Pierero) of Mobile, Ala.; Lee Crouse (Nikos) of Magnolia, Ark.; Chad Martin (Constantine) of Piney Flats, Tenn.; Isaac Gardner (Oed) of Starkville; Tim O'Neal (Leo) of Meraux, La; and Natalie Bixby (Eleanor) of Metairie, La.

Also in the cast as brides, grooms, and understudies for all the named roles are Alexandra Taylor of Birmingham, Ala.; Sherrie Thompson of Biloxi; Lindsey Knox of Scooba; Kacey Musick of Gulfport; Courtney Higginbotham of Moselle; Zdenko Slobodnik of Madison; Matt Mazara of Long Beach; Robbie Cox of Cordova, Tenn.; and Scot Walker of Picayune.

Big Love opens at 7:30 p.m. April 14 and runs through April 16, then again April 20-23, with a 2 p.m. matinee April 24. Be aware that the play has brief nudity, strong language, and adult themes and is strongly recommended for mature audiences only.

Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 for Southern Miss faculty and staff and senior citizens, and $6 for students. Call (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425 for tickets and information, or order tickets online at


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April 19, 2005 1:00 PM