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Released Februrary 18, 2004

VETERAN ACTOR TAKES ON MEDEA

HATTIESBURG -- University of Southern Mississippi professor of theater Monica Hayes will play the leading role for the Department of Theatre and Dance's next season production, Euripides' classic Greek tragedy Medea. The show opens Feb. 27 and runs through March 2 and again March 10-12 in the Martha R. Tatum Theatre.

During their season-planning meeting for 2003-2004, Frank Kuhn, chair of the department, asked Hayes to play the role of Medea.

"It makes sense for acting professors to act from time to time," Hayes said. "In fact, it is essential to good programs across the country. Some lesser programs run by nonprofessionals diminish the study of acting by making it the exclusive realm of students and directing the exclusive realm of faculty."

"The truth is theater does not exist without the actor and the audience. At Southern Miss, we are training students in all aspects of theater. We require all majors to study acting, directing, and design/technology. A major part of the 'teaching' we do is in production, so faculty participate in all aspects of the work and advise students in their work," Hayes explained.

The fourth production of the 2003-04 season also features a guest director at the helm. Paul Wiedner, producing director of the Hartford (Connecticut) Stage Company for 12 years, teams up with the department thanks to a long-time acquaintance with Kuhn.

"Paul is an extremely important director in contemporary American theater," Hayes said. "He provides a truly professional relationship for me because we don't have any educational theater status issues, such as faculty/student situations, tenure, promotion, alliances, etc. I can trust that he is working with me as he would with any other professional actor."

The production requires the team of actors and technicians to rehearse fours hours a night, five nights a week until dress rehearsals begin-which take even longer. Hayes described the collaborative environment for work as enjoyable for everyone, thanks to Weidner.

"Paul encourages the students and speaks to them with respect, helping them make every moment active and honest. He also listens to their ideas and makes each actor part of the artistic process," Hayes said.

A professional actor in her own right, Hayes hopes to illustrate to students how the process is key to the performance. "All of the work we do in classes plays a part in production," Hayes explained.

She also credits her colleagues for their professional design work in making the production a success--Stephen Judd for sets, Brian Hapcic for sound, and Larry Mullican for costumes and graduate student Ben Wheeler for lighting. "It's one of the most exciting set designs we've ever done," Hayes stated.

A member of Actors Equity Association, Hayes has acted professionally in the United States, Scotland, and England. Local audiences have seen her work on the Southern Miss mainstage in past productions of Shakespeare's As You Like It, Arthur Miller's The Crucible and in a showcase of Love Letters.

"(Medea) is one of the most demanding roles ever written. My age and life experiences are helpful in the preparing for the work," Hayes said.

Tickets for Medea are now on sale at the Southern Miss Ticket Office. The show runs Feb. 26-March 1 at 7:30 p.m. (2 p.m. on Feb. 29) and again March 10-12 at 7:30 p.m. nightly.

Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 for Southern Miss faculty and staff and senior citizens and $6 for students ($2 for Southern Miss students with ID). Call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425 for tickets, or order online at www.usm.edu/tickets.

A benefit brunch has been planned for the Feb. 29 Sunday matinee. The 2 p.m. matinee will follow the noon brunch in the Martha R. Tatum Theatre. Tickets for the brunch and performance are $25 per person. To reserve a space, call the Department of Theatre and Dance at (601) 266-4994. All brunch proceeds will benefit the department.

Student matinees are available as well March 8 and 9 at 10 a.m. Call the Department of Theatre and Dance at (601) 266-4994 for more information.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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