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Released January 28, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- The timeless tragedy of love, power, and revenge in Euripides' "Medea" comes to life under the guiding hands of guest director Paul Wiedner in the Martha R. Tatum Theatre at The University of Southern Mississippi Feb. 26-March 1 and again March 10-12.

Weidner, producing director of the Hartford (Conn.) Stage Company for 12 years, teams up with the Department of Theatre and Dance at Southern Miss thanks to a long-time acquaintance with department chair Frank Kuhn.

"I first met Paul Weidner when I stage managed for him at the Hartford Stage Company," Kuhn explained. "Through the years, we have been in touch through the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. When the (Southern Miss theatre) faculty decided to invite a guest director in for this year's season, I mentioned the possibility of inviting Paul.

"The faculty was excited at the prospect, though we doubted we could engage him. When he agreed to direct the project, we knew we would have something special."

Because the Southern Miss theatre program is not near a major metropolitan theater center, Kuhn stressed the importance of bringing in artists who are active in the business to work with the students, and his faculty agrees.

Weidner was an "ideal" choice because of his considerable experience as a professional director and his years teaching at New York University-one of the premiere training programs in the United States. Kuhn said Weidner has "an ease" with students.

"We are extraordinarily fortunate that our students can work with someone who has Mr. Weidner's depth and breadth of experience on national and international stages," Kuhn said. "He is highly revered in the profession and has held an office in the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, the national stage directors' union, for most of the last decade.

Having a varied career, Wiedner holds an M.F.A. from the Yale Drama School and has served on the board of directors of the Theater Communications Group and, more recently, as the secretary of the board of the Society for Stage Directors and Choreographers. He has guest-directed for the Seattle Repertory, Arena Stage, the Asolo Theater, Denver Center, Trinity Repertory, Milwaukee Repertory and in New Zealand, Estonia, and Haiti.

Weidner himself promotes the idea of students working with professionals.

"There comes a point in the training of performers--actors, singers, dancers, musicians--when the classroom ends, and the performance has to start," Weidner said. "This moment is the beginning of the student's preparation for the 'real world' of performing, of--to put it bluntly--show biz. It's the moment to learn what it's going to be like away from the campus."

As for the play itself, Euripides' "Medea" is a timeless Greek tragedy-timeless because it addresses life situations encountered still today.

Weidner explained that the elements of "Medea," the battle between men and women, betrayal, suspicion, jealousy, vengeance, political manipulation, duplicity, violence toward people, violence toward children, tribalism, occultism, xenophobia, extremism, the clash of cultures East and West, are "unfortunately as much with us in places all over the world as they were 2000 years ago in Greece, where Asia and the emerging West met head-on."

"Some 2000 years ago, Greek dramas were more like what we think of as operas," Weidner said. "There was a lot of music, dancing, singing--all of it completely lost to us now over the years--which, like opera, elevated the events onstage to a different plane from everyday life.

"But Euripides, the last of the major Greek playwrights, tended to move things toward a more realistic treatment, especially in his somewhat shocking interest in the role of women in society."

Leaping forward 2000 years, Weidner chose an adaptation of the play by Robinson Jeffers, a 20th-century American poet.

"His approach is also more realistic--it is poetic, but well-grounded, flexible, diverse, and psychologically rich," Weidner said. "Our aim in this production is not to play poetry but to dig into the very specific human motives and emotions that charge the events of the story."

To add yet another special facet to the Southern Miss production, Professor Monica Hayes, the head of the acting program in the department, will play the title role of Medea.

Hayes, a member of the Actors Equity Association, has acted professionally in both the United States 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 Stories."

"I spent some time with Monica Hayes, who's playing the title role, briefly getting to know her some and explaining my approach to the show," Weidner said. "I think it's terrific if early on you can include the leading actor in on what direction a show is taking."

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

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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February 18, 2004 3:21 PM