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Released July 16, 2003

SOUTHERN ARENA THEATRE PRESENTS PLAY OF CHILDREN'S STORIES

HATTIESBURG - Southern Arena Theatre at The University of Southern Mississippi has a special treat in store for children and parents alike when it presents Lorraine Thompson's children's play "Storyville" July 23-26.

"Storyville" is a medley of favorite children's stories retold and interwoven to bring fairy tale delight to the faces of children while introducing them to classic characters like the Little Red Hen and the Gingerbread Man.

"Kids today do not have many experiences with fairy tales," Thompson said. "What children see now are slick stories, and this play is something very familiar that the parents can share with their children."

Frank Kuhn, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Southern Miss, included this unique play in the SAT season as part of the university's commitment to serve the surrounding communities in as many ways as possible.

"I've often heard people say that there are not enough theater opportunities for children in Hattiesburg," Kuhn said. "Our production of "Storyville" is meant, in part, to address that need."

Cast member Beth DeLozier adds that this is a great opportunity for her and the other student actors as well. "We can explore the stories from our youth in a theatrical setting and share our interpretations with the audience," Delozier said. "Theater, after all, is about communication and sharing with the community.

"A young audience gives us a new and exciting chance to explore the reaction of our performance by the nuances of the upcoming generation."

Actor Joey Plaia admits that this is his first performance in a children's show, but happily anticipates the experience. "This kind of opportunity was never given to me as a child, and I am anxious to involve the children of the area with something that I love so deeply. I am proud to be working with such a talented and open cast in bringing these stories to life."

Second-year graduate directing student Andrew Elliott will direct the production. "The lessons and morals taught in "Storyville" are pertinent to all, no matter how modern the world or the audience becomes over the years. It is easy to see these fables as shallow stories without seeing the application to the world as a whole.

"To appreciate their full richness, one must look further and find the humanism buried underneath and between the lines. The presentation is, of course, entertaining, but line by line, life's lessons are there, fully awake and ready to teach all who listen."

The story of "Storyville" evolved from necessity. The combination of a touring troupe in need of a show and a lack of funds prompted Thompson, who teaches drama classes at Athens Academy in Athens, Ga., to create the play and bring live theater into her community. Her school troupe, The Athens Academy Players, debuted her play in schools and daycare centers around Athens, Ga.

Although a children's play, "Storyville" is intended for all ages, and Thompson said parents and children alike will enjoy it.

"'Storyville" is an excellent introduction to theater for young people," Kuhn said. "It retains much of the form and many of the conventions of telling stories, while adding the element of fun in seeing them acted out. The balance of narration and enactment creates a sort of bridge to theater for children."

Thompson holds a bachelor of arts in education from Auburn University, a master of fine arts in theater from the University of Georgia and has served as a master teacher for the state theater of Georgia. Her workshop credits include the Athens Area Association on Young Children, the Georgia Independent Schools Association, and the Madison County Grassroots Arts Grant Program. She also is a professional actress, having played at the Highlands Playhouse, the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, and The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse. Thompson is a member of the Southeastern Theatre Conference and the Educational Theatre Association.

The production will begin at 10 a.m. each day at the Woods Showcase Theatre in the Theatre and Dance Building. Tickets for "Storyville" are $4 per person. Call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425 for tickets or order online at www.tickets.usm.edu. Available tickets also may be purchased at the theater box office one hour prior to curtain time for each performance. For more information about the children's production, call the Department of Theatre and Dance at Southern Miss at (601) 266-4994.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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