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Released June 17, 2003

SOUTHERN ARENA THEATRE WELCOMES GUEST DIRECTOR

HATTIESBURG - The summer repertory company at The University of Southern Mississippi welcomes guest director Cynthia White, a nationally renowned theater director from Seattle, Wash.

White will direct the Southern Arena Theatre's first show of the 2003 season, Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer." Opening July 3, the play is a comedy about a young 18th-century gentleman who is shy when speaking with women of his own class, but eloquent with those of "lower station."

As a director, White believes the emotional release of a good story with a group of people is what excites her most about theater. She calls it "the essential act of theater - actors sharing a story with the audience." White also attributes actor training as a key element in performing a piece such as "She Stoops to Conquer."

"Actors train in order to develop the flexibility to perform in plays of different periods, cultures and styles," White explained.

"I don't think the complexity and difficulty of actor training is generally appreciated. We all recognize that ballet dancers need to train in order to do deep plies and high leaps. Athletes need to train and be in shape. Actors need to hone skills that allow them to speak 18th-century language as naturally and easily as they converse with their buddies over lunch."

White accepted the directing position for the summer at Southern Miss in part because she loves training actors. While working with students in a rehearsal situation, she gets the opportunity to teach, as well as direct.

"It is important to have guest directors like Cynthia White come to Southern Miss," said Frank Kuhn, chair of the university's Department of Theatre and Dance. "Hattiesburg is not geographically near many theater centers, so it is important for us to find ways for our students to connect with the profession as it exists around the country. Guest artists are an important part of our program. We are particularly lucky to have someone with Cynthia's skills and range of experience - our students are learning a lot from her."

Having started her own acting career in high school, White believed it to be her calling. But after 10 years of practicing her craft, she decided to go to graduate school and study directing.

"I admire actors for putting everything on the line in each performance - it is hard work," White said. "It is important for the actor to be able to trust the director and the notes the director is giving them. The directing process starts off with the director knowing more about the characters than the actors do, but then, about half way through, there comes a time when the actor takes over that knowledge and is able to shape the show and the character each night when it is performed."

White's participation in SAT 2003 is not her first theater job in Mississippi. She worked on Bill C. Davis' "Mass Appeal" at the New Stage in Jackson during the late 1980s.

After earning her bachelor's degree in theatre from Lawrence University in Wisconsin and her MFA in directing from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, White directed for Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Pioneer Theatre Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Utah Shakespeare Festival, and a number of colleges and universities throughout the county. White's enjoyment of working on new plays led her to work as director of play development while she was in Oregon.

Evening performances of SAT productions start at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee July 20 of "She Stoops to Conquer," in the Gilbert F. Hartwig Theatre. Individual show tickets are $10 for regular admission, $8 for senior citizens, Southern Miss faculty and staff and $6 for students.

Season tickets, including all three productions, are $25 for regular admission, $20 for senior citizens, Southern Miss faculty and staff and $15 for students.

For tickets, call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425. Order online at www.tickets.usm.edu. Tickets may be purchased at the theater box office one hour prior to curtain time for each performance.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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