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Released October 28, 2004

SOUTHERN MISS THEATRE GIVES SHAKESPEARE A NEW TWIST
HATTIESBURG -- The Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Southern Mississippi will present William Shakespeare's hilarious comedy of love and intrigue, "Much Ado About Nothing," but with a twist. The production is set in New Orleans during the early 1900s.

Lou Rackoff, former artistic director of the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival and a visiting guest artist with the department for the 2004-05 season, will direct the show.

"The production at Southern Miss is highlighted by the master craftsmanship of Mr. Rackoff, who punctuates the action with sparkling moments of music and dance," said Scot Mann, assistant professor of theatre.

"Much Ado About Nothing" is the Bard's great comedy of war and love. The main characters, Beatrice and Benedict, are among theatre's wittiest and most romantic couples. Their battle of the sexes is witty, sophisticated, and accessible.

For Rackoff, this production brings the action of the play closer to home by setting it in New Orleans after World War I, with an early American jazz background. "Our setting serves to heighten the romance and celebratory quality of the story," Rackoff said.

Rackoff has directed at many professional and university theatres throughout the United States. His recent projects include a nine-person production of "King Lear" for the West Virginia University M.F.A. acting program; Shakespeare's "Lovers" for the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theatre B.F.A. acting program; and "To Kill a Mockingbird" for the Georgia Ensemble Theatre.

He has worked as a production stage manager for the New York Shakespeare Festival and directed a national tour of the company's production of "The Pirates of Penzance."

After receiving an M.F.A. in directing from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Rackoff was an assistant professor of directing and acting at Fordham University--Lincoln Center.

The cast includes Brad Oxnam of Greenwood; Whitney Upton and Keone Fuqua of Mobile, Ala.; Timothy O'Neal of Meraux, La.; Jake Womak of Jackson; Kyle Russell and Dori Garziano of Pass Christian; Joe Styron of Covington, La.; Will Davis of New Orleans, La.; Cory Cunningham of Greenville; Isaac Gardner of Starkville; Chad Martin of Johnson City, Tenn.; James Knotts of Stringer; Zdenko Slobodnik of Madison; Mika Lanier of Rockwall, Texas; Corey Cochran of Waynesboro; Robbie Cox of Cordova, Tenn.; Mason Criswell of Tupelo; and Beth DeLozier of Silver Springs, Md.

The artistic staff includes stage manager Ashley Richwine of New Orleans, La.; assistant director Katie McCrary of Hendersonville, N.C.; scene designer Hyla Stellhorn of Jessamine County, Ky.; lighting designer Mike Post of Washington Township, N.J.; sound designer Ben Wheeler of Augusta, Ga.; costumer by Eric Griffis of Campen, Ark.; and assistant costumer Rebbeca Hickman of Johnson City, Tenn.

Tickets are now on sale at the Southern Miss Ticket Office. The show runs nightly at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11-13 and 18-20 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Martha R. Tatum Theatre in the Theatre and Dance Building.

Tickets are $10 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 and information. Order tickets online at www.usm.edu/tickets.

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November 23, 2004 9:23 AM