Starkville Community Theater’s Project PLAY is taking participants on a trip to paradise this summer.
Created by M.J. Etua, Project PLAY celebrates its 14 year as a free, theatrical workshop and performance opportunity for Starkville children.
“We give the chance for students to be creative by making this a group effort and work in progress,” Etua said. “The kids have input which lets them feel a sense of ownership of the play and the process.”
Etua, who writes and directs each summer’s original play, said this production will take place in Hawaii, a destination she has researched for some time.
“I was doing research on Hawaii’s conservation issues, and I thought it would make a really good play,” she said. “What amazes me is how little we on the mainland know about Hawaii.”
Titled “The Gathering Place,” this year’s production tells the story of hotel tycoon Boris Wellborn and his company’s destruction of the environment as he attempts to build a resort on one of Hawaii’s islands. After falling into a dream-like state, Wellborn meets the various creatures of Hawaii’s ecosystems and comes to terms with his part in destroying paradise, while given the opportunity to change.
“I wanted to cover everything from geography to culture to history,” Etua said. “I wanted these kids to know Hawaii not just as a state.”
Etua said Project PLAY has always provided the opportunity to teach children about all the aspects of theatre without being in an actual classroom.
“There are a lot of talented kids in this community,” she said. “I’m very thankful to Starkville Community Theatre for providing this outlet.”
Assistant director Janis Ross said she is excited to work with Etua again on “The Gathering Place,” her second production with Project PLAY.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Ross said. “The kids have been awesome and they are really coming out of their shells.”
While in charge of 50-60 children, Ross said she is thankful for the help she receives from participants’ parents during the rehearsal process.
“It’s always so important to have help from the parents,” she said. “Having them there adds a certain calm to the situation.”
Above all, Ross said she is thankful for Project PLAY and the opportunity it provides for children to create and explore.
“The arts are so important,” Ross said. “Because this is free, it gives some kids the chance to do theatre that may not have been able to before.”
Project PLAY will present “The Gathering Place” June 25-30 at the Starkville Community Theater located at 108 East Main St. in downtown Starkville.
For more information, visit http://www.sct-online.org  or call the box office at 662-323-6855.