By BRIAN HAWKINS
Starkville Community Theatre and Starkville High School’s Drama Department on Sunday proved that when it comes to having a flair for the dramatic, few do it better than those locally.
Both SCT’s production of Dick Marcott’s play, “The Dixie Swim Club,” and the SHS production of Kenneth Scollon’s “The Purple Fan” won numerous honors in competition over the weekend at the Mississippi Theatre Association Festival in Meridian.
Both productions advanced to regional competition at the 62nd annual Southeastern Theatre Conference in Atlanta, Ga., March 2 to 6.
SCT and SHS received the awards during the MTA Festival luncheon on Sunday.
Retired Starkville High School drama teacher and long-time SCT member and director Paula Mabry was honored with the MTA’s first-ever award for Outstanding Contribution to Theatre in Mississippi.
SCT President Alison Stamps, who attended the MTA Festival and conference over the weekend, said the awards won by SHS and SCT are indicative of the strong community support for the fine arts.
“It just goes to show that when you have the support, the quality performances will keep coming,” said Stamps. “There was some really quality theatre performed in Meridian this weekend, so it’s quite an honor that both SCT and Starkville High were recognized and chosen to go on to regional competition.”
“This is representative of the excellence in our community and the emphasis we place on the arts and arts education.”
The recognition for Mabry is especially significant, Stamps said.
“We are all so thrilled for Paula,” Stamps said. “She is a big part of the reason why theatre is so strong in Starkville.”
SCT’s MTA winning streak continues
In the community theatre division, SCT’s production was named runner-up for the Warren McDaniel Award for the Best Production, which went to Hattiesburg’s Just Over the Rainbow Theatre for its production of “Driving Miss Daisy.”
The top two productions in the community theatre competition division advance to SETC competition. The win for SCT will make the fourth time in five years that an SCT show has advanced to regional competition.
In addition to the best production runner-up award, SCT’s “The Dixie Swim Club” also won best actress honors for Madeline Golden, best supporting actress honors for Terry McDowell and the best costume design award.
“The Dixie Swim Club” is the story of five Southern women, whose friendships began many years ago on their college swim team.
The five gather for a weekend every August at the same beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to catch up, laugh, and meddle in each other’s lives and to recharge their relationships.
The action of the show focuses on four of those weekends over a 33-year period.
The show’s director, Lyle Tate, said he and his cast were pleased with the show’s performance Saturday afternoon at Mississippi State’s Riley Center in downtown Meridian.
“All our remarks from the adjudicators were encouraging, and most comments dealt with technical things we can improve. They said wonderful things about the acting performances,” Tate said. “We’re just excited we get to do it again and take it on the road to Atlanta.”
For McDowell and Golden, the acting honors they received were not the first time either actress had been recognized in MTA competition.
In previous MTA years, McDowell has won All-Star Cast honors and shared the best supporting actress honors with her castmates in SCT’s production of “The Octet Bridge Club” in 1986.
“I’m calling this one my first individual award. I’m so thrilled. I was beside myself and crying when they called my name,” McDowell said. “We’re all just as happy as we can be about going to SETC, especially since the competition was stiff this year. We’re not through swimming yet.”
For Golden, her win as best actress on Sunday marked the second time she won that award. She previously won the best actress award for her role as Vera Sanders in “Smoke on the Mountain” in 2007.
“It’s so wonderful. The best part of this is being on stage with these friends. We had so much fun and got a great audience response,” Golden said. “We’re so excited to be going to Atlanta.”
SHS win a significant accomplishment
In the MTA Festival’s high school division, SHS’ win of the Dominic J. Cunetto Award for Production of “The Purple Fan” marks the first time since 1997 that the school has advanced to regional competition at SETC.
Based on an Asian folk tale that Scollon adapted, “The Purple Fan” focuses on a peasant boy, Jing Ho, as he searches for the missing prince, who was kidnapped years ago.
Traveling with the boy is a ghost, Jug Lui, who witnessed the kidnapping. Jing Ho uncovers a magical purple fan, which will ring bells when it hits the true prince on the head.
The show is unique because it uses cast members to create the scenery for telling the story on stage.
“The kids did such a good job. It was the best performance we’ve ever done of the show,” said SHS drama teacher Mandy Kinney.
In addition to its first place honors, “The Purple Fan” also won the award for best scenic design/concept and best ensemble cast. Three students — Akane Little, Victoria Hearn and Rex Ames — were named to the All-Star Cast.
Several SHS students also competed for awards in individual threatrical events as part of the MTA festival. Those winners include:
• Female musical solo performance — Mary Kate Hughes, first place; Sarah Beth Sewell, second place.
• Poster design — George Bennett, third place.
• Male musical solo performance — Davis Richardson, first place; Caleb Jackson, third place.
• Musical duet performance — Lauren and Mary Kate Hughes, second place.
• Female monologue performance — Laura Kathryn Lindsay.
• Group scene performance — Nick Bell, Ti Davis, Colin Damms and Mike Klaskala, third place.
• Best actor, 10-Minute Play Festival — George Bennett.
• Best director, 10-Minute Play Festival — Rachael Damms.
• All-Star Cast, 10-Minute Play Festival — Hunter Smith.
• Best Props, 10-Minute Play Festival — Rachael Damms.
• Best Poster, 10-Minute Play Festival — Rachael Damms.
“I am really proud of these kids. I am so floored by all these awards,” Kinney said.