Let the curtain rise. Places, everyone, and ACTION. Community theatre is back in Pascagoula—it’s been a long time coming, but the results will ultimately prove that it has been worth the wait.
When the newly formed Singing River Little Theatre rolls out Blithe Spirit on March 19 & 20 at the Assembly Hall on the Jackson County Fairgrounds, years of planning and effort will reach a joyous culmination. Recreating a community theatre for the Pascagoula area has long been a goal of the Pascagoula Strategic Plan Steering Committee. The latest push, spearheaded by committee member and local activist Chris Wiggins, has now put the ball in the metaphorical end zone.
A little context first. Our city had a vibrant and popular community theatre, the Pas-Point Little Theatre, from 1948-1983. There was a neat, cozy theatre located on South Market Street (building is still there, across from the American Legion), where hundreds of quality productions with local talent and skilled directors took place before sold out crowds. Occasionally, for certain elaborate presentations, larger venues were used. Just a few examples of the plays and musicals brought forth include South Pacific, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion in Winter, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Importance of Being Earnest, and many, many more. Sadly, due to funding and leadership issues, the PPLT eventually went dark after a great run.
Fast forward to 2014. After a successful theatre career in New York, native Pascagoulan Mac Nelson retired to his hometown, and with the help of the city of Pascagoula, started the Pascagoula Senior Players for those 55 and older. This group has been a resounding success, having brought numerous productions to the Senior Center over the past several years, including The Glass Menagerie, The Odd Couple, Plaza Suite and other popular offerings. Coming up for the Senior Players: The Ponder Heart, scheduled for April 28-30 (we’ll do a column on that soon).
Now, the Singing River Little Theatre is ready to bring us full circle back to performing arts excellence in Pascagoula. “East Jackson County actually has a history of live performance that goes all the way back to 1892,” Dr. Wiggins said. “Major groups would bring shows from New Orleans and other venues to a beachfront theatre in those days. Then we had the heyday of the Pas-Point Little Theatre not too long ago. It was time to bring this art form back to the community.”
To help bring this effort to reality, Wiggins acquired the talents of Pascagoula High School theatre instructor Jill Sullivan as director. Sullivan’s local history and her impressive background and abilities have given significant impetus to the SRLT emergence.
“I’m originally from Moss Point,” Sullivan explained. “I was an incredibly shy and withdrawn child, but I was introduced to the performing arts through the Moss Point Children’s Theatre. Theatre literally changed my life, and I want to share its power with others. It’s exciting to resurrect theatre in Pascagoula, especially being part of the resurgence in downtown Pascagoula.”
Blithe Spirit will be an excellent and fun way to kick off this next chapter in performing arts locally. This is a classic Noél Coward production which was originally a huge hit on Broadway in the 1940s as well as a highly honored movie. Billed as “an improbable farce in three acts,” the play is clever and revealing about human nature at the same time
Full disclosure: I do have a supporting role in this production. Let me tell you about one of the best parts of this venture. When I showed up for the first rehearsal, I had never met any of my fellow cast mates—Aaron Barksdale, Sarah Cunningham. Natalie Delk, Stephanie Hartley, and Gabby Kyzar (I did know Sullivan, who will perform as well as direct). They are a delightful, talented group of individuals from diverse backgrounds throughout the area. Hey, isn’t that an element of what community theatre is all about? Plus, it shows what we knew all along — that there is plenty of talent right here in Pascagoula and Jackson County.
OK, so here we go: BlitheSpirit, March 19 (7:00 p.m.) and March 20 (2:00 p.m.), at Assembly Hall on the Jackson County fairgrounds. Tickets are $10, and you may purchase or reserve them in advance at singingriverlittletheatre.com, or pay at the door, which will be open one hour prior to curtain. Those of you who read my column regularly will be familiar with me reminding folks to support our local sports teams by saying “see you at the stadium.” Now that we finally and wonderfully have community theatre back in Pascagoula, I will at this time leave you with “see you at the theatre.”