January 26, 2013 9:30:24 PM
The Mississippi Theatre Association held its 2013 Theatre Festival in Columbus Jan. 17-20 at Mississippi University for Women. This year's festival saw an increase in the number of attendees, maxing out at over 660 people representing six community theaters and 15 high schools. Theaters from Hattiesburg, Picayune, Tupelo and Meridian were awarded top honors in the community theater and secondary divisions.
According to MTA Executive Director Stephen Cunetto, "The Board was very pleased with the turnout at this year's state festival and the support provided by MUW and the Columbus community."
In addition to the theater competition, which resulted in five community theater productions and nine high school productions, the four-day event also featured a 10-minute Play Festival, Theatre for Youth Festival, workshops, networking opportunities and staged readings of two original works, which were selected as part of the organization's annual playwriting competition for adults and youth.
"This year we were very pleased to have Billy Brasfield, also known as Billy B, as our keynote speaker," said Cunetto. Brasfield, a native of Aberdeen, spoke to an auditorium filled with people interested in hearing how he made it as a makeup artist.
"Brasfield's message struck a chord with attendees of all ages as he spoke from the heart about his experiences and the endless number of celebrities he worked with, but more importantly about how he learned to be himself and encouraged everyone to get out of their own way and to find their passion," Cunetto expressed.
The highlight and major focus of the festival was the community theater and secondary theater competitions. Adjudicators from outside the state selected winners for both divisions, as well as for numerous acting and technical awards.
In the Community Division, Tupelo Community Theatre's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and Meridian's Company of Angels at the Temple's production of "The Boys in Autumn" won the Warren McDaniel Award for Best Production. Starkville Community Theatre's production of "Dinner with Friends" won first runner up. Tom Booth, director of the Tupelo production, won Best Director. In the Secondary Division, Oak Grove High School's production of "In a Grove: Three Japanese Ghost Stories" won the Dominic J. Cunetto Award for Best Production, while Picayune Memorial High School's production "Elephant's Graveyard" won first runner up. Suzanne Allmon, Oak Grove High School, won the Best Director award. For a complete listing of awards visit the MTA website at mta-online.org.
At the awards ceremony Jan. 20, Obra Quave, retired theater faculty from William Carey University, was awarded the Cowboy Maloney Award for his outstanding contributions to theater in Mississippi. Quave has had a long career teaching hundreds of students the value of the arts and theater. He has won numerous awards and advanced to the Region IV of the American College Theatre Festival and had a production performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. In 2005 he received the John F. Kennedy Center Gold Medallion of Excellence, a lifetime achievement award bestowed on rare occasions for excellence in teaching theater.
MTA is sponsored in part by grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Sponsors included Mainstage Theatrical Supply, 4Wall Entertainment and BancorpSouth. For more information, visit mta-online.org or contact Cunetto at 662-418-3870 or [email protected]