STARKVILLE — On stage, Krista Vowel is a complicated character.
Her name is Betty and she”s caught up in the middle of a tense love triangle involving her ex-husband and one of his childhood friends. Her brother, meanwhile, tries to maintain the peace.
In real life, Vowel is president of the Starkville Community Theatre. And next week she”s heading to Tacoma, Wash., along with 11 other members of Starkville”s theater group, to play Betty on stage at the American Association of Community Theatres Festival. They will perform in a competition against community theater groups from nearly a dozen other regions around the U.S.
The trip to Washington is the culmination of months of hard work, Vowel said, which has paid off with best production awards at both the Mississippi Theatre Association Festival in Natchez in January and at the Southeastern Theatre Conference”s Community Theatre Festival in Birmingham this March. The win in Birmingham qualified the group for the national competition in Tacoma.
The cast this week will perform “Catfish Moon” one last time in Starkville before leaving for Washington.
The show is set for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in McComas Hall Auditorium at Mississippi State University. The group has been trying to raise the $20,000 needed to pay for the trip to Washington and is using the show Thursday to raise additional funds.
“I believe with our fundraising performance Thursday night we will reach our goal,” Vowel said.
Tickets for the performance are $30 for one person and $50 for two. The SCT box office, located at The Playhouse on Main in downtown Starkville, will be open today and tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets also will be available at the door.
Directed by Kris Lee, “Catfish Moon” stars Paul Ruff, Gabe Smith, Vowell and Marcus Vowell.
The four actors and eight other cast members are leaving early next week for the festival, which begins June 24 and ends June 27.
Vowel and SCT Secretary Cindy Ruff said the group is excited — and a bit nervous — about the upcoming trip. Ruff works on props behind the scenes and her husband, Paul, is one of the actors. “I”ve talked to a lot of the cast members and a couple of them tend to get more nervous than the others, but the nerves really aren”t that bad because we”re just so excited to be going,” Vowel said. “The nerves are probably going to kick in when we see the big theater down there and we see the other performers. We”re excited to see what they bring, as well.”
Vowel said there”s no secret to the group”s success.
“I think part of it is the fact that we have such an eclectic community in Starkville,” Vowel said. “The university brings in a lot of different personalities, a lot of different talent pools. Our community is wider than Starkville. We”re sort of easy to get to so we can draw on neighboring communities.”
“But, really, I think this theater group is fortunate in that we”re a huge family,” she continued. “That family includes anyone that walks in the door. We love meeting new people. We love having new talent in. And we have grown over the years to where we”re proud to say that we”re very, very professional with what we do. We pride ourselves on running our rehearsals and our auditions and different things with a level of professionalism you may not find in other community theaters. At the same time, at the end of the day, we really like to have fun with it.”
The trip to Washington is the first time the Starkville Community Theatre has ever participated in the national competition. It”s only the third time a group from Mississippi has ever qualified, Ruff said. Greenville”s theater group has gone to the national competition twice, she said.
Most of the cast is flying, but one volunteer, Mike Tate, is driving the set out to Washington in a rental truck. The set consists of a heavy pier the group didn”t feel comfortable shipping, Vowel said.
The group plans to leave the set in Washington after the performance.
For more information on the performance in Starkville Thursday night, call 662-323-6855, or visit www.sct-online.org.
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