Tag: 2018 season

JSU Drama has a lot to “give”

Katie Cline, Editor-in-Chief


The show must go on.

That has been the attitude of the JSU Drama Department since the March 19 tornado devastated campus. The department’s home, Stone Center, was relatively unharmed by the winds and debris, but the building is still without phone and Internet access.

Nevertheless, the students, faculty and staff have been hard at work putting together three performances for the last three weeks of the semester.

The poster for “The Giver” features Larry Mason as the Giver. The poster was designed by graphic design major and drama department intern Meghan Lee (photo via Jacksonville State University Drama Department/Facebook)

The Giver

The first performance will be Alpha Psi Omega’s (APO) production of “The Giver.” Based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel, Eric Coble’s stage adaptation follows 12-year-old Jonas and his friends Fiona and Asher as they attempt to defy their black-and-white society.

APO is the national theater honor society. Each year, the members of JSU’s chapter put on a mainstage production that is designed and performed by students. Graduating senior Alexis Robinson served as director for the show.

“We lost a week of rehearsal due to the storm, but compensated with cutting a few technical elements and moving the show dates back a week,” Robinson said. “I put a lot of my faith in my actors that they come back strong after such a long break. My cast and design team really pulled through for all of us and brought together a wonderful show despite the challenges we faced.”

Taking the stage in “The Giver” are new and old faces. Aaron Williams, who JSU theatregoers may recognize as Officer Brannigan from “Guys and Dolls” or Dr. Thomas Stockmann from “An Enemy of the People,” plays Jonas, a departure from his previous adult roles.

“Playing a child has been a real challenge, and something that I have never done before,” Williams said. “There is definitely a fine line between being absolutely ridiculous and authentically playing a child, and I think finding that has been the most difficult part.”

The titular character, the Giver, is portrayed by another drama veteran, Larry Mason, who has taken on such roles as Peter Stockmann in “An Enemy of the People” and Antonio in  “The Tempest.”

(You can watch the full production of “The Tempest” here.)

The full cast includes Brooke Elam (Miranda, “The Tempest”) as Fiona/Rosemary and Eric Wilkerson (Nathan Detroit, “Guys and Dolls”) as Father, as well as students making their stage or speaking debut: Abbie Beatty as Mother/Chief Elder, Anna Marker as Lily and Noah Hudson as Asher.

Brooke Elam (Fiona/Rosemary, left) and Aaron Williams (Jonas, center) perform a scene from “The Giver” during a dress rehearsal. Larry Mason (the Giver, right) watches (photo via Jacksonville State Drama Department (@jsudrama)/Instagram).

“My favorite part about acting is probably really getting into my character,” Beatty, a freshman who had a non-speaking role in February’s production of “Guys and Dolls,” said, “When you play a character on stage, you get to react and do things as they would. It sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s like you get to escape your own world and live in theirs for a while. It’s also cool to see how every actor brings their own personality into their characters in a different way.”

Students also run the show behind the scenes, too. Graduating senior Meg McCrina designed the costumes while Elizabeth Neese and Shelby Washburn were responsible for the set and sound design respectively. Brandon Clark (Sky Masterson, “Guys and Dolls”) serves as assistant technical director; Ansley Gayton is the assistant producer and projections and sound board operator, and Cheyenne Oliver (Drunk, “Guys and Dolls”) will serve as stage manager. Oliver has stage managed several JSU productions such as “An Enemy of the People,” “The Tempest,” and “These Shining Lives.”

“This show has a message for everyone,” Robinson said. “I am so honored to get to direct such a wonderful piece with a message that rings true at any age. Avid fans of the book will see most of their favorite moments portrayed on stage and I hope that we will inspire a few new Lois Lowry fans as well.”

“It is a beautiful story and has a message that I think is relevant right now and is important for people to hear,” Beatty added. “It is powerful, emotional, and thought provoking and I think our audiences will really enjoy seeing this story come to life on stage.”

“The Giver” will run April 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and April 21 at 2:30 p.m. on the Stone Center main stage. Tickets are $10.


(photo via Jacksonville State University Drama Department/Facebook)

The Country Co-ed

Because the department opted to condense the remainder of its season rather than cut a show, many of the students are pulling double or triple duty as the semester winds down.

“As for balance, yeah, I’ve had a lot of trouble recently,” Williams, who is starring in another JSU production, said. “Feeling stretched thin is underselling it, but you sort of have to get used to that in theatre. You can be working on three or four shows at once, and you’ve got to keep them all straight.”

As soon as the curtain falls on “The Giver,” Williams must prepare for his next leading role as Harry Horner in “The Country Co-ed,” a modern, racy and radical adaptation of “The Country Wife” by William Wycherley. The play was written and produced by the students of Dr. Michael Boynton’s Special Topics in Performance course and follows college students Horner and Dani Dickinson (played by Ebony Antoine-Hill) to see who can have the most sexual encounters by the end of homecoming weekend. This over-the-top sex comedy blends elements from the original restoration classic with those of contemporary cinematic comedies like “Animal House” and “Bridesmaids” to create one witty and raunchy production.

This show is only open to audience members ages 18 and up due to highly offensive language and crude topics. It will be performed Thursday, May 3 at 8 p.m. on the Stone Center main stage. Tickets are $5.

There will be one more performance of “The Country Co-ed” that Jacksonville audiences won’t be privy to.

Boynton and his class—who have named themselves the Flying Bling Theatre Ensemble (FBTE)—will take the stage at the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C. this July.

According to the organization’s website, “Capital Fringe is a catalyst for cultural and community development, and a destination that brings artists and audiences together. Capital Fringe thrives on amplifying the vibrancy of the DC’s independent arts community and enriches the lives of those who reside, work and visit here.”

The festival embraces “diversity and a spirit of independence” and aims to “challenge perceptions and shake up the hierarchy, to be brave and unafraid and to serve as a launching pad for unseasoned to existing theatre artists.”

“Hundreds of companies apply to perform [at Fringe] each year, and not many of them get accepted, so it’s a huge honor!” Williams said.

Lillian Smith (left), Carson McCullers (center) and Smith’s partner, Paula Snelling (right photo, pictured left) are the focus of John Barrow’s play “Lillian Paula Carson,” which won JSU’s Southern Playwrights Competition in 2017 (photo via Jacksonville State University Drama Department/Facebook).

Lillian Paula Carson

The winner of the 2017 Southern Playwrights Competition will be presented as a workshop production on Tuesday, April 24 and Wednesday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Stone Center Studio Theater, Room 338.

“Lillian Paula Carson” is a play not about one woman, but about three. It focuses on a 1953 meeting between social activist Lillian Smith, her partner Paula Snelling, and Southern writer Carson McCullers.

Playwright John Barrow imagines how Smith, the best-selling author of “Strange Fruit” and a strong opponent of segregation; her partner, Snelling and McCullers, author of “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” and “The Member of the Wedding,” may have discussed the issues of justice, fame, commitment, love and mortality.

Barrow currently lives in New York City, but his southern roots are the setting for “Lillian Paula Carson.” The play is set in Clayton, Georgia, and Barrow grew up a few hours south in Cordele, Georgia.

Besides winning the Southern Playwrights Competition, Barrow has been awarded playwriting grants from the New York State Council on the Art and the Wisconsin Arts Board, and his plays have been performed on big and small stages alike, including New York, Nashville, Key West and Atlanta.

JSU’s production is centered on non-traditional casting and stars Ebony Antoine-Hill (General Cartwright, “Guys and Dolls”), Halima Kamara (Dorothy, “Dorthy Meets Alice”) and Chibuzo Harbor. It is directed by JSU’s technical director, Nick Hoenshell.

Tickets for this production will be $5.


Stone Center is without Internet service at this time, so all ticket purchases must be made in the form of cash or checks. Tickets for “The Giver” and “Lillian Paula Carson” can be purchased online prior to the shows.


Defense sparks Gamecock success


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JSU’s Gretchen Morrison guards a Murray State player in the Gamecocks’ 97-65 victory over the Racers on January 11 (photo by Katy Nowak/JSU).

Chris Allen Brown, Associate Editor

Seven. That’s how many conference games it took Rick Pietri and the 2017 Jacksonville State women’s basketball team to match its Ohio Valley Conference win total from a year ago.

But wait, there’s more.

Sporting a 12-7 record at the moment, if JSU earns two more wins during its remaining 10 games, that will allow the Gamecocks to surpass last year’s overall win total (13) and be the most since Jacksonville State went 19-10 during the 2014-15 season, which was when JSU knocked off SEC foe Alabama in Tuscaloosa 64-62 on a last-minute basket by Destiny McLin.

The common thread between the two teams is on the defensive end of the court.

At the beginning of the 2014-15 season, Pietri and his players held seven of their first eight opponents to under 60 points — Alabama being the exception — en route to 9-3 non-conference record. During OVC play, the Gamecocks held five opponents under that mark.

Fast forward to this year and the Gamecocks have held 12 of its opponents under the 60-point mark and eight of those performances resulted in victories for JSU.

There’s been a youth surge, too.

Six of 16 players listed on the roster are either true or redshirt-freshman. Ki-Ki Patterson, Gretchen Morrison, Tyler “Cocoa” Phelion and Tasha Magruder make up the senior class, while Leah Strain, Destiney Elliott, Brianna Perry and Rayven Pearson are redshirt or true juniors. Morgan Towells is the lone sophomore on the team.

Of those six freshmen, Taylor Hawks, Kiana Johnson, Jayla Walker are seeing significant playing time. Hawks, specially, has started the last 11 games for Pietri and is shooting 40 percent from the field with 50 assists to 35 turnovers and 11 steals for the year. Johnson, like Hawks, has started the last 11 JSU games and has scored in double-figures against Morehead State twice and against Murray State.

But no one player on the roster has had such a positive impact as Pearson, who has started the last 11 games. The Hazel Green native is averaging 9.1 points and 9.9 rebounds in 430 minutes of game action. She’s also blocked 22 shots, credited with 16 steals and 25 assists during the season.

Gamecocks deliver on expectations

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Malcolm Drumwright (21) looks for an open teammate in Jacksonville State’s 76-61 victory over Murray State on January 11, 2018 (photo by Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Daniel Mayes, Sports Editor

For the Jacksonville State men’s basketball team, things just keep getting better in year two under Coach Ray Harper.

After a run to an OVC Championship and the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth in his first season in Jacksonville, Harper set expectations high for the basketball program coming into the 2017-18 season.

So far, the Gamecocks have delivered.

Currently sporting a 15-6 overall record and a 6-2 mark in Ohio Valley Conference play, this JSU squad is proving that last year’s tournament success was no fluke.

It’s been a season of firsts so far for JSU.

On Jan. 6, the Gamecocks took down perennial OVC power Belmont in the Curb Event Center, Belmont’s home court, for the first time since the Bruins joined the OVC.

On Jan. 20, Jacksonville State defeated Eastern Kentucky on the road for the first time, having gone 0-13 previously.

The Gamecocks also beat Murray State for just the second time in program history on Jan. 11, bringing their record against the Racers to 2-20. J

SU boasts a much better record at home in 2017-18 than in the previous year, as the Gamecocks are already 9-2. The Gamecocks managed just five wins in 10 home contests last season in a road heavy schedule.

This 2017-18 squad has fit into the mold that has quickly become a hallmark of Ray Harper’s Jacksonville State units— unselfish teams that play defense.

The Gamecocks rank 28th in the entire NCAA in scoring defense, giving up just 64.9 points per game.

Anchoring the middle of the defense is Christian Cunningham, who patrols the paint for the Gamecocks, blocking 2.05 shots per game.

2017-18 newcomers Marlon Hunter and Jamall Gregory are lockdown defenders on the perimeter, helping to shut down opposing guards, creating turnovers and easy scoring chance for JSU.

Helping turn that stifling defensive effort into wins is a balanced scoring threat lead by Senior stalwart guard Malcolm Drumwright.

Drumwright is the steadying, calming force for this basketball team. Harper looks to him to get a bucket when the Gamecocks need an important bucket, and the Rancho Cucamonga, California native usually delivers.

Outside of Drumwrights 14.0 points per game, five other Gamecocks are scoring between 7-12 per game, from Cunningham’s 7.6 up to Jason Burnell’s 11.4.

Burnell, another newcomer for the 2017-18 season, has been a huge addition to this JSU squad.

The 6’7” versatile forward has been a nightmare for opposing defenses with his ability to play both forward positions, and he’s developed into JSU’s top three-point threat, nailing 41.2% of his attempts from behind the arc this season.

Heading into the last third of the season, the Jacksonville State Gamecocks are sporting a great record and tons of confidence, and now they gear up for a run at the tournament once again.