Pine Belt Theatre Headed to State Finals | Arts & Culture
The following is a press release from the Just Over The Rainbow Theatre:
The Pine Belt’s Just Over the Rainbow Theatre takes its local musical theatre hit, Altar Boyz, on the road, traveling to Columbus to participate in the Mississippi Theatre Association’s l State Theatre Festival. The annual conference and championships will be hosted Jan. 17-20 by Mississippi University for Women. Laurel’s Kenny McMinn has drawn the lead role in the ensemble cast.
How fitting that Columbus, birthplace of stellar playwright and native Mississippian Tennessee Williams, will become home to some of the state’s best and brightest theatrical talents. Productions from high school and community theatres from across the state will converge on Whitfield Auditorium on the campus of The “W.”
JORT is one of the community theatres hoping to survive the state showdown and advance to regional competition during the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Louisville, Kentucky this March. The locals’ last state championship was produced two years ago by the cast and crew of Driving Miss Daisy, directed by incoming MTA President and former JORT President Tom Hardy.
McMinn, who has graced the stage for many Laurel theatrical productions is poised for the tough road ahead. “It’s been fun to be a part of such a great show. We are working hard to take it to the next level!”
Two-time state champion Joe Van Zandt is familiar with the state festival and looks forward to the challenge. “Mississippi has more talent per capita than any other state. Our cast is in boot camp mode, prepping for what will surely be tough competition.” The first year math teacher at Purvis High School was named the state’s best actor at his last state festival run.
“We came close last year but hope to win it all this time,” adds Technical Director and cast member Chris Wooten. Wooten doubles as Human Resources Director for the Lamar County School District. In addition to Best Set Design in 2012, he was honored as the state’s Best Actor for his multiple roles in Crimes of the Heart.
Cast in the hip-hop musical about a Christian Boy Band who travels the country saving souls are Pine Belt actors: John Baxter (Oak Grove), Kenny McMinn (Laurel), Chase Rouse (Petal), Wooten (Hattiesburg) and Van Zandt (Hattiesburg).
Crew for the road show includes: Beth Alexander, Jason Lang, Leah Thaggard, Elaina James, Jeremy Lilly, Irene Waites, Lucy Shows, Sherri Marengo, Matthew Strickland, Chris Permenter, and Michael Graves. Kevin Brezeale is choreographer for the production.
According to production director Michael Marks, “The MTA Festival is open to the general public and all are encouraged to come support these talented Mississippi performers.” Marks completes the JORT Best Actor triumvirate having won state and national honors with Daisy in 2011.
JORT’s production of Altar Boyz premiered at The Historic Saenger Theater in Downtown Hattiesburg back in November and will now be staged at The W’s Whitfield Auditorium at 7:30 pm on Jan. 19. The Petal-based theatre hopes to take home a second state championship and move on to regional competition in Kentucky and eventually to the American Association of Community Theatre finals in Indiana.
For more on JORT, including show sponsorship opportunities and MTA, go online to JORT.org.