Ovations Roar for Student Actors

Diversity, signature of 21st annual Tennessee Williams Fest

CLARKSDALE – Although eminent scholars tweaked the minds of Community Community College’s distinguished audience and polished artists impressed the crowd seated on lawn chairs in Clarksdale’s historic district, roaring ovations literally thundered inside Georgia Lewis Theatre for youngsters portraying memorable Tennessee Williams characters.

“The porch plays are my second favorite part of the festival,” comments Colby Kullman, retired Ole Miss English professor who has taught courses on America’s great playwright and has attended almost every festival since 1993.
“In first place is the acting competition Saturday morning, continued Kullman. “It was the best of all this year with standing room only…with some of the best monologues ever.”

Kappi Allen, Coahoma County Tourism Commission director, who coordinates the acting competition, agrees with his assessment.
“The 25 monologues and four scenes unfolded in the contest were the best ever,” she said.

Winning first place for her monologue portrayal of Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie and a $500 check for the drama department of her school: Power APAC of Jackson was Jada Bell.

Second was Ladarius Bishop, $200, of Lafayette High School of Oxford; third: Ishmael Gray, $100, of Power APAC; and honorable mention, Olma Friend, Northwest Rankin of Brandon.

Taking first place honors in the scene division, $700, was Power APAC; second, $400, Northwest Rankin; third, $200, Lafayette High; and honorable mention, Coahoma County High.

Other awards included Stella Calling: female, $100, Yazmin Herrera, Coahoma County; male, $100, tied between Jerion Keys of Power APAC and Owen Limm of Northwest Rankin; Best costume, $100. Janitra Harris, Coahoma County Junior High; and Judges Award, $100, D’Martinez Bush, Coahoma County Jr. High.

A workshop teaching the fundamentals of auditioning was presented by Karen Kohlhaas and Jeremy Lawrence, both theatre professionals from New York.
Immediately following the competition, students, teachers, and festival participants moved into the Gallery for lunch prepared by CCC Chef Brennon Warr and his culinary arts department.

CCC donates the cash awards to encourage interest in theatre, the cultural heritage of Tennessee William, and the Mississippi Delta. Students also are awarded engraved trophies.

Featured in porch plays in the historic district were the Lafayette High School group from Oxford recreating their scene from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by Deborah Martin; storyteller Rebecca Jernigan of Oxford; actor Alice Walker of Oxford as Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire accompanied on guitar by Wendy Garrison of Oxford; Sherrye Williams of Clarksdale portraying Amanda Wingfield from The Glass Menagerie; and celebrity actor and playwright Florence Roach from The Help in a drama she authored. She was introduced by I.D. Thompson, retired principal of Coahoma Agricultural High School. Roach and Thompson were theatre classmates at Jackson State University.

Kenneth Holditch of New Orleans gave the keynote address on the screenplay, Baby Doll; actor/playwright Jeremy Lawrence followed with a special performance; and scholars presenting commentary-evoking audience participation were Colby Kullman; Ralph Voss, Coop Cooper, and Dorothy Shawhan.

Guitarist David Dunavant and ensembles from CCC’s choir entertained The Clark House the Friday night buffet catered by The Dutch Oven.

Marked by diversity, the free festival is produced by Coahoma Community College and supported by grants from CCC, the Mississippi Arts Commission, Mississippi Humanities Council, the Mississippi State Tourism, Coahoma County Tourism Commission, the Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce, and local donors.

Movie and acting critic Coop Cooper addresses students before acting competition begins in the Georgia Lewis Theatre.

First place monologue winner: Jada Bell of Power APAC of Jackson, portraying Amanda Wingfield from The Glass Menagerie

Best Costume – Janitra Harris from Coahoma County Jr. High

The Clark House buffet catered by the Dutch Oven is a prime attraction. Among the guests are writers from Belgium, Germany, and the UK.

Flo Roach and I.D. Thompson

Clarksdale's Sherrye Williams portrays Amanda Wingfield from the Glass Menagerie in the historic district.

Performing their award-winning scene from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the Georgia Lewis Theatre are students from Lafayette High School in Oxford who repeated it as a porch play in Clarksdale's historic district.