Williams Festival Acting Contest Awards $2,500 in cash prizes

CLARKSDALE Cash prizes totaling $2,500 were awarded to high school drama departments winning the Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival's annual Student Acting Competition by Coahoma Community College.

Students performed monologues and scenes from Tennessee Williams plays in the Civic Auditorium Saturday and were judged by a panel of theatre professionals.

"This competition was inaugurated years ago by Coahoma Community College to introduce new generations of Mississippians to the works of Tennessee Williams," explains Kappi Allen, Coahoma County Tourism director who coordinated the competition.

"Students are awarded trophies, and their school drama departments are presented cash prizes to encourage theatre in our high schools," she continued.

Zell Pettis of Lafayette High School of Oxford won first ($500) in the monologue division; Travis Sinquefield of Hernando, second, ($200); Lizzie Nichols of Northwest Rankin, third, ($100); and Alexis Jackson of Lafayette High, honorable mention.

Hernando High School won first in the scene division ($700), and Northwest Rankin High of Brandon was second ($400).

The costume award ($100) was presented to Dajanique Wade of Coahoma County Junior High School; the Judges Award to Travis Sinquefield ($100) of Hernando; and the Stella calling awards ($100 each) were won by Connor McGinty (male) of Northwest Rankin and Vivian Gamble of Coahoma County High School.

Judges were Severn Thompson, a professional actor from Toronto, Canada; Dr. Ann Fisher-Wirth, author, actor, English professor from the University of Mississippi; and Joe Bonelli of New Orleans, Mississippi Public Radio and Louisiana Public Radio veteran.

Conducting an acting workshop with the students was theatre director and filmmaker Karen Kohihaas of New York, who conducts master acting classes and is creating a documentary on Tennessee Williams and Clarksdale.

Joining her workshop was Broadway actor and playwright Jeremy Lawrence who gave a one-person presentation as Tennessee Williams at CCC's Whiteside Hall.

Following the presentation of student winners Saturday night at Ground Zero, a panel of professional actors talked informally about their careers in theatre and movies and offered advice to students.

Included were Jared Davis of Theatre Oxford; Jeremy Lawrence of New York; Severn Thompson of Toronto, Canada; Johnny McPhail and Alice Walker, both of Theatre Oxford; and Jeff Glickman of the Pensacola Little Theatre.

The free festival is supported by grants from CCC, Coahoma County Tourism, the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Rock River Foundation, and local businesses including First National Bank of Clarksdale, Fiser Insurance Agency, Jimmy Wilson and the Hal Fiser Agency.

Vivian Gamble of Coahoma County High School recreates her winning performance in the Stella-calling contest at Ground Zero Blues Club.

Cast members from Northwest Rankin High School of Brandon recreate their award-winning scene at Ground Zero Blues Club.

Celebrity theatre professionals on stage at Ground Zero Blues Club Saturday night ate (from left) Jared Davis of Theatre Oxford; Jeremy Lawrence, New York actor and playwright; Severn Thompson, Canadian actor from Toronto; Jeff Glickman, actor/director from the Pensacola Little Theatre; Johnny McPhail and Alice Walker, both of Theatre Oxford.