If you have not already bought tickets for Starkville Community Theatre’s "The Heiress" starting Thursday evening, then take this as an incentive to act now.
Set in the 1800s, the show, based on Henry James’s novel “Washington Square,” is about a plain, oftentimes socially awkward girl named Catherine who falls in love with a Mr. Morris Townsend. Conflict arises when her father, Dr. Sloper, perceives Townsend’s motives to be less than sincere.
Ben Christmas, president of Mississippi State University’s Black Friars Drama Society, plays the role of Dr. Sloper. While the audience may perceive him as the antagonist in the story, Christmas said the dynamics are not black and white.
"It’s not necessarily like I’m an evil villain. It’s more that I am a person whose values seem to conflict with the protagonist," Christmas said. "It’s not as much good-guy-bad-guy–it’s more a conflict of ideas."
Christmas said this role has been a new acting experience for him.
"It is interesting to play a father and to not be one–trying to get into that mindset," Christmas said. "I’ve looked back on my own father and tried to see how he might deal with the situation and how I could use that."
Christmas has performed in many Starkville Community Theatre shows, but said he has particularly enjoyed this show because of the heavy emphasis it places on character development. The entire cast is comprised of nine people, both college students and community members.
Katelyn Mathis, a junior biological science major at MSU, plays the role of Catherine Sloper in her debut SCT performance. Mathis is also involved with the Black Friars Drama Society.
She describes Catherine Sloper as, "very shy, very reserved, even plain, and a bit dull. This show is about her journey to breaking that mold. She is one of the best feminist characters I’ve ever played."
Andrew Stevens, an assistant professor of agricultural economics at MSU, has been a season ticket holder at SCT since he moved to Starkville a little over a year and a half ago.
Now, Stevens is making his debut as Mr. Townsend. Stevens said the show is truly about "distinguishing love from deception. It asks the question, 'Is love too good to be true?'"
Michele Crescenzo, an English lecturer at MSU and director of "The Heiress," said she is excited to direct her second SCT play, and has enjoyed every part of the process, starting with their first practice in December.
Crescenzo said actors "have been improving so much, all the time. You start off and you worry it may not turn out, but then rehearsal is fabulous, and then the next night it’s even better, and that’s on them more than it is on me. That’s exciting!"
Crescenzo said Wayne Durst, a retired theatre professor, collaborated with her to create a Victorian set for the play. The majority of the set is constructed from the cast members’ furniture and belongings. Crescenzo also attributes the success of costumes to Connie Willsey from Costume Party.
At rehearsal last Monday night, Willsey went back and forth between the dressing rooms to bring final accessories and to make last minute alterations while Crescenzo sat making flower arrangements.
Crescenzo even made some of the jewelry worn in the show herself.
The show runs Jan. 31, Feb. 1 through 3, and Feb. 5 through 9. Tickets are going fast and can be bought at the box office or reserved by calling 662-323-6855. Every single person has put their heart and soul into making the show a hit, and you will feel that when you step into the theatre.