University of Mississippi theatre arts students are working hard to perfect their accents for “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” opening Oct. 30 in Fulton Chapel.
The play, written by French dramatist Jean Giraudoux in 1943, tells the story of an eccentric woman who lives in Paris and her struggles against strait-laced authority figures in her life.
“It’s a comedy, which could more likely, because of its themes, be considered a black comedy,” said Joe Turner Cantu, associate professor of theatre arts and director of the play. “In our cynical times, I think it will appeal to many people.”
The show is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 4, and 2 p.m. Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Tickets are $10.50 for general admission, $8.50 for children and seniors, and $7 for UM students with valid IDs. They are available at the UM Box Office in the Ole Miss Student Union or by calling 662-915-7411.
“The Madwoman of Chaillot” features a cast of colorful Parisians led by the madwoman of the title, Countess Aurelia. They lounge around their favorite cafe while a wicked prospector announces that he has sniffed oil under their Parisian hills and, backed by the evil machinery of capitalism, plans to turn the City of Light into an oilfield.
Cantu said he has enjoyed working with the cast on the production.
“‘The Madwoman of Chaillot’ was written as a reaction to World War II,” Cantu said. “It reflects French Socialism. It’s odd to say, but we live in a much more complex time just 50-some-odd years later. What’s rewarding is exposing our students to this type of mixed genre. I am not a cynical person, which you almost need to approach the play with proper energy. It’s been fun to meet this challenge.”
Neill Kelly, senior theatre arts major from Flowood, plays the role of the Ragpicker, a former businessman who hit hard times and lives on the streets of Paris.
“The rehearsal process has been so great because it has allowed everything to be very organic, and a lot of the discoveries have been left up to the actors to make,” Kelly said. “(Cantu) really understands the actor’s process of creating a character and is a great guide on the journey we take in creating these roles.”
Cantu promises that the show will entertain.
“It’s stylistically wacky fun,” Cantu said. “Its quirkiness is refreshing.”
“Underneath everything, this play is about enjoying life to the fullest and finding beauty in the smallest things,” Kelly said. “It takes on corporate greed and corruption in a really comedic and lighthearted way, and you walk away feeling a little more appreciative of the simple things in life.”
Besides Kelly, other theatre arts students featured in the show are Lindsey Wilson of Aubrey, Texas, playing Countess Aurelia, Kaitlyn Curtis of Oxford as The Madwoman of Passy, Anna Donnell of Madison as The Madwoman of St. Sulpice, Rachel Daniel of Oxford as The Madwoman of La Concorde, John Marsalis of McComb as The President, Josh Baker of Bartlett, Tenn., as The Baron, Andrew Wilson of Morristown, N.J., as The Broker, Sam Damare of Southaven as The Prospector, Taylor Wood of Collierville, Tenn., as Irma, Nick Bredosky of Southaven as Pierre, Mackenzy Cade of San Angelo, Texas, as Dr. Jaden and the Sewer Man, Christopher Young of Summit as The Deaf-Mute, John Baine of Saint Louis as The Sergeant and Professor, Alex Dalrymple of Kennedale, Texas, as The Waiter-Doorman, Houston Settle of Lookout Mountain, Ga., as The Policeman and Press Agent, Bryan Harper of Lauderdale as Singer and Juggler, Katherine Barkett of Brandon as Blonde Dancer-Juggler, Kate Austin of Tulsa Okla., as The Flower Girl, and Christian Green of Hattiesburg as The Little Man.
For more information about the Department of Theatre Arts and the production, visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/theatre_arts/. For assistance related to a disability, call 662-915-5816.