The drama of a new theatre season begins

Published 11:32 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2006

HATTIESBURG — Subtitled a “’B’ Western Horror Flick for the Stage,” Jane Martin’s “Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage” is an outrageous comic/drama that walks the fine line between the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Theatre and Dance will open its 2006-07 main stage season with this intentionally overblown and quirky satire of pulp westerns and horror flicks.

Having premiered in 2001 at the prestigious Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky., it will run at Southern Miss Oct. 5-7 and 11-13, with matinees Oct. 8 and 15 in the Martha R. Tatum Theatre.

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Third-year graduate student Katie McCrary will direct the show. “’Flaming Guns’ is a great opportunity for any director to develop a heightened style within a show.”

She credits a group of very talented and creative student artists for allowing her to “push the story to its limits.” Because of the play’s adult language and content, the show is recommended for mature audiences.

Rebecca Chapman, a sophomore theater major from Chalmette, La., plays the “Shedevil.” “’Ca-ching, eeeyow, kaboom!’ Now you know you are in for it, when this is your opening line. My shocking entrance sparks action and forces characters to confront themselves and each other,” she explained.

What makes this play work is the mixing of hilarity and horror. In brief, the story goes like this: Big 8 has retired from the rodeo circuit and now uses her “healin’ hands” on young injured rodeo wannabes. Her current “inductee” is recuperating, when Shedevil, a pierced, pink-haired punk arrives after being chased by Black Dog, a rough motorcycle driving bad guy.

Big 8’s sister Shirl and her boyfriend, deputy Baxter Blue, get pulled into the rowdy and raucous antics, while Memphis Donnie Pride looks on.

Not only is the play challenging to the actors, designers are put to the task on this show.

“It is unlike any show I have ever designed,” said set designer Sarina Richardson, a second year design graduate student. “It is a fast-paced, highly physical, twisted show, where the set gets destroyed every night and must be put back to brand new for the next show.

Even though it’s hard work, Richardson called it a “wonderful ‘B’ flick experience” as the cast and crew can explore the idea of recreating film on stage.

“When you walk in with tattoos, piercings, thigh-high boots and attitude—some call it weird, I call it freedom,” Chapman pronounced. “This production challenges all rational states of mind. Pink hair rules!”

The production will be presented at 7:30 p.m. each evening Oct. 5-7 and 11-13 and at 2 p.m. Oct. 8 and 15 at the Martha R. Tatum Theatre. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for Southern Miss faculty and staff, senior citizens and military, and $6 for students. Order tickets online at or call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at 601-266-5418 or 800-844-8425.