Following the successful run of "Too Many Sopranos" featuring a cast of puppets during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, USM's Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company returns with another iteration of COVID safe performances. When the University announced that all indoor activities would be masked, the creative team threw out the original concept and design that would have been seen on the stage of the Mannoni Performing Arts Center and went back to the drawing board.
When the idea of taking the opera outside was proposed, it was initially scoffed at. "There are too many variables that could go wrong. Where would you even do it? How can you make it look and sound good? Would people even want to come to the show?" were just a few of our biggest questions. Someone mentioned the Southern Station, the recently built structure funded by the Southern Miss Alumni Association, at Spirit Park. After we took one look at the space, the idea set in motion. Hansel and Gretel has been done time and time again, so our design needed to have a unique flair and some level of "easy" accessibility for us to procure and the audience to understand. With that in mind, we chose to set our show in the 70's, an era almost immediately recognizable in its fashion and overall aesthetic. With a concept in mind, we set to work putting together a list of needs to make an outdoor opera, a feat that USM hasn't attempted since the 1960's, a reality that would be family-friendly and enjoyable for all. Our idea for "Opera on the Green: Hansel and Gretel" was to offer live performances with quality music, a fun atmosphere, and, of course, a food truck!
This brand new space comes with a multitude of supplementary needs to make our show a success. Between the costs for outside vendors to help facilitate lighting and sound and regular costs needed to put a show (music rights, set construction, prop creation, venue costs, rented equipment, etc.) we have found ourselves wanting. We believe that art is just as much about the community as it is about the performers, and what better way to incorporate the community than to open doors to allow for community-based contribution in making the dreams of a few a reality for the many. We are always grateful to the USM School of Music for its financial contributions allotted to the Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company, but the full extent of a show overshadows the operating budget.
The funds gained from this campaign are purely centered on making our costume design come to life. To really pay tribute to the 70's style our design would showcase leisure suits, the looks of the young Brady children feature on "The Brady Bunch", stylings of Mama Cass, a Stevie Nicks tribute, and much more! Our costume designer is Hattiesburg's own, Tammy Mansfield, who has worked on shows with the Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company as well as FestivalSouth, Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera (HCLO), and Hub City Players. Tammy was the genius behind all of the puppet costumes in "Too Many Sopranos." Freshman student, Isabella Ragazzi, will be assisting Tammy in the creation and maintenance of the costumes for Hansel and Gretel.