Season finishes with children’s classic

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Caption: Ryan Mahannah and Brandon Campbell perform as the characters of Mole and Mr. Toad for the upcoming play, “The Wind in the Willows,” put on by the USM Department of Theatre. The play will premiere Nov. 13 in Tatum Theatre at 7 p.m. Photo by Susan Broadbridge

The Department of Theatre will close this semester’s season with a production of “The Wind in the Willows,” adapted by Alan Bennett from Kenneth Grahame’s children’s novel.

Audience members can remember the Disney animated classic that even inspired a Disney attraction that enjoyed a few years at the parks in Florida and California.

This production aims to bring the same entertainment meant for the whole family as any Disney movie would
hope to.

“This experience has been really exciting for me because I grew up watching the Disney cartoon,” said Brandon Campbell, who plays Mr. Toad. “I’ve never really had the opportunity to do children’s theater before so I’m really excited to see how kids who come to see this interact with the play and the characters on stage.” Campbell is a senior BFA student.

The production is not only meant for children, but even includes children in its cast.
“We have a cast of about 29 graduate and undergraduate students here from Southern Miss and then roughly 12 children who play field mice ranging in the first to third grade range,” Campbell said.

One of the most unique aspects of the play is how most of the characters are animals, meaning the actors not only had to bring the characters to life, but the animals they portray as well.

“We had a professional come and hold a workshop with the class about how to move our bodies on stage and it really helped me get into my character,” said Ryan Mahannah, a first year MFA-acting student who plays Mole. “I really try to bend my knees a good bit and lead with either my nose or my butt, because that’s what moles do.”

Not only will the movements be different for each character, but different groups of characters have been giving different dialects to help distinguish them.

“We have a group of hedgehogs who all do Scottish accents, and they even appear to be a little Scottish,” said Campbell, who also acted as one of the dialect captains for the play. “Any earthy characters like Mole or Badger have Cockney accents. Some even have gypsy accents.”

Being the last play for this semester, the cast is excited to see the turnout for this production.

“Everyone has heard the name, if not from Disney then from the novel, so I think there will be a big turnout,” Campbell said. “We really hope to get a lot of kids in the audience because we really wanted to market this show as a family show. You know, something else to do on a weekend besides going to
the movies.”

The play opens Nov. 13 and runs again on Nov. 14, 15, 21 and 22, each show beginning at 7 p.m. Matinee shows will also be performed on Nov. 16 and 23 at 2 p.m., with a pre-show talk at 1 p.m. before the Nov. 16 performance. All shows are in the
Tatum Theatre.