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Kingdom of Earth

Brenda CaradineBy Hope Harrington Oakes

The Golden Triangle has always been blessed with a plethora of talent.  This fact is evident every year during the Tennessee Williams Festival held in Columbus.  Brenda Caradine, the driving force behind all things Tennessee Williams in the Golden Triangle, thought that the annual Spring Pilgrimage in Columbus would be the perfect time to showcase Williams’ lesser known plays.  This year, the Tennessee Williams’ play “Kingdom of Earth (The Seven Descents of Myrtle)” is an added attraction to the Spring Pilgrimage.  A two-act play set in 1960 rural Mississippi, it is about Myrtle, an older, floozy of a woman, who’s a fourth-rate actress.  Columbus resident Cherri Golden (who was magnificent as Seraphine in last fall’s production of “The Rose Tattoo”) gives it her all to play Myrtle.  Ms. Golden loves Tennessee Williams’ work because his women are all very strong and complex.  Her co-star, David Trotter, of Columbus agrees.  His character is Chicken, the multi-racial half-brother of Myrtle’s much-younger husband, Lot.  Lot, played by Alex Orsak, is a chronically ill transvestite, who marries Myrtle with the hopes of cheating Chicken out of their childhood home.  As with most of Williams’ work, the characters are all multi-faceted and have hidden agendas, with great gifts of gab.
The play will be held during this year’s Pilgrimage, April 1st through April 13th at the old Alford Drug Company, located at 425 Main St.  When asked why it was held in such an unusual venue, Ms. Caradine replied, “It’s not a new idea.  All over the country performances are being held in ‘found spaces’ which are basically abandoned buildings.”  As a matter of fact, she first saw “Kingdom of Earth” in Provincetown, Massachusetts at the Tennessee Williams Performance Festival a few years ago in a similar venue.  This is one of the small plays that Williams wrote after he became famous.  There are over 100 short plays that are curated by David Kaplan in Provincetown.  According to Caradine, “he is thrilled that we are doing this in Williams’ hometown”.  She feels that Tennessee Williams’ work is known world-wide and would appeal perfectly with the international audiences that attend the Pilgrimage each year.
At the helm of the production is Starkville resident, M. J. Etua. Brenda Caradine says, “We are so lucky to have her!”   M. J. is a native of Cameroon, Africa.  The daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, she came to America to study at Ole Miss.  She has taught in the Louisville Municipal School District for over twenty years.  An award-winning teacher, actress, director, and playwright, she currently teaches Theatre Arts and has served as the Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Louisville High School.  She also teaches French and Oral Communications.  She is an active member of the Starkville Community Theatre, and has acted in many productions.  She is actually only one of two performers who have been in every SCT summer musical.
She is the creative force behind Starkville’s Summer Children’s Theatre, Project P.L.A.Y.  The program which involves youth from ages 4 – 18, emphasizes participation from the writing of original plays to the running of technical aspects behind the scenes.  The plays are written by
M. J., as well.  She has served as the Secondary Division chairperson for the Mississippi Theatre Association, as well as President, Vice-President and Past-President of the organization.  She is the recipient of Best Director awards in divisions of the MTA.  “Kingdom of Earth” is her Tennessee Williams directorial debut.  Having never done a Tennessee Williams play, she jumped at the chance.  Cherri Golden says, She is a wonderful, unflappable, multi-talented and fabulous actress in her own right and sings like you wouldn’t believe!  Her experience is invaluable.”
As for Ms. Etua, she states, “Columbus, Mississippi is so fortunate to have such a legend as a native son.  Williams is such an intuitive playwright, as well as being very progressive for his time.  I appreciate “Kingdom of Earth” for its timeless issues and its bold statement of how we need to reflect on our society.”

**Please note that, as with most of Tennessee Williams’ work, the content is very mature, and may not be suitable for anyone under 17.


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