Mr. McCroom, our department's Technical Director and Set & Lighting Design instructor, recently did the lighting design for a New York production of "The Whipping Man". Here is part of the review of that production, highlighting the design team, including Mr McCroom:


"Scenic Designer William Bloodgood had his work cut out for him, considering that the entire action of the play takes place in the ruined foyer of an antebellum-style mansion in Richmond.  We see the crumbling grand staircase, the partially caved in roof and broken windows.  The once formal chairs have been disassembled for firewood; the once beautiful china is now chipped; the crystal chandelier is gone — all symbols of the destruction that war has wreaked on this place (and by extension the people and culture that once inhabited it).  Bloodgood has done an incredible job of crafting the production’s visual details to evoke the proper sense of place and a time.  The incessant rain that falls through the broken roof and which can be seen and heard through the windows during the play is masterfully done.

Since the majority of the story takes place at night, Lighting Designer Darren McCroom had to find a way to evoke the soft, flickering nature of candlelight.  Indeed, lighting (which when done right should be virtually unnoticed by the audience) plays an essential part in forging the emotional backdrop to any play.  McCroom succeeded admirably in creating such an atmosphere for these actors, enabling their characters to blossom.  The same can be said for the work of Costume Designer Gretchen Darrow-Crotty and Composer Michael Keck."

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KCACTF – Feb. 3-9, 2014

January 28th, 2014 by speech

Congratulations to the Department of Speech and Theatre's five students nominated to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). The students will compete at the festival in Roanoke, VA February 3rd-9th, 2014.

The students nominated, from JSU's production of "Ruined" are:

Dylan Fleming (Acting), Tierra Williams (Acting), JacQuela Carter-Hulitt (Set Design), Quintavious Phillips (Stage Management), Paul McInnis (Student Directing Intern)

Director Dr. Nadia Bodie-Smith is very proud of their accomplishments and is looking forward to the competition.

The students will not only compete, but also attend workshops and audition for graduate schools and professional companies.

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MADDRAMA Week – Jan 26-31st

January 28th, 2014 by speech

MADDRAMA Week Begins January 26th.  Click on the poster for a larger version with details and showtimes:


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The past four weeks have been a busy time for the cast and production team of "Ruined" in the Dept of Speech and Theatre. "This play is based on real events happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have worked tirelessly to bring this story to life, and feel ourselves honored to do so" says director Dr. Nadia Bodie-Smith.

From Lynn Notage, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Ruined" is a haunting, probing work about the resilience of the human spirit during times of war. Set in a small mining town in Democratic Republic of Congo, this powerful play follows Mama Nadi, a shrewd businesswoman in a land torn apart by civil war. But is Mama Nadia protecting or profiting by the women she shelters? How far will she go to survive? Can a price be placed on a human life?

The department and cast want to do more than just stage the story, so they are hosting a Congo-based non-profit organization, Rudi International, that focuses on educating Congolese children. These efforts they hope will minimize the violence and brutality in the region. Representatives from the organization will be at each performance.
Director Dr. Bodie-Smith adds, "We want audiences to come and have a good time.  The actors dance, sing, fight, and push the boundaries of our western sensibilities. Ruined truly is a tremendous, touching production with the laughter of survival and the cry for hope. "
Ruined runs Nov 7-11, 2013 at the Rose McCoy Auditorium on the JSU campus.

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JSU Students Attend USITT in Milwaukee, WI

April 4th, 2013 by speech

Three JSU students and a faculty member recently attended the annual conference and expo of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT).  The students who journeyed to Milwaukee were Brodrick Whittley, senior theatre minor, Marquez Williams, senior theatre minor, and Jenilyn Saul, sophomore theatre major.  They were accompanied by Patrick Benton, visiting assistant professor and interim technical director.

The conference featured dozens of meetings for every specialty skill in the industry. Whether in a classroom setting or at an evening social, the JSU delegation along with 5,000 other industry experts, educators, students and vendors found a forum to discuss pressing issues, learn solutions and network for the future.  Some of the sessions that JSU representatives attended included: Stage Management Roundtable, People of Color Networking Project, Hands-On Makeup and Hair, Award Winning Sustainability in Scenic Design, and The Reality of Designing in New York.

The stage expo boasted the largest theatre-focused trade show floor in America. More than 200 companies presented the latest innovations in theatre technology and design from all over the world.  The JSU students who attended were able to interview with potential employers such as Disney and Cirque du Soleil.  They also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of advanced training programs such as the Savannah College of Art and Design, Yale School of Drama and the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas. 

The 2013 conference marked the first time JSU was represented at USITT. The expression which was most frequently used to describe the experience was “Wow!”  The students also expressed their deep gratitude to Dr. Mark Henderson, interim chair for Speech and Theatre, Dr. Lawrence Potter, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and the entire JSU administration who helped make their trip possible. 

The JSU Department of Speech Communication and Theatre hopes to show even more students the myriad options available to them at the next USITT conference and expo which will take place March 26-29, 2014 in Fort Worth, TX. 

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KCACTF Nominees – February 2013

March 24th, 2013 by speech

Congratulations to our Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Nominees: Ashlei Murray, Jacquela Carter Hulitt, Charence Higgins, Jasmine Rivera and Marquez Williams. These students were nominated by national adjudicators to attend the conference in Albany, GA Feb. 5-9, 2013. Students will be judged for their acting capability and stage management skills. Congratulations!

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This ‘Doc’ uses guidance as a cure

March 24th, 2013 by speech

From the Clarion Ledger:


“To be Young, Gifted and Black” “Oh what a lovely and precious gift.”

Many know these words as lyrics from Nina Simone’s song that served as an anthem during the civil rights era.  But, in the Jackson community, Dr. Mark Henderson uses it to empower others. It also serves as the motto of MADDRAMA, the performance troupe he founded.

Henderson is the current director of the Theatre department at Jackson State University.

“Doc” is how most JSU students refer to Henderson. When I think about this title, I compare him to an actual physician. The way he deals with each individual based on their “symptoms” further exemplifies his dedication to building them up rather than giving them generic medicine they’ve probably been getting their entire lives.

The people Doc comes in contact with come from many walks of life with various expectations of life and different ways of dealing with their personal issues.

“One of the first questions I ask students who come to me for guidance is “What do you need from me; How can I help you?” It is from there that I begin to see what their needs are and I attend to that,” said Doc.

Click here for the full article at the Clarion Ledger: Full Article

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As posted on the Blue&White Flash:

Jackson State University alumna Erica Singleton, better known as Erica Michelle, nabbed the role “Daphne” in the new horror film “The Last Exorcism Part II” that just premiered in theaters Mar. 1. The El Dorado, Ark. native has gone from the theater department at JSU to the big screen inside your local movie theater.

“My agency sent me an email about “The Last Exorcism Part II” saying they were casting and the director wanted to see me. I didn’t want to do it because it was “The Last Exorcism.” It’s kind of sensitive to my faith and that was just something I did not want to do,” said Michelle. “I remember my agent emailing me saying the director has not yet received your tape yet. You need to have it in tomorrow by a certain time or they were going to drop me.”

Click here to view the full story at the Blue & White Flash: Full Story…

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Mrs. Candace Brown and Mrs. Laura McDavitt were selected to participate in Jackson State University’s Course Redesign with Blackboard 9 Project in July conducted by The Center for Distance Learning and Instructional Technology.

The project is designed to redesign selected classes allowing them to be offered to students online in the fall of 2012. The redesign will strive to improved student outcomes through effective online course design and the utilization of various instructional technologies to deliver learning experiences.

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Visiting Assistant Professor and Interim Technical Director Patrick Benton spent most of June brushing up his scenic painting skills at Cobalt Studios in White Lake, NY. Cobalt Studios is known throughout the entertainment industry for sending productive and skillful graduates into the workforce as professional scenic artists. Some of the topics covered in the intensive three-week session included color mixing and theory, large scale drawing, perspective, creating marble and wood for theatre, trompe l’oiel effects, painting draperies and landscapes on flat surfaces, as well as painting scenery on unusual surfaces and translucent backdrops. Benton looks forward to using many of these techniques for JSU Theatre productions and sharing them with his students.

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