Communication students write, direct, perform Theatre MSU original adaptation of ‘Beowulf’

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STARKVILLE, Miss.—The classic theme of a protagonist overcoming the odds has taken on a more futuristic plot in Theatre MSU’s upcoming production of “Beowulf,” the epic Old English poem that’s seeing a more modernistic interpretation next week at the university.

An original adaptation scripted by MSU communication department students this summer, performances are Nov. 20-22 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. on the McComas Hall main stage.

Jonathan M. Tackett, junior theatre concentration major and production writer from Coldwater, said the “new twist” on the centuries-old story is “extremely exciting” and “speaks volumes” about the MSU student-group effort and its creative capabilities. Seniors Nathan R. Cleveland of Dennis and Preslie A. Cowley of Cleveland complete the writing trio responsible for bringing “Beowulf” back in a new way.

Students involved with the performance have worked under the guidance of MSU assistant professor of communication Cody Stockstill who said that what excites him about the project is that “it’s truly our own.”

“A core group of theatre students and I spent the summer writing the script and, since the beginning of this semester, our entire team has been workshopping the script, conducting rewrites and mounting the production. It’s something that doesn’t often happen in other university theatre programs, and MSU will be the first theatre ever to produce this script,” said Stockstill.

Admission is $7 for MSU students and $12 for the general public. Advance tickets can be purchased at www.events.msstate.edu, and tickets are available at the box office prior to each performance.

Considered by scholars worldwide to be one of the most important works of Old English, the story follows the battles and triumphs of warrior Beowulf. A medieval manuscript with no known date of origination, most scholars agree the original copy of Beowulf is approximately 1,000 years old.

Theatre MSU’s original adaptation seeks to breathe new life into the work, Stockstill said.

“It’s still the original story of ‘Beowulf,’ but adapted in such a way that modern audiences can enjoy and be challenged by the ideas in the piece,” he said.

Collaborating on the adaptation has been one of Cowley’s “favorite experiences.” She hopes viewers will “understand the struggles of being a hero.”

“There are always consequences to our choices whether bad or good, and I believe that this stage adaptation of ‘Beowulf’ is a great example of that theme,” she said.

Cleveland, who participates in the project both as a writer and an assistant director, said he hopes viewers will attend with an open mind.

“This is not an opportunity I could pass up as a student pursuing a career in acting,” he added.

For more information on Theatre MSU’s production schedule, visit www.comm.msstate.edu/theatre. Part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Communication can be found online at www.comm.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.