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New Local Theatre Company Emphasizes Professionalism

March 2017

mississippi bend playersThis summer, the Quad Cities take on their first summer stock professional theatre company – Mississippi Bend Players – in the Brunner Theatre Center at Augustana College. This inaugural season will open with productions of Zombie Prom, Wait Until Dark and Brighton Beach Memoirs.

"It's a great opportunity for young professionals to have professional experiences and to make connections that will further their careers down the road," said Dr. Cory Johnson, the Associate Artistic Director.

Mississippi Bend Players was founded by distinguished Broadway director, Philip McKinley, who wanted to make use of the Brunner Theatre Center that he funded and orchestrated.

The company's mission is to "provide excellence in the theatre to the Quad Cities by producing both commercial proven works as well as original dramatic material," with the hope that "Broadway-level professionalism will be brought to regional theatre," Johnson said. The summer stock will have a professional timeline in which the actors and technical workers will be paid, shows will be pulled together in 1.5 weeks, and professionals, such as directors and choreographers from New York, will be brought in to help produce the shows. Also, in future years, Mississippi Bend Players aspires to produce one new professional script each season.

For two weekends this past February, auditions were held at Augustana. After callbacks, Artistic Director McKinley made the final decisions about which applicants to accept as both actors and technical crew members. Many St. Ambrose students applied and auditioned, and seven were offered positions for the season.

Zombie Prom is a "musical comedy" that seems like a "1950s horror comic book." McKinley is the director, and it will run July 7-9 and July 14-16. SAU alumni Becca Brazel '16 and JJ Johnson '16 will perform in Zombie Prom along with SAU sophomore Sarah Goodall.

Wait Until Dark will be directed by Augustana College theatre professor, Jeff Coussens. It is a "masterfully constructed thriller" about a housewife who is pursued by three con-men. Performances will be July 21-23 and July 28-30.

To end the season, Johnson will direct Brighton Beach Memoirs, which will debut Aug. 4-6 and Aug. 11-13. This play is a "semi-autobiographical" story about Neil Simon's family. SAU alumna Megan (O'Connell) Cox '03 will reprise the role of "Kate" which she performed in college. Also, current SAU students junior Megan Clarke and senior Sam Jones will play roles.

For all the shows, buy tickets through the Augustana website,, or the Augustana Box Office at 309-794-7306.

About Phil McKinley
McKinley grew up in Illinois and graduated from Augustana College. He set a box office record on Broadway for directing Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. In addition, he has directed three other shows on Broadway and Zombie Prom Off-Broadway. He has also become world-renowned by directing in Austria, London, Rome, Singapore, and Tokyo. He received many awards for the shows he directed, including seven Barrymore Awards for his production of Nerds://A Musical Software Satire.

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