March 28, 2019
East Texas Baptist University Theatre Arts Associate Professor John Dement united the Marshall community through a production of Michael Elliot Brill’s 1979 play, The Masque of Beauty and the Beast. Serving as the inaugural production of Dement’s Starr Struck Theatre, the performance was held at 8:00 p.m. from March 13-16 at no cost to attendees. A total of 235 patrons from Texarkana, Carthage, Longview, Jefferson, Shreveport, and Marshall experienced the performance.
“We didn’t previously have a community theatre in Marshall, and my wife and I wanted to change that,” Dement shared. “Our dream is to provide the underserved residents of Marshall with affordable, quality theatre founded in a Christian worldview. Our partnership with the Starr Family Home Historic Site is the reason we named ourselves the Starr Struck Theatre. We chose to perform on the grounds of the historical site because we share the goal of serving the citizens of Marshall.”
ETBU students and Marshall locals volunteered their Spring Break vacation to participate in the production. Performed in rhymed couplets, the one-hour show was held at Starr Family Home State Historic Site, one of only 22 sites of the Texas Historical Commission. J. Teez, a local food truck specializing in Caribbean food, contributed to the community atmosphere by setting up on site during the production.
“The play was my fourth time to perform at the Starr Home,” ETBU junior Emory Lambert said. “I love the history, and the staff’s knowledge and passion is contagious. In addition to becoming more involved with the historic site, I was able to meet new people from the community through the production. As I portrayed Beauty, I was able to meet kids after the show and take pictures with them. Though there were challenges and risks, it was all worth it to present a family-friendly, outdoor, free theatre for Marshall.”
The Masque of Beauty and the Beast is performed in the manner of a traditional 16th century French masque, a dramatic performance intended for royal entertainment. The simple platform set serves as a backdrop for the cast of 11, and the lyrical quality of the dialogue, performed in rhyming couplets, transports the audience members into the fairytale.
“As a Design/Technical Theatre major at ETBU, I was involved in various shows both behind-the-scenes and on stage,” Kellie Papas (’18) commented. “Seeing everyone again and participating in the production as Haughtense, one of Beauty’s sisters, was a meaningful experience for me. The play’s themes of redemption and forgiveness enabled the cast to perform from a Christian perspective for the audience to see. I have never done children’s theatre before, so it was exciting to see how much the kids enjoyed the show and wanted to talk with us afterwards. It was also an honor to perform at a site filled with such history.”
Dement’s desire to strengthen the Marshall community through theatre was accomplished primarily through outreaching to the Marshall Independent School District. Starr Struck Theatre invited students and staff from all seven MISD campuses to explore the Starr Family Home State Historic Site before attending the show, performed in a special outdoor space provided by the Home.
“Our collaboration with ETBU Theatre enabled us to provide this quality, family-friendly program for free, giving everyone the opportunity to experience culture without driving too far, paying too much, or dressing too nicely,” Starr Family Home Site Manager Barbara Judkins said. “People from across the region came together to enjoy themselves and ended up encountering others from the surrounding community. This type of event helps us to know our neighbors and makes our community stronger.”