Gatsby to live it up on Strand stage this weekend

Published 11:33 am Thursday, April 3, 2014

040314-great-gatsby-js2

040314-great-gatsby-js3

In an effort to rekindle a lost love, Jay Gatsby sets out to fulfill the American dream of becoming a millionaire and hopes a decadent lifestyle can convince his beloved Daisy Buchanan to return to him.

For F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best-known fictional character, it doesn’t quite work out that way.

The Westside Theatre Foundation will put Fitzgerald’s greatest work, “The Great Gatsby”, on the Vicksburg stage the next two weekends at the Strand Theatre. Shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and run Saturday, April 6 and April 11 through 13 at the Strand, inside the Adolph Rose building.

The 1925 novel was adapted for the stage by award-winning playwright Simon Levy. Actor Alex Hill will play Gatsby when the curtain rises at the Strand.

“He is the most analyzed character in American history and it is pretty cool to be playing him,” said Hill.

“His entire persona is a façade. He is trying to fulfill the so-called American dream — get rich, buy a lot of stuff, and get the girl, when he is just a poor farmer.”

Hill has performed in many local productions, including shows at the theatre foundation and productions with the Vicksburg Theatre Guild. He said that he and Gatsby don’t share many common characteristics, but laughed when he described a possible similarity.

“Gatsby liked having people think he was important. I think I would like people to think I’m important!”

Hill added he has not seen the most recent movie version of “The Great Gatsby” that starred Leonardo DiCaprio. The novel has been adapted for film five times since 1926.

“I made the decision not to see the movie so I wouldn’t be tempted to copy him. I wanted to create my own character,” Hill said.

The play follows a cast of nine characters living in the fictional town of West Egg in Long Island during the summer of 1922 and it explores the social upheaval, excess and resistance to change during the “Roaring Twenties.”

“I love this story,” said Mark McGraw, who plays Gatsby’s friend, Nick Carraway.

“When I heard that Westside was doing the play I came in and tried out on the last day of auditions,” he said.

Nick is a reserved and non-judgmental fellow at the opening of the play, but by the end, his temperament has changed, McGraw said.

“His personality goes from loving to hating the people that hurt Gatsby.”

McGraw, like Hill, has a few performances under his belt, playing the lead in Warren Central’s “Music Man” and the lion in the “Wizard of Oz.”

Paige Emfinger and Asheley Fitzgerald will split the role of Gatsby’s love interest, Daisy Buchannan.

Emfinger will play the young flapper, who is also Nick Carraway’s cousin Friday through April 6, followed by Fitzgerald, who will play Daisy for the play’s second weekend of shows.

“I loved the movie and the book,” said Emfinger. “It’s the epitome of a love story in my opinion,” she said.

“My favorite scene is when Tom (Daisy’s husband) finds out I’m having an affair with Gatsby. They get in a fight and everything explodes,” she said.

Stacie Schrader will play Jordan Baker, Nick Carraway’s girlfriend.

“She is a lot of fun to play,” Schrader said.

“Jordan is kind of mysterious and she is athletic.”

Schrader is an art teacher at Beechwood Elementary School and is a member of the foundation’s board.

“We put this play (“The Great Gatsby”) on our calendar because I wanted to do this one,” Schrader said.

In the beginning, Schrader said she was slated to direct the play, but decided to turn over the reins to Jim Miller.

“I have directed several plays for the VTG and I have done some stuff at new Stage, in Jackson,” Miller said.

He will also play Meyer Wofshiem, who is described as a gambler who wonders in and out of the production and, “he wears genuine human molar cuff links,” Miller said.

Jack Burns is the producer for the play.

Tickets are $15 and are available at the door and by calling 601-301-3158.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

email author More by Terri Cowart