Waterworks gets help from Hampden-Sydney Southern Lit students

Published 6:42 pm Sunday, April 14, 2024

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The Waterworks Players Community Theatre’s production of “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams has come together with more than just the help of the dedicated volunteers of the theatre. A class of Southern Literature students at Hampden-Sydney College has also devoted its time in and out of the classroom to help this classic Southern play come to life. 

The class is a part of the Compass program, which strives to engage Hampden-Sydney students in hands-on learning both on and off campus. This program allows students to travel around the world for classes and internships and encourages active engagement with community partners in and around Farmville.

Before their last play, “The Vagrant,” even hit the stage, Waterworks President Leigh Lunsford and board member Sean Dowse joined the Hampden-Sydney class to discuss father-and-son relationships, both in reality and how they are reflected in the play. 


Sean Dowse, on left, introduces a scene to be performed by Erik Varela, middle, and Craig Challender, right, at the Hampden-Sydney College Black Box Theatre in April.

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The class read “Cat on A Hot Tin Roof” to not only gain a new perspective on Southern life through literature, but to also formulate their own understandings of the cultural issues and stereotypes in the South. “Cat”, which is directed by Dowse, is a unique Southern play because it digs at the roots of some central ideas of human nature such as identity, relationships, desire, grief, addiction, love, and chaos. 

The class also spent time with Waterworks Board members talking about their own community theatres and comparing their theatres at home to Waterworks, including suggestions for helping Waterworks. 

Seeing a project come to life

“It’s been exciting to be a part of something like this. I would have never taken the opportunity to work on a play or work with a local theater if it hadn’t been for this class,” said Hampden-Sydney student Will Pickren after his time volunteering with the stage crew. “It’s going to be really cool to see what I built up there on stage during the play.” 

Other students said they are excited to see what they brought to the table come to life in the production.

Two of the actors, Craig Challender, who plays Big Daddy, and Erik Varela, who plays Brick, visited the class to perform one of the biggest scenes in the play before the production even stepped on stage. 

“Craig, Erik and I brought to the students a pivotal moment of the play,” Dowse said. “We were able to discuss the discovery of the moment in rehearsal, its significance, and its impact on the students’ understanding of the difference between reading a play and watching someone live it. The scene provoked some great questions from faculty and students which broadened our sense of the play, our presentation of it, and of truth of our work — because theatre is made and understood only in the collaboration between actors and audiences.”

When is the next Waterworks performance?

“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” will be performed on April 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. nightly. There will also be an afternoon performance on April 21, beginning at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online at https://waterworksplayers.org/buytickets or in person at Waterworks Theatre.

Editor’s note: Holt Blythe wrote this for the Farmville Herald.