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MSSU’s Performing Arts hosts The Great Gatsby

By: Olivia Ryckman | Published: March 18, 2024 | Categories: Press Release
MSSU’s Performing Arts hosts The Great Gatsby

From the rafters of Bud Walton Black Box Theatre, Nick Carraway observes the guests in modern formal wear joining Jay Gatsby’s party. Carraway and his companions immerse the audience in their memories, letting them witness their tragic fates.

Missouri Southern’s Performing Arts staged “The Great Gatsby” from Feb. 29-March 2. This was a unique production that utilized interactive theater: while some audience members witnessed the tragedy from the sidelines of the theater, others were seated at round tables in the center of the room where actors could acknowledge their presence and speak to them as if they were in their world without disrupting the flow of the play.

Director NaTasha O’Brien lost herself in the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and visualized interactive theater for MSSU’s production of the classic novel.

“My concept for Gatsby came from the notion that great literature transports us to another place and time,” said O’Brien. “As a blind/low vision artist, I feel most connected to art that’s inclusive and engages several modalities. I love sharing that immersion with audiences.”

The immersive nature of the play allowed the actors to blur the line between fiction and reality and learn how to interact with the audience in a new way.

“One of our goals was to not see the tables as obstacles, but rather as part of the environment,” said Logan Allen Carnes, junior theatre performance major who portrayed the great Jay Gatsby. “The energy in the room just was so different, and it pulled us in a lot of different directions that many of us weren't expecting.”

Senior mass communications and public relations double major Alexa Fletcher, who played Jordan Baker, described how the cast would read the room and use the audience to their advantage.

“Learning how we could interact with audience members was probably the most fun,” said Fletcher. “Understanding their body language so we could do so was important.”

Cast members also noted how their performances can contribute to their future endeavors. Freshman musical theatre major Payton Nalley knows his performance as Nick Carraway will further his education and acting career.

“Carraway is a very humanistic character,” said Nalley. “This role added a lot of complications like developing my own portrayal of the character, and I needed active thinking the whole way through. Nick Carraway was a very challenging role that helped me grow as an actor.”

Sophomore Carter Brown said playing Tom Buchanon allowed him to explore the human condition, an experience that will contribute to his studies as a psychology major.

“I want to be a clinical therapist,” said Brown. "Through this play, we can learn from others’ mistakes, and we can also learn to comfort people who have experienced tragedies. Now I feel I have so much insight into grief and rage, so I may understand some of the kinds of people that I want to help.”