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KATRINA PROJECT:  A MISSION OF SERVICE

 

When Kristi Godbolt completes her MBA requirements at The University of Southern Mississippi next week, she will realize that her skill set will be tested prior to actually landing a job for pay.  The original crew member from the 2005 run of The Katrina Project: Hell and High Water has accepted the task of serving as Assistant Director for Services with the upcoming Just Over the Rainbow Theatre/Hattiesburg Public Schools partnership production.  The show runs August 7-9 at Hattiesburg High School Auditorium.

“I just remember that most of that mission was about service.  It was not just another stage production,” says the HHS and Mississippi College alum.  “Organizing the service component of The Katrina Project is a way that I can continue to give back to this community ten years later.”  Godbolt’s latest efforts are nothing less than heroic, lining up pre-show and partnership activities for what is billed as “Katrina Weekend.”

Thirty minutes before each curtain, there will be an Emergency Preparedness Information Mall held in the HHS Library, adjacent to the auditorium.  “Continuing education of our community about emergency and disaster services is the goal of the info mall,” says Wayne Landers, Director of Forrest General Hospital’s Department of Public Safety. “We are grateful to share information about the new Smart911 technology that can save lives in an emergency.” 

Other invited participants will include Red Cross, United Blood Services, AAA Ambulance Services, Forrest County EOC, City of Hattiesburg and area first responders, Sound Seed Productions (in association with Southern Miss Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage), Hattiesburg Public Schools, and other agencies and individuals from the community, who will volunteer their time and efforts on the education front.  Like Miss Hattiesburg Ivey Swan, who will set up a table with materials on how to use the arts to help children cope with disasters.   “Children who have experienced disasters, even just through graphic media coverage, may not be able to talk about it or express the feelings disaster triggers in them.  The arts can help ease the pain of trauma.” 

The post-show chores of Assistant Director for Stage April Tindall are equally as important as Godbolt’s duties.  The JORT veteran has taken on organizing the Hattiesburg Arts Council-sponsored Disaster Photo Exhibit, scheduled for 4-6 pm, following the Sunday matinee performance of The Katrina Project at HHS.  This event, open and free to the public, will showcase Katrina and other disaster photography and art by the following local exhibitors:  Matt Bush, Steve Coleman, Sound Seed Productions (in association with Southern Miss Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage), Patrick Lowery, Brent Wilson, Mary Alice Weeks, Eli Bayliss, Myra Meade, Dinny St. John.  According to HAC Executive Director Rebekah Johnson, the exhibit will feature selected pieces from the HAC Katrina collection as well.  “The Hattiesburg Arts Council is proud to host the official reception for Katrina Cast and Crew in conjunction with this exhibit.  Our mission is to help showcase local artists when and where we can.”

Entertainment during the exhibit will be provided by American Idol Finalist and Miss Mississippi 2014 Jasmine Murray and X Factor Finalist and stage star Greginald Spencer.  “As a decade passes, we don’t want America to forget the struggle of these survivors as they rebuild their lives,” says Murray, who recently entertained at The National Prayer Breakfast at The White House. “The play’s main goal is to utilize that typical Mississippi problem-solving spirit, even though the storm is no longer part of daily headlines,” says the Katrina cast member.

Hattiesburg High School’s Director of Forensics Scott Waldrop organized the 2005 service mission of the play that originated at Hattiesburg High School ten years ago and eventually enjoyed a command performance for Congress in Washington, D.C.  “We are excited to come full circle.  Since 2005, worldwide performances of The Katrina Project have netted over $300K in relief monies to disaster victims.  We want the revival show benefit performance and experience to be no less prolific in serving others. The district’s mission and the Katrina Project’s purpose are in sync.”

In between pre and post show events, The Katrina Project will help Waldrop and HHS Dance Instructor Tracey Seymour, host workshops for interested HPSD students and staff.  On Saturday, August 8 at 10 am, current and former Katrina cast members will combine efforts to produce a workshop on The Therapeutic Value of the Arts.  This dialogue will be led by HHS Alum Clifton Hyde, formerly of the famed Blue Man Group and currently a music composer on Broadway.  Following the first workshop, the second dialogue will be at 11 am and is called Katrina Across the Curriculum. This set will feature both casts and crew as well, led by local filmmaker and 2005 Katrina Project artistic consultant Miles Doleac.  In addition to sharing strategies about careers in the entertainment industry, he remembers, “Katrina will always be remembered for the lives and property it destroyed, both in my home state and in the great City of New Orleans.  We just want to make sure that the people who survived and the thousands of volunteers who gave so much are remembered as well.  This is their story and we are honored to be able to share it.”  Both these workshops are funded by inaugural teacher grants from The Hattiesburg Public School District Foundation.

Production Director and playwright Michael Marks acknowledges that The Katrina Project’s mission of service is all a part of an official state effort.  “Governor Phil Bryant recently established an official Mississippi Katrina Remembrance Commission, tapping Former Governor and First Lady Haley and Marsha Barbour to chair. We are proud to be a part of this effort to reflect on the lessons learned.”  According to Governor Bryant, “Honoring those who were lost and those who put their lives on the line to respond and to celebrate how far we’ve come in our recovery” is the focus of the commission.

Southern Miss is partnering heavily in the 10th Anniversary revival event as well.  Already, a seminar back in June kicked off the several layers of activities with a roundtable discussion  featuring community organizers like Nedra Allgood of Gulfport’s Recovery Act, Representative Toby Barker, and local Katrina survivors, who all met to network with Southern Miss’ Remembering Katrina  Multimedia Workshop students to tell the Katrina story.  Says visiting Professor Dr. Robert Byrd, “Until now most of the high school students from across the state had only heard media reports of Katrina.  This event on the campus of Hattiesburg High school brought the Category 5 storm full focus.”

Other Southern Miss departments that will be involved include the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage.  The center has commissioned a commemorative DVD that every show attendee will receive.  The recordings will feature survivor stories captured during the aftermath of the storm.  WUSM also plans radio interviews with cast and crew, particular with a focus on the original music being generated for the revival show and accompanying events.

JORT President Irene Waites sums it up nicely.  “The Katrina Project’s service mission is as important if not more important than the onstage production.  JORT’s history is built on service to the community.  We are delighted to continue that legacy through this current partnership with Hattiesburg Public Schools.”

Curtain is at 7:30 pm on Friday/Saturday, August 7-8 with Info Mall opening at 7 pm.  Curtain for the Sunday matinee is at 2 pm with Info Mall opening at 1:30 pm. Tickets to the showcase can be secured by calling 601-583-7778 or by going online to TheKatrinaProject.com.

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