Lyric Stage at MC to Produce “Godspell” in Spring 2022 / Gracie Lee

The MC music department’s newly branded “Lyric Stage at MC” is producing Godspell during the spring 2022 semester. This musical, composed by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin), is based on the 2012 revival. Auditions are Friday, Dec. 4, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. in the JPW Recital Hall in Aven Hall. Individuals of all experience levels are encouraged to audition. Students’ time slot will consist of a 16-bar song and a 10-minute group audition. The group component does not require preparation. An accompanist will be provided, but singers may choose to bring a recording of the song track on their phones instead. 

Rehearsals will be led by Mr. Tyler Kemp, faculty accompanist, and Jamie Ertle, who earned her B.M. at Mississippi College. The schedule will consist of a 3:00-5:30 p.m. practice on Wednesdays and a 1:30-5:00 p.m. practice on Fridays. Singers should clear their schedule for tech weekend on March 25-27 and performances on March 31-April 3. Lyric Stage will post the cast list before students’ departure for Christmas break, and rehearsals will commence in January. Those who wish to audition must email NKPerna@mc.edu for a time slot.

The 2012 retelling features eclectic music and a wide variety of songs. It is based on the gospels, relying heavily upon Matthew. Jesus, along with John the Baptist and supporting characters, tells the Lord’s parables through melodies that range from pop to vaudeville. The plot follows Jesus through his life, ending with the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. Crowd favorites like “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “Day by Day,” “Light of the World,” and “Bless the Lord” narrate Christ’s teachings through fist-pumping, inspiring lyrics and melodies. The musical concludes with the followers of Jesus going forth in the world to share his message of love. 

“I’m so grateful to be back at MC to direct Godspell,” Ertle said. “My favorite memories from college all happened while participating in a musical. I hope to see students from the entire campus audition.” 

 “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”: A Survey of Holiday Movies Through the Decades / Gracie Lee

As students return from break, one thing among many has been keeping them busy-watching Christmas movies. Everyone has their own personal favorites, but even the most cliche hallmark film makes the season a little brighter. Holiday movies, whether old or young, bring nostalgia to this time of year. Although there will always be debate about what makes a movie a classic, several films have made their mark on the silver screen over the last few decades.

       1947-It’s a Wonderful Life: In a charming, 1940s town, a young man named George Bailey is thinking of ending his life due to financial crisis. His guardian angel, Clarence, is sent down to earth to show him what his loved one’s lives would be like without him. On the way, the audience witnesses his boyhood, marriage to his childhood sweetheart, and comical interactions with his friends and family of Bedford Falls. It’s a charming retelling of Phillip Van Doren Stern’s “The Greatest Gift” and implements both comedy and drama into its plot.

 Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart as George Bailey, Donna Reed as Mary Hatch, and Henry Travers as Clarence, didn’t do well at the box office when it first premiered. However, when a clerical mistake in 1974 prohibited the copyright owner from renewing their application, the movie found its way into the public domain. As a result, multiple networks played its reruns through the holiday season and ushered the story into millions of families’ television sets.  Since then, it is one of the most well-known Christmas movies, and is beloved by thousands. 

1965-A Charlie Brown Christmas: This kid friendly tv special, based on the 1950 comic strip, Peanuts, was first created by Charles Schulz. The strip even premiered as a musical in 1967, and starred Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked) as Sally in 1999. The holiday episode features nostalgic songs from Vince Guaraldi like “Christmas Time is Here.” It begins when Charlie Brown complains to Linus-everyone’s favorite blanket yielding sidekick- that he doesn’t get all the excitement over Christmas. He simply doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about. After Lucy ropes him into directing the Christmas play, he is increasingly upset to find that no one else seems to remember what Christmas means either. Even his kid sister, Sally, asks Santa for “tens and twenties.” Linus reminds them of the true Christmas Story and Charlie finds the inspiration to buy a Christmas tree. It is sadly sparse and bare, until his friends decorate it with beautiful ornaments. The episode concludes with the entire cast singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” It is thought provoking to notice the commercialism surrounding holidays, even sixty years ago. Although it is depicted comically by characters like Snoopy- who makes his own wish list for Santa- it’s an important reminder to not let the hustle and bustle of the season take away the joy of Christ’s birth.

1983-A Christmas Story: This family comedy was set around the 1930s and 40s’ but premiered in the 80s. Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) only wants one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Of course, his mother is not keen on this idea, delivering the famous line: “You’ll shoot you’re eye out!” He receives the same warnings from his teacher and friends throughout the 94-minute film. On Christmas morning, he is overjoyed to find a BB gun and immediately retreats to his backyard to begin using it. As expected, the kickback from the gun breaks his glasses, causing him to initially believe that he has “shot his eye out.” However, all ends well, with adult Ralphie narrating that the Red Ryder was the best present he ever received. Director Bob Clark also interspersed multiple subplots throughout this film, including one where Ralphie’s friend, Flick, accidentally freezes his tongue to a metal pole. 

There are mixed opinions surrounding the status of A Christmas Story as a classic holiday movie. Some can’t experience the holiday season without watching it, and others find the comedy too slapstick for their humor. Contrary to popular belief, the famous Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 was never stocked as a real product. It possessed features based on the Daisy “Buck Jones” gun, but the weapon itself is just a figment of movie magic. Like It’s a Wonderful Life, the film wasn’t as popular at its debut as it is now, partly because holiday-themed movies were not as popular at that time. 

1990-Home Alone: This holiday classic was directed by Chris Columbus and extended into a franchise of four films. MaCaulay Culkin only played nine-year-old Kevin McCallister for the first two films, however. Producer John Hughes hired Columbus after the latter departed from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation due to conflict with Chevy Chase.  

The movie begins with the entire McCallister clan under one roof the night before their flight to Paris for Christmas vacation. Kevin is in a surly mood and feels left out and overwhelmed by his dozen or so cousins. His mother, played by Catherine O’Hara, sends him up to the attic to sleep, after he has an angry outburst. Unfortunately for the McCallisters, none of them set a correct alarm. In the panic of getting to the airport late, Kevin is left alone upstairs in the attic and awakes to find his house empty. At first, he revels in his newfound freedom, but is quickly concerned by the appearance of Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), neighborhood burglars who dub themselves “The Wet Bandits.” When he realizes that they plan to rob his home, he makes up his mind to save it. 

One Christmas eve night, an orphan baby crawls into Santa’s bag and is mistakenly brought back to the North Pole. Santa decides to raise Buddy (named after brand name on his diaper) as his own, and Buddy grows up believing that he is an abnormally large and clumsy elf. He finally realizes the truth when he is in his thirties and sets out to New York City to find his father, Walter Hobbs. Unfortunately, Walter is on the naughty list and Buddy’s simple, comical, and elfish antics do not mix well with the “scrooge’s” way of life. After getting a job in the mall, he meets Jovie, who he develops a crush on. The two eventually began dating and Buddy worms his way into his biological family’s hearts. Everyone, that is, except Walter. On Christmas eve, Santa’s sleigh crashes in Central Park due to a slump in the Christmas Spirit- its primary fuel. Simultaneously, Jovie remembers Buddy’s motto, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” She leads those in Time Square in singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and New York’s faith in Santa is restored, along with Walter’s own belief. 

The robbers enter the McCallister home on Christmas Eve night, not guessing that the nine-year-old kid has booby trapped the entire establishment. They undergo painful experiences including blowtorches to the head, Legos to the feet and irons to the face- but eventually come out basically unscathed. After succeeding in saving is home, Kevin wakes on Christmas morning, disappointed that his family has not returned. The movie ends happily, however, with the reunion of his mother and relatives after their frantic return from Paris. This movie requires its audiences to suspend their belief for an hour and a half and accept that the multiple injuries Marv and Harry sustain do no permanent damage to them physically or psychologically. In fact, especially empathic individuals should probably refrain from watching the movie, as its antics grow exceedingly wild- although hilarious. 

2003-Elf: Director Jon Favreau’s riotous comedy starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf, Zooey Deschanel as Jovie, and James Caan as Walter Hobbs is perhaps one of Ferrell’s most popular works. It even inspired the 2010 Broadway production, “Elf, the Musical”. 

The Wonderous Works of Nicolas Leach / John Mark Pinter

Since around the age of 16, Nicholas Leach has been practicing his hand in the world of art. Currently, Leach is a junior here at Mississippi College pursuing a degree in studio art. When asked what prompted him to pursue a career in art he stated,  “I’ve always been creative and have enjoyed doing creative projects and such, but as far as drawing and painting, I didn’t actually have any interest in it until high school.” 

Leach, as most future art majors tend to do, began his journey by drawing a big realistic eye during class. He went on to add more features and began drawing faces. It wasn’t until later when his great-grandmother commissioned him to draw a portrait of an old family photo that had begun to fade that his interest in art blossomed.

As the years went by, Leach continued to pursue this passion. Inspired by artists such as John Singer Sargent, Van Gogh, and Tintoretto, Leach has been able to develop a unique and captivating style. “I enjoy emotive paintings that tell a story and show good craftsmanship, ones that were thought out rather than spattered on. It’s what I’ve based my personal style on.” 

Leach works in a variety of mediums. His most skillful use of a medium is in graphite. “I did a self portrait recently that felt, to me, like the pinnacle of what I can accomplish using graphite,” Leach said. He went on to describe how he aspires to become more skilled in oil paints. Recently, he has been using POSCA acrylic paint pens to create portraits of people close to him. He described one of his favorite pieces using this medium: “I did a piece for my two friends. They commissioned me to do whatever I wanted. So, I took a picture of them in my Jeep where they’re writing on the ceiling – I get everyone who rides with me to write or draw something inside my Jeep – and the light from my car was shining on their faces in an intriguing way.” This piece is just one of many in a series of POSCA portraits that Leach has made in the past few months. 

While most of his works are a traditional size, on occasion Leach will work on large-scale projects such as murals. “I’ve done three murals on walls and one on my own car.” If you have walked around campus, you may have seen his car mural for yourself. A scenic geometric landscape spans across the driver’s side of his Jeep, capturing the attention of passersby with soft candied blues and yellows flowing behind a dark blue mountain with orange highlights.

 “The other three were all for churches. Two of which were from the church I go to now, Soul City Church.” One of these two can be found in the baptistry right behind where the preacher does his message. It serves as an homage to everything that Soul City Church has done for its community. The other is a graffiti work that says ‘splash city’ just outside of their community pool. 

“The other mural I’ve worked on is in my home church for the youth group. It was in the corner of two walls and shows a cross coming up with arrows spewing out of the cross containing all the names of God. It is like, a message of raising up the youth in that youth group and then sending them out with that message.”

Out of all that he does, Leach enjoys capturing people’s likenesses the most. He finds that making a portrait of someone can be just as narrative as telling a story about them. “Art, for me, is just my job. But it’s also a way of worshiping and showing the beauty of creation and using that to hopefully glorify God.” He went on to describe that people, with their uniqueness, captivate his attention and allow him to express his abilities. “If I do too many drawings of a building or a pasture, I’ll probably get bored and quit. But I can draw someone’s face 1,000 times over. Everybody’s so unique and it’s crazy to me that, with just a few marks of a pencil, I can create a likeness of a person.”

You can find Leach’s artwork on his Instagram page @nicholasleach_art or his website nicholasleachart.com.

  Live Radio Play Ushers in MC’s Holiday Season / Gracie Lee

Performances of “It’s a Wonderful Life” ushered in the holiday season before students and faculty left campus for Thanksgiving break. The radio play, directed by Dr. Phyllis Seawright and members of the Play Directing class, ran Nov. 19-21 in Jean W. Pittman Hall. 

Joe Landry’s script, based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s self-published story, The Greatest Gift, presented a fresh take on the 1946 holiday favorite starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. It featured charming retro aspects of a traditional broadcast, complete with commercial breaks and stand-up microphones.

A play is not complete without actors, however, and the script required many students to play multiple roles. Jake Parker jumped into his role as Freddie Filmore, while also performing Nick, the bar owner; Joseph, the angel; and a bridge keeper. The cast was led by Emma Ellard playing Mary Hatch, Todd McInnis playing George Bailey, and Emily Grace Boutwell portraying Violet Bick.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is none of these cast members’ first rodeo. Ellard, a freshman English Writing major from Madison, Mississippi, got her debut in middle school and high school productions. “[They] were some of the most fun and enlightening and memorable experiences that I ever had,” she said. “I love being on stage and I love telling stories and I wanted to come back and do it again in college, and I’m so glad that I get to do it with these people.” In addition to these thespian accomplishments, Ellard also won best actress at the Mississippi High School Drama Festival in 2019. 

McInnis, a junior, also got his start in middle school and church productions, before playing the bishop in his high school’s rendition of “Les Miserables.” The political science major from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, also appeared in MC’s Fall Scenes in 2019.

Boutwell, a junior International Studies student from Brookhaven, owes her passion for theatre to her first performance at 16, in Brookhaven Little Theatre. “My first role was as an Indian in Peter Pan, and from then on I was hooked,” she reminisced. She is currently finishing up her minor in theatre at MC, along with four other students. She was candid in her struggle to balance the busy practice schedule with her schoolwork. The cast met three times a week for rehearsals, with a fourth day scheduled for costume fittings, as needed. 

The process of developing their characters also came with its share of challenges. The plot’s flashbacks and “what if” experiences, specifically, were details McInnis found difficult to keep track of during rehearsals. “He [George] goes through such a range of life events and experiences and emotions,” he said.  “Remembering oh, this is the influence for this scene. He’s sad now–why is he sad? Just trying to encompass that insane emotion.” 

The classic story is also full of humor and sentiment. “‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is such a charming little comfort movie,” Ellard said. It’s this nostalgia that brings such a strong emotional connection to its viewers. Spiritual themes shine through in George Bailey’s journey and search for fulfillment and happiness in life. He ultimately learns that a person’s influence on the lives he touches is far more important than the success of a business or childhood dream. Clarence, the angel, tells George: “You really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

  “The message is so poignant and so important especially in today’s day and age, where it’s just so easy to get caught up in the flow and go of things,” McInnis said. “The message that everyone is important, no matter your circumstances or situation, is such an important reminder, and it’s easy to forget.” 

Festival of Lights: MC’s Musical Tradition / Gracie Lee

MC Singers is performing Festival of Lights on Dec. 2-4, at 7:30 p.m. in Provine Chapel. Director of Choral Activities Dr. Damion Womack is directing the Singers in their preparation for the holiday tradition that began in 1986 under the tutelage of Dr. Richard Joiner. Womack joined the MC music faculty in September 2021 after the departure of Dr. Mark Nabholz. His doctorate degree in choral conducting gives him the necessary abilities to lead the MC Singers and Choctaw Chorus. 

            The program incorporates music of the season with Scripture verses. Every year, the proceedings end with the song “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” while the choir leaves the chapel holding candlelight. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $10 for faculty, and $5 for students. 

It is beloved and anticipated by students every year. 

I’m most looking forward to simply sitting in the presence of the choir as they sing Christmas hymns. Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and choral music really speaks to me,” Maria Guay, a sophomore, said. “I’ve been watching videos of the Festival of Lights since I came to MC last year, and I’m so excited that I’ll get to experience it in person.” 

Stephen Griffin, a senior, joined Singers in the fall of 2020, shortly after students returned to hybrid classes during COVID’s peak. “That fall we were not able to have Festival of Lights and recorded a ‘Songs of Thanksgiving’ concert instead. So, this year will be my first and last Festival of Lights,” Griffin said. “My favorite thing about Festival of Lights is seeing how the music is able to bring people together and unite us around a celebration like Christmas. Christmas is really a special time of year, and Festival of Lights helps it to feel even more special.”

A big part of the event’s nostalgia lies in the pieces that the choir performs. It incorporates old spirituals and new arrangements of classic carols. This year’s selection includes old favorites, like Morten Lauridsen’s “Sure on This Shining Night,” as well as Rachmaninoff’s “Bogoroditse Devo”- a Russian Orthodox piece which translates to “Rejoice, O Virgin.” 

Regardless of any past experience in choral activities, students can audition for and enroll in Singers each semester. Rehearsal times are, tentatively, Monday/Wednesday/Friday at 12:00-12:50 p.m. and Tuesday/Thursday at 1:30-2:45 p.m.  

“Because I’m a transfer, this is my first time. I’ve never performed in it before, but I am excited for it,” Ambie McCoy, a music major, said about Festival of Lights. This annual event symbolizes MC’s anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s birth. 

After 2020’s dim Christmas festivities, Griffin is excited to have a voice in the Lights’ return. “Festival of Lights is probably one of MC’s most treasured traditions. I might go as far as to say it is the centerpiece of Christmas celebrations at MC,” he said. “It was always special for me just getting to be there, and I’m so, so honored that I get to be a part of it now.” 

Dune: A Blockbuster that Deserves the Hype / Bryan Matthews

In 1965, author Frank Herbert released his magnum opus novel named Dune. The book was widely praised and won the Hugo Award and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. It chronicles the royal family of House Atreides as they survive in a dangerous intergalactic empire as other houses vie for control of different planets. Since its release, there have been many sequels to the book and two, one attempted and one successful, movie adaptations. On Oct. 22 of this year, filmmaker Denis Villeneuve brought American audiences a third film adaptation that lived up to the glorious heights that were set by its source material. 

Denis Villeneuve is no stranger to being responsible for delivering science fiction stories with established fan bases. He directed Arrival in 2016 and Blade Runner 2049 in 2017 which were both based on existing properties, a short story and another film respectively, and they were both met with universal acclaim. Villeneuve was then hired by Warner Brothers to direct an adaptation of Dune. After three years of waiting, it was finally released in cinemas and on HBO Max this past month. It has been praised for many aspects by fans and critics alike. The chief topics of these praises are the visuals, musical score, worldbuilding and performances. 

One thing is a constant across all of Denis Villeneuve’s films: the cinematography is to die for, and Dune might be his best shot film to date. The gorgeous landscapes in the film are utilized in every frame. Sweeping cities, barren deserts and limitless space are all center stage, giving them their own characteristics that grow with the characters that inhabit them. The galaxy feels larger than life – even for a sprawling space epic – but the cinematography captures every moment in its beauty, grandeur and chaos, making it feel even larger and also more intimate. The creators can then explore this universe that has been presented to the viewer. Dune’s vast number of people groups, societies, militaries and customs are what make the story engaging for the viewer. From the nomadic tribes of the desert dwelling Fremen to the royal, military family of House Atreides, the world is inhabited by cultures and societies that feel as real as our own. The religious Bene Gesserit, antagonistic House Harkonnen, the matchless Sardaukar and the other people groups give the story world a freshness that viewers will not find anywhere else. The musical score by Hans Zimmer is masterful in capturing the intricacies around each facet of the vast story. His use of vocalists, bagpipes and instruments that were created from scratch specifically for the film’s score are all perfect ways to dissect a galaxy that is truly like no other. 

The actors who play the characters inhabiting these places and groups do a phenomenal job. Timothée Chalamet is captivating as the protagonist, Paul Atreides. He navigates the emotions of his character with ease, showing us the strong-willed leader that Paul could become while also revealing his human moments of doubt and fear. Other notables are Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica. Momoa provides an emotional performance as one of the pillars that Paul Atreides has in his life. Momoa’s charismatic take on the character makes him likeable from his first frame, and that does not change throughout the course of the entire film. Oscar Isaac from Star Wars fame has left the galaxy far, far away and has made a large impact in a new one. His performance as Paul Atreides’s father is compassionate, resonant and courageous, and unlike so many other performances in blockbusters, it doesn’t feel cheap. He is a big talent in the industry, and only time will tell where performances like this will take him. Rebecca Ferguson plays the mother of Timothée Chalamet’s character. Her take on a witch who is a part of the religious Bene Gesserit was incredibly interesting and provided Paul with an emotional support that he could fall back on. Her character could have easily become an exposition-heavy character, but Ferguson’s immense talent brings emotion to her words that would otherwise fall flat. The other actors in the film do a splendid job in their roles, and they all have their own moments to shine throughout the story. 

While the film is not flawless, this visual masterpiece delivers a brilliant adaptation of its source material and has lived up to the building anticipation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The film itself is labelled as a Part One, and Part Two will be released in October of 2023. Anticipation is already building for the sequel in hopes that it will live up to its predecessor. 

 Dear Evan Hansen: From the Broadway Stage to the Silver Screen / Gracie Lee

When lyricists Justin Paul and Benj Pasek composed and published Dear Evan Hansen in 2015, it didn’t take long for the musical to rise to national fame and win six Tony awards on Broadway’s big stage. After Ben Platt’s portrayal of Evan Hansen in the original cast, the musical continued to run and cast household names like Andrew Barth Feldman and Jordan Fisher as the title role. When Marc Platt Productions and Perfect World Pictures announced the release of the upcoming film, for Sep. 24, fans of the musical waited with bated breath. 

27-year-old Ben Platt reprised his role as Evan, with Kaitlyn Dever as Zoe, Colton Ryan as Connor, and Amy Adams as Mrs. Cynthia Murphy. Although the songs “Anybody Have a Map?,” “Disappear,” and “To Break in a Glove” were excluded from the film, new selections were composed for Ryan and Amandla Stenberg, who had a strong supporting role as Alana Beck.

The coming-of-age musical has heavy, serious content concerning teens’ struggles with mental health and even suicide. When high schooler Evan Hansen starts off a new semester, he doesn’t expect a writing assignment from his therapist to fall into the hands of Connor Murphy. After Connor takes his own life, his grieving parents find the note addressed “Dear Evan Hansen,” and signed “Sincerely, me.” Their mistaken belief that their son had one friend leads to their relationship with Evan. Their daughter, Zoe, who Evan has feelings for, struggles to come to terms with her brother’s death, and the two’s relationship eventually begins to blossom. The film climaxes when Evan realizes the web of lies he has created–and must attempt to untangle. 

What the audience sees throughout this movie is Evan’s own struggle with depression and anxiety. It greatly inhibits his ability to converse or enjoy social functions and is the reason for his own failed suicide attempt in the past. Stenberg’s solo “The Anonymous Ones” offers an inside look at what teens with mental health issues feel. They try to hide their struggles from their peers, who are also hurting underneath their masks of popularity and school spirit.

Although Platt’s performance is riveting, audiences struggled with the drastic age gap between him and the character he portrays. Unlike Dever, Ryan, and Stenberg, who are aged 24, 26, and 22, Platt has aged six years since his debut on Broadway. Production skillfully dressed him in baggy clothes and brushed out his skin, but viewers still had a hard time swallowing the image of the adult in boy’s clothing. 

Scenes where the movie could have used full advantage of its resources were often lacking. Many songs were performed standing at tables or sitting on couches for several minutes at a time. B-roll footage was even reused multiple times. Platt’s facial expressions and animation were also reminiscent of his career on the stage and contrasted strongly with his co-stars’ more subtle emotions. However, “Sincerely, Me” lightened the mood considerably and showed off the talents’ comedic abilities. Connor and Evan performed ridiculous antics while reading out fake emails to each other, giving the sequence a music video quality. This is not unlike what fans probably envisioned when they first listened to the album.  

Adams gave a heart wrenching performance as the grieving Cynthia Murphy. Her eyes tell the story, and her range as an actress is solid. This film was no exception. Director Stephen Chbosky took advantage of her and Danny Pino’s (Larry Murphy) vocals in “Requiem.” This melody, also sung by Dever, was lilting and compelling. It is this family’s broken heart that makes Evan’s deceit a hard pill to swallow. It’s difficult not to sympathize with him, because of his own struggles. However, he uses his “friendship” with Connor for social gain, acceptance from peers, and eventually, a romantic relationship. What he has longed for during countless years has finally dropped on his plate, and he can’t bring himself to refuse it–no matter the immediate cost to the Murphys. His immense guilt during “Words Fail” makes it apparent that he has suffered enough already, but it does not excuse his actions.

Julianne Moore’s (Heidi Hansen) beautiful rendition of “So Big/So Small” depicts a single mother’s struggle to support her son in the lyrics, “And I knew I’d come up short a billion different ways. And I did. And I do. And I will.” Despite its technical faults, the story ends with some redemptive qualities, and the message shines through: no one is alone. Or, as Evan puts it: “You will be found.”

Up and Coming Mississippi Songwriter Releases New Album / Gracie Lee

Stephen McNeill, Mississippi singer and songwriter, released his new album, “The Art of Repair,” on all music streaming services Oct. 15. His single “Rebuild” released on Sep. 24. McNeill is Memphis-born and moved to DeSoto County after college. He, his wife, and his four-year-old twins now live in Olive Branch, Mississippi. 

The album features 11 original songs. This is McNeill’s fourth full length album. His first was solely instrumental, and he co-wrote his second and third for his local church. “The Art of Repair” features tracks titled “No Task Undone,” “Come to Me,” and “All I Want to Know.” Listeners can expect this album to have more personal songs with meaningful stories. 

McNeill writes from his own emotions and life. Although the lyrics are in first person, he got the concept for “Rebuild” from a neighbor’s house he passed on his way to his studio. “There’s this house I pass every day. An older couple lived there, and it was just kind of a sweet thing. Then one day on the way home I noticed this beautiful little house had burned to the ground. It was just so sad,” he said. “The next week there was a concrete truck pouring the foundation. They rebuilt the house from the ground up, but this time they used bricks. Seeing them rebuild and come back from it really hit home with me–what it would have been like.”

McNeill’s passion for music started at a young age. “I was kind of an obsessive listener. A family friend had a drum set, and we went to dinner with them one night. I sort of stood outside the door staring–drooling basically,” he laughed. “He asked me if I wanted to play, and I was hooked from that moment.” He went on to learn guitar and started writing his own music in high school. 

For McNeill, music is about connecting with emotions. “When you hear someone else’s songs, you’re connecting with them on a really deep level. Even if it’s just a silly little pop song, you’re connecting with something someone created. A lot of times you can get a new perspective on the world, by listening to it through someone else’s eyes,” he said. 

Besides songwriting, McNeill also teaches music. “One of my biggest philosophies is that music should be fun. When you’re listening to music, you’re listening to an expression of someone’s emotions. It’s one of the lenses through which I see the world.”

His songwriting process changes with each melody he composes. “It’s a process of discovery. I almost feel like an explorer. I’ll play something on the guitar and wonder, ‘What’s behind this door?’ Sometimes it’s not interesting,” he admitted. “It helps me figure out how I’m feeling. ‘Rebuild’ started with a word.”

The word “hope” encompasses the messages in McNeill’s songs. His desire for his new album is that it will encourage those who are struggling during the current pandemic. “There’s been a lot of grieving and confusion. But there’s also been moments of hope, as Christians and because of the work that Jesus has done. Sometimes there are situations we cannot fix, but a lot of times we can if we lean on each other. My hope is that people will feel hope.”

 MC Alum Wyatt Waters’s Artwork Inspires Locals / Gracie Lee

Wyatt Waters is a name well-known among MC students, art fanatics, and residents of Clinton. The Mississippian and MC alumnus has made a career for himself painting landscapes, buildings, and sites around the world. His art has been featured in magazines like Art and Antiques and American Artist. MC students recognize his painting of “The Teacher” sculpture in Alumni Hall’s prayer garden. His art gallery at 307 Jefferson Street is home to some of his first paintings as a child and young adult. They include childhood drawings of a denim jacket, and his first apartment, which cost a mere $32.50 a month. 

Waters was born in Brookhaven in 1955 and moved to Amory after his father gained a coaching position there. When he was two-and-half years old, the Waters family moved yet again, this time to Florence. “They gave us a house to live in. It was not a great house. There were holes in the floor,” Waters remembered. “She [my mother] patched the floor with orange juice cans when she dried her tears. But you could see the patches, so she had me help her spatter paint the floor to disguise the texture. I remember thinking, ‘This is good. This is fun.’”

After this first encounter with the joys of art, Waters began taking lessons from an elderly woman named Rose Taylor before elementary school. “Mrs. Rose would read stories and have me paint the stories. She taught me to read that way,” he said. 

Waters’s passion for art blossomed even more when he enrolled in Mississippi College, but not before a serious wake up call. His academic advisor came to him one day and said, “You need to change your major.” 

“He was right because I didn’t put the effort into it. It must have been a difficult thing for him to do. Scared me pretty bad,” Waters said. Despite this advice, he chose to keep studying art with renewed vigor and was especially intrigued by watercolor. He loved this medium so much that he took extra, non-required classes for it. This eventually forced Dr. Samuel Gore–Founding Father of MC’s Art program–to add more watercolor classes to the curriculum. “I took them without my prerequisites too. [Maybe] they looked the other way. I’ll never know,” Waters confessed.  

Besides watercolor, he enrolled in a film class, became co-art editor of the Arrowhead, played music, and won creative writing awards. “I liked the arts. Particularly the creative part of it,” he said. He and his friends majoring in Music, English, and Religion would often meet to talk about the principles of arts together. “Because we were talking over big parts of art, we had to talk in general terms. It was like an aesthetics class.”

But it wasn’t until Gore offered Waters a work study that he had an opportunity to see real, classic artwork for the first time. “I helped him move a show to Washington, D.C. I was so in awe that I touched a Rembrandt. This guy came up and said, ‘Don’t do that.’” Waters did not heed this warning. “I went right to another room and touched a Van Gogh. They have alarms now and you can’t get away with that at all,” he reminisced.

Post-grad, Waters began writing his thesis on the physics of light and perception, a process he found much more difficult than painting. “I just didn’t want to write about art. I’ve always made art, but it had a drastic effect on my painting.” Even though his artwork was gaining popularity, he hadn’t sold a piece in six months. During this brief period, he worked for the art commission in Port Gibson to make ends meet. 

He spent his free time during these six months painting on the street. One afternoon, a lady stopped in front of him and said, “Can you give me a show in two weeks? We’ve had an artist cancel.” In the space of a few minutes, Waters had his first exhibit space. “If I had given up, I wouldn’t have had a show. If I had [already] sold those paintings, I wouldn’t have had a show,” he realized. 

In fact, many unfortunate events in Waters’ life have led to his success. One day, while working in his attic, he slipped and pierced his painting hand on a nail. After a three month stay at St. Dominic’s, he managed a full recovery, despite his doctor’s fears that he would have to amputate the hand. This hiatus from painting led to the publishing of his first book. “My roommate’s father was editor of Sunday paper. He always told me to put my paintings in a book. But I was always painting and that was a full-time job. Then, I couldn’t paint for a few months,” Waters said. 

Quail Ridge Press published Another Coat of Paint: an Artist’s View of Jackson, Mississippi in 1995 with a foreword written by Mississippi author Willie Morris. In it, Morris states: “I envy the surname Waters for a watercolorist. I likewise envy the talent of the man who bears it.” 

This was not his only literary achievement. “I like books because I’d already been doing theme shows. It’s like a portfolio,” Waters said. Waters and chef Robert St. John have since worked together on a five-part television series about Mississippi and Italian cuisine, called Palate to Palette. He and his wife, Kristi, are also traveling through the southeast and documenting their trip for a new book to be released in fall of 2022. 

Waters’s painting brings him more benefits than just the joy of a completed piece of work. “I can’t remember everything, but I can remember my paintings. It’s too bad I didn’t paint the capital of Ohio in school,” he joked. “I do my best work on location. The phone is more immediate, but it takes away from the real experience. That’s what I like about painting. It puts you in front of life. It’s very important to see things as a human. There’s nothing between the world and my eyeballs.” The gallery helps him to sell to friends, families, and locals of Clinton. “It [the paintings] is like puppies. I like knowing where they go. This is all I ever wanted to do.”

His manager, Cristan Dulaney, began her job at the gallery as a part-time employee. “I’ve known him my whole life. I was hired on three days a week and now I’m the manager,” she laughed. Waters prefers to be outside working on location unless he is signing and selling his illustrated calendars. “People always ask, ‘Where is he?’ He’s out painting,” Dulaney said. 

Waters was not clueless to people’s first opinions of his artistic career. “If you do it for a living, you’ll hate it,” critics told him. He even lost a high school girlfriend after her family discovered his dreams of becoming a “starving artist.” His advice to young artists is to do what they love, instead of worrying too much about finances. “At some point you’ve got to say, ‘No, this is what I need to do.’ I’ve heard the unforgivable sin is the thing you didn’t do but knew you should have. Because the Lord forgives, but we don’t forgive ourselves,” Waters said. “In your heart, you say, ‘This must be the right thing.’”

All of Waters’s work is available through the Wyatt Waters Art Gallery in Clinton.

Go Week Events Highlight Church Missions / Caroline Hunt

Davion Brown stands at a table at MC’s famous “Big Steps,” handing out Chick-fil-a biscuits with a huge smile on his face. Surrounding him are multiple others doing the same thing, asking passersby, usually students hustling to class, if they want some breakfast and then telling them to have a nice day. This is only one event of the Office of Christian Life’s “Go Week” in which they feature the importance of doing mission work. 

When asked what his team was out there doing so early on a random Wednesday morning Brown said, “We are out here giving out Chick-fil-a biscuits to just say ‘good morning’ and hope that everyone gets a good breakfast this morning. We hope people see this as a part of our mission initiative.”

The mission initiative of this event is simple: Go. 

Based on the last sentence of Jesus Christ before his ascension to heaven at the end of the four Gospels, as he urges his disciples to go out to every nation and continue to make disciples in his name, MC’s Christian Life organization hopes to achieve the same thing Jesus did with their “Go Week” event: to make “mission-minded” disciples.

The Office of Christian Life on MC’s campus is responsible for multiple familiar on-campus functions, such as the weekly large group Chapel services, the Blue and Gold or MC 101 groups for new students, and the Community Service Center, which most notably helps MC’s social tribes and clubs with their respective philanthropies. 

Christian Life also provides students with connections to local churches, on-campus ministries, like the Baptist Student Union (BSU), and the Food Pantry and Benevolence Form which offers opportunities for students and faculty members to give back to their community. 

The “Go Week” festivities included multiple pop-up events, like the one Brown was a part of, and speaker-led discussions that showcased the personal impact that being in the mission field had on the speaker and leaders of the event. One event, called “Theology Thursday” featured a rather significant speaker who talked about her personal experience with missions. 

Jennie Taylor, speaker at the Thursday event, detailed how missions helped to expand her worldview and how important it is to not let personal prejudices inhibit “sharing the gospel with [one’s] neighbors.”

The Baptist Student Union, also known as the BSU, also held a “Go Week” event before Taylor’s discussion panel in which they spoke to students about their organization and their role in the event this week. 

Brandon Conerly, associate BSU director, said, “The BSU is a place where students can come to feel welcome. It’s also a place where students come to be encouraged in the Lord and poured into as disciples. The Office of Christian Life has been very loving and supportive of us, working very closely with us and allowing us to collaborate for this event. We hope that students have been encouraged by this week and have a broadened world view because of it.”

One student, Hannah Quigley said in response to the importance of what “Go Week” is, said, “Summer missions are a great way to get out of your comfort zone, live out your faith in real ways and fulfill what we believe the Lord is calling us to do.”