Family matters: THS cast gets serious with drama in ‘Marvin’s Room’

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

The dysfunctional family drama “Marvin’s Room” is giving the students at Tupelo High School a chance to dig deeply into their acting skills.
“I’m used to playing these evil roles,” said junior Melodie Sanchez, who plays Bessie in the play, “but Bessie is the total opposite of that. She’s coming to terms with her own death.”
Make no mistake, “Marvin’s Room” is serious.
The play, written by Scott McPherson, is the story of Bessie, a woman who has spent her life caring for her ailing father and aunt. Then, Bessie is diagnosed with leukemia, and must call on her other family members – including her estranged sister, Lee (Geena Marshall) and her nephews, Charlie and Hank (Noah Cox and Wesley Burcham) – to help her out and possibly donate bone marrow.
“It becomes a question of, who takes care of the caretaker?” said THS theater director Allana Austin. “All of the characters come together after all these years, and they get a chance to re-know each other.”
The role is giving Sanchez the opportunity to develop a truly deep, real character.
“Some of my favorite musicals are ‘Spring Awakening’ and ‘Rent,’ that deal with tragedy, so I’ve been listening to those soundtracks before I go into practice to get into the flow of things,” she said.
Senior Geena Marshall plays Bessie’s sister Lee, who hasn’t helped in taking care of her ailing family. Marshall said she could relate to the play, since her family has also faced cancer together.
“I have four sisters, and I saw how that brought us together,” she said. “It shows you what matters in life.”
That’s a lot of drama, but there are some funny moments, too.
“Humor is their defense mechanism,” Austin said. “When they talk about Hank being institutionalized, they say he was in the ‘looney bin.’ That’s how they defend themselves.”
Austin is going for a minimalist set, so the drama and action get all the attention.
The drama has given Austin and her students a chance to talk frankly and deeply about serious issues.
“We’ve had discussions about, are you more of a Bessie or a Lee?” Austin said. “We’ve had a lot of good talks.”
sheena.barnett@journalinc.com

On Stage
What: “Marvin’s Room”

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10-12

Where: Tupelo High School Fine Arts
Auditorium

Cost: $5

Info: (662) 840-1841

Cast: Melodie Sanchez (Bessie), DaShawn Hall (Dr. Wally), Ainsley Hunt (Ruth), Tyasia Reed (Bobbie), Geena Marshall (Lee), Wesley Burcham
(Hank), Noah Cox (Charlie), Jauwanna Johnson (retirement home director)
and student directors Shannon Shepherd
and Taylor Green (Dr. Charlotte)