Prep welcomes prizewinning playwright with “Firecracker”

Jackson is in my blood.”

— Beth Henley

Lights up on cotton candy truck, scattered dressing room, and red upon red upon red for Beth Henley’s The Miss Firecracker Contest. Fortenberry Theatre shook with laughter on January 12th as students paraded across the stage in flamboyant costumes for the arrival of the Jackson-native playwright.

For weeks, students have been working on a scene from The Miss Firecracker Contest under the guidance of sophomore English teacher Ms. Jessica Wilkinson.

Wilkinson said she was thrilled to head up the project after being approached with the idea last spring. After endless preparation, the production date arrived. Wilkinson said, “I was so proud I got teary.”

After the show, the Jackson Prep student body was sent into an uproar of laughter as Henley lavished quick-witted banter while talking about her life in Jackson and inspirations as a playwright.

When I’m writing, I’m a lot more involved than when I am living.”

— Beth Henley

Henley said, “Jackson and Mississippi have been a great inspiration for me…for my whole life. Jackson is in my blood.” Growing up, Henley attended St. Andrew’s Day School, the former Duling School, Bailey Jr. High, and Murrah High School. Her life in Mississippi had an immense impact on her writing,and she won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1981 for her Hazlehurst play Crimes of the Heart.

When asked about her writing process, Henley said, “I think part of writing for me is letting characters lead you to the outcome… I never know where the play is going. And I try to keep it that way to surprise myself. “

Henley encouraged young writers to not let words get in the way of everything and to not be afraid to be surprised.

Ms. Norma Cox, who organized Henley’s visit as part of the school’s Visiting Writers Series, thought the day was “unbelievably wonderful,” and said the success of the first interactive forum in the series was something that she hoped to do again “as often as I can.”

Photo by Tynes Carroll
Photo by Tynes Carroll
Photo by Holman Buchanan
Photo by Holman Buchanan
Photo by Holman Buchanan
Photo by Holman Buchanan
Photo by Holman Buchanan
Photo by Holman Buchanan