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‘Hurst theatre program stages ‘Miss Firecracker Contest’

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Mercyhurst Theatre Program concludes its 2016-17 season with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley’s long-running off-Broadway comedy The Miss Firecracker Contest April 6-9.

Carnelle Scott wants nothing more than to be crowned Miss Firecracker in the beauty pageant at the town’s annual Independence Day celebration, thereby salvaging her tarnished reputation as “Miss Hot Tamale.” To this end, she has whipped up a talent-show act in which she tap dances and somersaults to “The Star- Spangled Banner” while clenching a sparkler in her teeth.

The unexpected arrival of her cousin Elain, a prissy former Miss Firecracker who has just fled her boring, wealthy husband and two children, complicates matters, as does the repeated threat of Elain’s eccentric brother, Delmount, recently released from a mental institution, to sell the family homestead and decamp for New Orleans. But, aided by a touchingly awkward seamstress named Popeye, who began her couturier’s career at age 4 by making outfits for bullfrogs and several other cheerfully nutty characters, Carnelle perseveres, leading to a climax of hilarity, heart and radiant fireworks!

The production is directed by senior theatre minor Michael Rowe, who calls his role in The Miss Firecracker Contest “an invaluable experience.” Rowe, under the supervision of program director Dr. Brett D. Johnson, has been responsible for every step of the directing process, from analyzing the text to staging the show to overseeing the technical elements.

Rowe calls Henley’s play “hysterical,” and believes audiences will be amused by the shenanigans of the play’s offbeat, larger-than-life characters, but also moved by the strangeness and depth of their emotions.

The Miss Firecracker Contest features Abby Larimore (Carnelle Scott), Charity Ludwig (Popeye Jackson), Erin Fink (Elain Rutledge), Owen Hitt (Delmount Williams), Cole Lowe (Mac Sam), and Katie Kruszynski (Tessy Mahoney). The production team includes dramaturg Bethany Sulecki, scenic designer Ashley Poletto, lighting designer Madeleine Steineck, production stage manager Kathryn Schmitt, assistant stage managers Tyler Kirchmeir and Alexandra Newton, and assistant to the director Vivian Suazo-Linares.

Performances are Thursday through Saturday, April 6-8, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, April 8-9, at 2 p.m. in Taylor Little Theatre on the Mercyhurst campus.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for senior citizens/students, and $5 for youth and Mercyhurst students with I.D. All performances are general admission, with doors opening 30 minutes prior to curtain. 

Reserve your tickets today at or by calling 824-3000. Tickets will also be on sale at the theatre beginning one hour before curtain. Cash only.

Warning: This production contains adult situations and strong language. It is recommended for ages 13 and above.