The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Theatre MSU’s performance gets a bit hairy Sunday

David Lewis

The set for Theatre MSU’s performance of “Wiley and the Hairy Man” is crafted of recycled materials like cardboard, recycled burlap and glass bottles. Director Cody Stockstill described the play as a Southern fairytale for both adults and children.

This Sunday, McComas Theater turns into a spooky fairytale swamp as Theatre MSU presents a courageous adventure and ignites imagination with the opportunity to forget the stresses of the grown-up world and think like a child again, if only for a while.

Theatre MSU performs “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” its second production of the season, Sunday. The show begins at 2 p.m., and tickets are available through the department’s website,

In addition to Sunday’s performance, the group of students puts on several special productions for children in the Starkville community. Around 1,700 elementary and junior high students will bus in throughout the week to see the show.

Cast member Morgan Tubbs, senior communication major, said the annual children’s show is important to Theatre MSU because it provides an opportunity to work outside Mississippi State University and inspire children.

“We love to include the community, especially those younger kids that might want to do this when they grow up,” Tubbs said.

Cody Stockstill, visiting assistant professor of design and technical theatre, directed “Wiley and the Hairy Man.” He said although the production is a children’s play, it includes fun for kids of any age.

“Children’s plays are not just aimed at children,” he said. “The story is entertaining for all ages. It targets all audiences.”

Stockstill said the play is a Southern fairytale replete with voodoo, magic and jokes for both younger and older audience members. 

“The hairy man is sort of a Southern boogeyman. I describe it as the boogeyman but with alligators and voodoo queens. It’s quirky. It’s got a lot of Southern dialogue and stuff that Southerners would get — including stuff that both adults and younger kids would get,” he said.

Stockstill said the play’s Southern Louisiana setting drew him to “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” as he said he relates to the setting. 

“I’m coming from Louisiana to this job, and I wanted to bring that with me. I thought this would be a great beginning,” he said.

“Wiley and the Hairy Man” is Stockstill’s first play as director with Theatre MSU. As a new faculty member, Stockstill has been able to contribute fresh perspective and energy to the theatre group. 

He said working as director comes with the responsibility of making the story come to life. 

“I am sort of in charge of keeping the overall vision together — as far as the design, the way we are performing the play and making sure that we are telling the story that is in the script and the story that we want to tell as a group,” he said. “What is the world we want to present? What does it look like? Feel like? Smell like? How bright is it? How dark is it? What are the textures?”

Stockstill also serves as the technical director and set designer for all Theatre MSU productions, and the set of “Wiley and the Hairy Man” displays Stockstill’s skills at set design. The set brings the director’s vision of a fantasy swamp to reality with recycled burlap and glass bottles that hang in the dim, spooky lighting of a starlit swamp. 

Jesse Williams, junior psychology major, plays Wiley and said the play’s set has a Tim Burton feel to it.

Stockstill said his favorite part about directing the play was getting to know the students and appreciating their talent and hard work. The cast has also said they enjoyed working with the new director, and they described him as fun and positive.

Williams said Stockstill is both funny and effective as a director. 

“He makes every aspect of rehearsal fun, and there is never a dull moment. We are always cracking up and laughing,” Williams said. “But he is also really serious, and we’ve gotten a lot done in a short amount of time.”

Becca Horton, senior communication major with a concentration in theatre, plays the Hairy Man. She said she appreciates Stockstill’s positive attitude. She said Stockstill compliments successful aspects of an actor’s performance and makes constructive suggestions instead of giving negative criticisms.

Stockstill’s vision and positivity is put to the test as the cast tries to teach children in the audience about keeping the environment healthy.  

Tubbs said this relevant message adds value to the show for the children in the audience. 

“This show is very kid-friendly with the humor, but we are also trying to do our part in educating the kids on environmental issues such as recycling,” Tubbs said. “Because our set is made out of almost all recycled material. It is not only a comedy, but also a learning experience for them.”

The director and the cast said attendees can come to “Wiley and the Hairy Man” expecting to laugh. 

Tubbs said students attending the play should look forward to being a child again. 

“Come in with an open mind,” Tubbs said. “Be open to imaginative thinking because this play relies heavily on imagination, so channel your inner kindergartener.”

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Theatre MSU’s performance gets a bit hairy Sunday