California State University, Chico (April 3->8, 2001),
Directed by Sue Pate.

Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz/Professor of Anthropology
California State University, Chico / Chico, California 95929-0400
530-898-6220 [Office]; 530-898-6192 [Dept.] FAX: 530-898-6824
e-mail: / home page:

[This page printed from]

17 April 2001[1]

THIS PAGE was created while dramaturg (January, 2001->April, 2001) for The Miss Firecracker Contest (performed at CSU, Chico, over the days of April 3->8, 2001). The Miss Firecracker Contest was a wonderful production, produced by a wonderful director, performed by a wonderful cast on a wonderful set! Enough said! Below you have the following:



"Beth Henley's strange but heartwarmingly funny play is about the bold efforts of one Southern woman to win a Fourth of July beauty pageant. The odds against Carnelle are staggering, but she is determined to win the coveted Miss Firecracker title, and her odd, but charming friends--Popeye the Seamstress and Mac-Sam the Carnival Balloon Man--are determined to help her, come hell or high water. Carnelle finds the perfect dress and develops the perfect tap routine. However, her reputation as the town's 'hot tamale' makes us wonder if she will ever succeed in her quest. Susan Pate, Department of Theatre Arts faculty member, directs The Miss Firecracker Contest." Kaleidiscioe: Arts Events @ Chico State 2000-2001, page 21. 

"Welcome to Brookhaven, Miss. -- where small town mentality and Southern traditions reign. Carnelle, her cousins, and her strange friends take us to this fascinating corner of the USA where we inspect and enjoy some imminent life choices: How do you discover your path to success when others have already labeled who you are and determined your future? How do you blaze a trail of glory for yourself if no one can get past your follies and indiscretions? Let's find out!" Susan Pate, Director's Note.

From the HBO movie container for The Miss Firecracket Contest:

"Being an orphan, Carnelle never really felt at home in Yazoo City, but now her time had come. Hilarious comedy ensues when this small town girl with big time dreams enters the local beauty competition to be crowned Miss Firecracker. Joining Carnelle, and supporting her all of the way (some of the time), there's Cousin Elain, southern belle and former Miss Firecracker; Cousin Delmount, back from a nervous breakdown to sell the family home; Popeye, local seamstress who learned her trade making clothes for bullfrogs; and Mac Sam, carnival worker and Carnelle's occasional beau. All these and many more Yazoo City citizens make this Miss Firecracker contest one you won't want to miss. It's Carnelle's chance to shine."

"THE MISS FIRECRACKER CONTEST was presented by the Manhattan Theatre Club, in New York City, on May 1, 1984." (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.)

"The place is the small Mississippi town of Brookhaven, the time a few days before the Fourth of July. Carnell Scott (known locally as 'Miss Hot Tamale') is rehearsing furiously for the Miss Firecracker Contest - hoping that a victory will salvage her tarnished reputation and allow her to leave town in a blaze of glory. The unexpected arrival of her cousin Elain, herself a former Miss Firecracker winner (who has walked out on her rich but boring husband and her two small children) complicates matters a bit, 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 is hopelessly smitten by Delmont) and several cheerful nutty characters, Carnelle perseveres - leading to a denoument of unparalleled hilarity, compassion and moving lyricism as all concenred finally escape their unhappy pasts and turn hopefully toward what must surely be a better future [stress added]." (From Dramatists Play Service, Inc.)



"Brookhaven was founded in 1818 by pioneer Samuel Jayne who migrated to the area from his former home of Brookhaven in Long Island, New York. He and his brothers started a post office, store and mill along the Bogue Chitto River on land originally known as "Old Brook."


"Here in the midst of the rolling pine forests of southwest Mississippi, you'll find a dynamic community comprised of the City of Brookhaven and Lincoln County. With a population of approximately 12,000 in the city and 35,000 in the county, Brookhaven boasts the conveniences of a more urbanized area, yet retains an honest, small town charm. The diverse, local economy ranges from manufacturing and distribution to technology and service related business. The economy, combined with the historic nature of the community, provides residents with some very interesting opportunities. In Brookhaven, you can live in a Victorian treasure surrounded by massive oaks or a newly constructed home with all the latest features. You can shop in one of the area's many retail centers, browse an old-fashioned farmer's market, or go downtown where a promenade of restaurants, shops and businesses in century old architecture line both sides of the tracks of Amtrak's City of New Orleans passenger line. The choice of things to do is equally broad, covering localtheatre productions and fine arts to hunting, fishing, tennis and golf." [Brookhaven, Mississippi} On-Line]
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"The valley of the Mississippi is, on the whole, the most magnificent dwelling-place prepared by God for man's abode; and yet it may be said that at present it is but a mighty desert." Alexis de Tocqueville [1805-1859], 1832, Democracy in America.

"What has four eyes and cannot see? - The Mississippi River."
Archer Taylor, 1951, English Riddles From Oral Traditions.

"Mississippi begins in the lobby of Memphis, Tennessee, hotel and extends south to the Gulf of mexico. It is dotted with little towns concentric about the ghosts of the horses and mules once tethered to the hitch-rail enclosing the county courthouse and it might almost be said to have only two directions, north and south, since until a few years ago it was impossible to travel east or west in it unless you walked or rode on the horses or mules." William Faulkner [1897-1962], 1960, Mississippi. American Panorama: East of the Mississippi.

"I decline to accept the end of man." William Faulkner [1897-1962],
December 10, 1950} from his Nobel Prize (Literature) acceptance speech.

"When you are in Mississippi, the rest of America doesn't seem real. And when you are in the rest of America, Mississippi doesn't seem real." Bob Parris Moses, c. 1961, quoted by Jack Newfield, 1971, Amite Country. Bread and Roses Too.

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"Acting is one of the most exciting, enjoyable, and creative art forms in existence. It can also be one of the most daunting, challenging, and humbling experience anyone can face. Cultural anthropologists tell us that acting, at least in ritual form, is as old as the first humans sitting around the prehistoric campfire playing out for the gathered community the roles of demons, hunted animals, or even rain spirits." Susan Pate, Randy Wonzong, Donna Breed, 1996, A Beginning Actor's Companion, 3rd edition, page 1.

"What an actor has to have is empathy. If you can't understand why someone makes the decision they do, then you can't create a person other than yourself. The talent is the ability to understand people." Amanda Detmer, CSU, Chico Graduate. The Sacramento Bee, February 9, 2001, page E5.

"I found a way of getting paid for what I love." Cheryl Krajcar (18 years old). The Sacramento Bee, February 16, 2001, page E8. "After graduating from high school she plans on taking a year off before going on to a four-year college. During that year, she hopes to either travel around the country with a professional dog handler, or go to veterinarian technical school so that she can work during the week and show dogs on the weekend." Elizabeth Hume, 2001, Best Of Show. The Sacramento Bee, February 9, 2001, page E5.

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"Elizabeth Becker Henley was born May 8, 1952, in Jackson, Mississippi, the daughter of an attorney and an actress. Early on she dreamed of becoming an actress, and to that end she earned a B.F.A. at Southern Methodist University in 1974. While at SMU, she wrote her first play, the one-act Am I Blue, which was produced at SMU's Margo Jones Theatre in 1973. In 1976, she moved to Los Angeles to live with actor/director Stephen Tobolowsky, with whom she would later collaborate on the screenplay True Stories. After Crimes of the Heart won its initial award and was staged in 1979 by the Actors Theatre in Louisville, it debuted on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre November 4, 1981. ... Henley followed the success of Crimes of the Heart with The Miss Firecracker Contest, in which a socially outcast woman, Carnell Scott, wishes to improve her standing in her small southern town and decides the best way to do so would be to win the "Miss Firecracker" beauty contest. As the play opens, Carnelle is seen onstage dressed in a leotard and draped in an American flag as she tap-dances and twirls a baton to the accompaniment of "The Star-Spangled Banner." First produced onstage in Los Angeles in 1980, the play would likewise be adapted into a Hollywood film with a screenplay by Henley" [stress added]." From:

"Henley's form is uniquely her own. In a New York Times review in 1981, Frank Rich observes that she "gets her laughs not because she tells sick jokes, but because she refuses to tell jokes at all. Her characters always stick to the unvarnished truth, at any price, never holding back a single gory detail. And the truth-when captured like lightening in a bottle- is far funnier than any invented wisecracks." (Dellasega, 251) Mary Dellasega writes that Henley's comedy is based on "empathetic understanding of her characters' desperation." (251) Whether she intends to or not, Beth Henley does change the world." From:

"Beth Henley won a Pulitzer Prize at [age] 28 for her play, Crimes of the Heart. Her writing is eagerly awaited. Yet she faces a struggle no different from your own." Susan Shaughnessy, 1993, Walking on Alligators: A Book Of Meditations For Writers (NY: Harper Collins/HarperSanFrancisco), page 63. 

"I love to work, although sometimes I can spend whole days doing nothing more than picking the lint off the carpet and talking to my mother on the phone." (Beth Henley)

"[1991] Interviewer [Cynthia Wimmer-Moul]: When you're writing a character, how much of their history do you know? Do you feel that you really know where they come from and their surroundings and how they were educated?

Henley: Very much, because I write each character as though I were playing them, as if I had to perform them, and I really want to know. Every character has a secret, every character has a reaction to the other characters, every character has a greatest fear, and every character has a greatest dream; and I want to know what their sense of humor is and what their sexuality is and how they dress and how they talk. It's great because you can play all these parts you'd never be cast in." Jackson R. Bryer, 1995, The Playwright's Art: Conversations With Contemporary American Dramatists (Rutgers University Press), pages 102-122, page 111.


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May 8, 1952} Elizabeth Becker Henley born.
1955} Tennessee Williams wins the Pulitzer Prize for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
1957} Sputnik I launched.
1958} First domestic passenger jet airline service in the USA.
1959} Alaska & Hawai'i admitted as 49th & 50th states of the USA.
1960s} Civil Rights Movement.
1964} Nobel Peace Prize to Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
1965} Malcolm X assassinated (born 1925).
1966} Medicare begins.
1967} Tony Award for Cabaret.
1969} Best Movie Oscar for Midnight Cowboy.
1969} Humans on the Moon.
1970} Best Movie Oscar for Patton.
1970} Kent State.
1971} 26th Amendment ratified (18 year old vote).
1971} Best Movie Oscar for The French Connection.
1974} Best Movie Oscar for Godfather Part II.
1975} Vietnam War ends (began 1950).
1976} Best Movie Oscar for Rocky.
1979} Three-Mile Island.
1981} Beth Henley receives the Pulitzer Prize for Crimes of the Heart.
1982} ERA defeated.
1984} The Miss Firecracker Contest opens in New York City.
1986} Chernobyl.
1989} Exxon Valdez.
1989} Wendy Wasserstein receives the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for The Heidi Chronicles.
1990} Best Movie Oscar for Dances with Wolves.
1990} Germany unified.
1991} Neil Simon receives the Pulitzer Prize for Lost in Yonkers.
1994} Best Movie Oscar for Forrest Gump.
April 3->8, 2001} The Miss Firecracker Contest plays @ CSU, Chico.
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Leading up to The Miss Firecracker Contest of July 4, 1990 (the "date" of the CSU, Chico play presented April 3->8, 2001).

January 1990
January 1} Sports News Network begins operation on cable TV.
January 2} Dow Jones hits record 2,800.
January 3} General Manuel Noriega (Panama) surrenders to US troops and is arrested in drug-trafficking charges.
January 7} San Salvador military involved in the murder of six Jesuit priests in that country.
January 10} Martial Law is ended in Beijing, China.
January 26} K. Endate & K. Watanabe discover asteroid #6390 Hirabayashi.
January 28} San Francisco 49ers beat the Denver Broncos 55-10 to win Super Bowl XXIV in New Orleans, Louisiana.

February 1990
February 5} Notre Dame becomes 1st team to sell its game to a major network (NBC).
February 11} After 27 years in a South African prison, Nelson Mandela is freed.
February 13} Drexel Burhham Lambert Group, Inc. files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
February 14} Space probe Voyager 1 takes photograph of entire solar system.
February 16} Former President Reagan testifies (by videotape) in the Iran-Contra Trial.
February 19} Police kill 8 demonstrators for multi-party system in Nepal.
February 28} USA launches the 65th manned space mission STS 36 (Atlantis 6) into orbit.

March 1990
March 2} Greyhound Bus goes on strike.
March 5} A. Sugie discovers asteroid #4461 Sayama.
March 11} Lithuania declares its independence from the Soviet Union.
March 14} 4th Soul Train Music Awards: Soul II Soul, Janet Jackson.
March 18} $100,0000,000 in art work stolen from a Boston museum.
March 22} Joseph Hazelwood, Captain of the Exxon Valdez, found guilty of negligence.
March 30} Jack Nicklaus makes his debut in the "Seniors" golf tournament.

April 1990
April 1} 9th NCAA Women's Basketball Championship: Stanford beats Auburn 88-81.
April 4} Security law violator Ivan Boesky is released from federal custody.
April 13} Final episode of Pat Sajak's late night TV show on CBS.
April 20} Pete Rose pleads guilty to filing false tax returns and agrees to pay $366,000 in back taxes.
April 22} The 20th Anniversary of "Earth Day."
April 23} US Government begans keeping records of "hate crimes" under a bill signed by President Bush.
April 24} "Junk Bond King" Michael Milken fined $600,000,000 in fraud case (related to Drexel Burhham Lambert Group, Inc.).
April 25} US Space Shuttle Discovery places the 12.5 ton Hubble Space Telescope into orbit 381 miles above the planet Earth.
April 28} An estimated 200,000 to 700,000 partipants at an anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C.

May 1990
May 5} 116th Kentucky Derby: Craig Perret aboard Unbridled wins in 2:02.
May 11} NY Yankees trade Dave Winfield to Angels for Mike Witt.
May 13} Two US Airmen murdered at Clark Air Force Base, Philippines.
May 23} Estimated "bailout" of failed Savings & Loans in the USA could be as high as $130,000,000,000 (twice the estimate of earlier projections).
May 25} Scientists from the United Nations forecast "Global Warming."
May 28} Dave Thomas Comedy Show, debuts on CBS-TV.
May 31} Seinfeld starring Jerry Seinfeld, debuts on NBC as Seinfeld Chronicles

June 1990
June 1} President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union and USA President George Bush meet in Washington, D.C.
June 4} The trial of Marion Barry, Mayor of Washington, D.C. begins (on cocaine charges).
June 4} Dr. Jack Kevorkian assists with a "suicide machine" in Michigan.
June 7} President F.W. de Klerk ends the 4-year-old "State of Emergency" in three of the four provinces of South Africa.
June 14} The Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York City, Cardinal John J. O'Occonor, writes of the risk of excommunication for those who advocate, perform, or obtain an abortion.
June 20} Nelson Mandela given ticker-tape parade in New York City.
June 21} An estimated 40,000 killed and 60,000 injured when a 7.7 earthquake strikes Iran.
June 23} Canada has constitutional crisis concerning status of Province of Quebec.
June 26} President George Bush issues a statement listing "tax revenue increases" are needed reduce the budget deficit.

July 1990
July 1} Treaty creates a unified economic and monetary system for nations of West Germany and East Germany.
July 2} Imelda Marcos & Adnan Khashoggi found not guilty of racketeering.
July 3} In Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 1,426 pilgrims crushed to death in a tunnel leading from a tent city to the holy site.
July 4} France explodes nuclear test at Muruora Atoll, French Polynesia, South Pacific.

JULY 4 [Wednesday] 1990} The Miss Firecracker Contest takes place in Brookhaven, Mississippi! 

SOURCES: Various publications, including The World Almanac 1991, and [Home of the Daily Almanacs]

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Susan Pate

Scenic Design

Jarod L. Rothstein

Costume Design

Julia D. Dalton

Lighting Design

Adrian Torres

Sound Design

Derek Brener

Make-up Design

Marissa DiLuigi


Charlie Urbanowicz

Faculty CostumeMakeup Advisor

Gail Holbrook

Faculty Set/Lighting Advisor

Mark Beal

Dialect Coach

Joel P. Rogers

Poster Design

Brett I. Gilbreath

Carnelle Scott
Amy Sauro
Popeye Jackson
Michelle Marsh
Elain Rutledge
Lindsey Geib
Delmount Williams
Paul Glazier
Mac Sam
Beau Scarbrough
Tessy Mahoney
Emmy McCampbell


Production Manager

Michael Johnson

Costume Shop Foreman

Sandra Barton

Asst. Costume Shop Foreman

Hattie Gomez

Stage Technician

Peter M. Austin

Scenic Artist

David Beasley

Properties Supervisor

Margot Melcon

Properties Assistant

Turiya Dawn

HFA/School of the Arts Publicist

J. DiMaggio

University Box Office Manager

Alicia Abels

University Box Office Asst. Manager

Jennifer Anderson



Stage Manager

Nikky Rossini

Assistant Stage Manager

Allison Ward


Nikky Rossini and Amy Sauro

Light Board Operator

Joseph Denzei

Sound Board Operator

Melissa Mueller

Stage Crew

John Tomlinson, Michelle Turner, and Patty Venable

Wardrobe Supervisor

Alicia Carter

Wardrobe Cred

Tiffany Garner

Make-up Supervisor

Alexis Jensen

Make-up crew

Kelly Heltsey, Kenneth MacPherson, and Steve Remund

Master Electricians

Andy Noda and Eric Marsh


Abby Butler, Nathan Hislop, Stephanie Howell, Christina Massey, Kenny MacPherson, Vincent G. Ressa, Nikki Rossini, Jarrod Rothstein, Cory Ryan, and Jeremy J. Shull.


April Carmo, Deanna Cordano, Julie Cosenza, Julia Dalton, Diane Gans, Gabrielle Guglielmelli, Alexis Jensen, Emmy McCampbell, and Kathleen Otey.

Publicity Assistants

Brett I. Gilbreath and Sue Olson

Publicity Photographers

Jeff Shaner, Alexandria Rocha, and Michelle Rader

Additional scenic, costume, and electrical work done by Theatre 61, 70, 76, 163, 170, and 173 students.

Special Thanks: Brooke Balestrini, Sarah Blackstone, Sarah Knudsen, and Gail Maurer, for their help in making this show possible.

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View From The Stage in the Larry Wismer Theatre, PAC 134, CSU, Chico.
The Miss Firecracker Contest Stage: Act I.
The Miss Firecracker Contest Stage: Act II.

Poster by Brett I. Gilbreath.
Popeye Jackson.
Carnelle Scott.

Delmount Williams, Carnelle Scott, and Elain Rutledge.
Elain Rutledge.
Elain Rutledge, Carnelle Scott, and Popeye Jackson.

Popeye Jackson and Carnelle Scott.
Delmount Williams and Carnelle Scott.
Elain Rutledge and Tessy Mahoney.

Popeye Jackson, Mac Sam, and Delmount Williams.
The Cast of Six In Carnelle Scott's Dressing Room.
Carnelle Scott and Tessy Mahoney.

Mac Sam, Popeye Jackson, Delmount Williams, and Elain Rutledge.
Delmount Williams and Tessy Mahoney.
Elain Rutledge and Mac Sam.

Allison Ward (Assistant Stage Manager), Sue Pate (Director), and Amy Sauro (Carnelle Scott).
Julia Dalton (Costume Design).
Beau Scarbrough (Mac Sam) and Nikky Rossini (Stage Manager).

Michelle Marsh, Paul Glazier, and Amy Sauro!
Amy Sauro (Carnelle Scott) and Charlie Urbanowicz (Dramaturg).
Sue Pate (Director).

The Miss Firecracker Contest, July 4, 1990!
Beau, Sue, Emmy, Amy, Paul, Lindsey, and Michelle!

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OTHER WEB SITES NOT MENTIONED ELSEWHERE: [Beth Henley} born May 8, 1952] [Picture] [Creative quotatations from Beth Henley!] [Nice overview] [Overview again],_Beth/ [Search engine for Beth Henley] [Texas Production of The Miss Firecracker Contest ] [U Miss visuals of The Miss Firecracker Contest production] [Visuals} NEIU Stage Center] [Roger Ebert 4/28/1989 review of The Miss Firecracker Contest movie],7696,862946,00.html [The Miss Firecracker Contest review] [Crimes of the Heart information] [on the 1989 The Miss Firecracket Contest movie] [Democracy in America} Alexis de Tocqueville} University of Virginia] [The William Faulkner Collections at the University of Virginia] [William Faulkner} Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech]

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[1] © All rights reserved. For the Spring 2001 CSU, Chico campus production (April 3->8, 2001) of The Miss Firecracker Contest, directed by Dr. Susan Pate. For other "web pages" created for CSU, Chico productions that I have been involved in, please see (March 2000) and (March 1999). To return to the beginning of this page, please click here.

To go to the home page of Urbanowicz, please click here;

to the Department of Anthropology;

to the Department of Theatre Arts;

to California State University, Chico.

[This page printed from]

© [Copyright: All Rights Reserved] Charles F. Urbanowicz

17 April 2001 by CFU

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