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Gulfport High's little theater going out with a bang of 'Firecracker'

COURTESY LARRY HART 
 Miss Firecracker Cast, front, Caroline Lovelace, Joy Heinrich and Celeste Deleon; back Matt Fields, Téa Pappas and Josh Heinrich
COURTESY LARRY HART Miss Firecracker Cast, front, Caroline Lovelace, Joy Heinrich and Celeste Deleon; back Matt Fields, Téa Pappas and Josh Heinrich

GULFPORT -- Larry Hart, director of theater at Gulfport High School, said he's seen hundreds of students take the stage at the Admiral Little Theater over the past 20 years. But when the curtain falls Saturday night at the close of the play "The Miss Firecracker Contest," it will fall for the final time. The theater is slated to be demolished in the near future.

"The first play we did in the Admiral Little Theater, which was in the fall of 1997, was 'The Miss Firecracker Contest,'" Hart said. "We decided to end the theater's run with the same play."

Hart said the Admiral Little Theater was originally designed to be used as a choir room but it was often used as a place to store equipment such as sewing machines and typewriters.

"They built the choir a new room and I decided to use it because it had a stage in it, and we decided to do "The Miss Firecracker Contest."

He said the 1997 version starred a Gulfport native who has made a name for herself as an actor and a playwright.

"Boo Killebrew had the lead in the play and she now lives in New York," Hart said, "and she's a very celebrated playwright."

Hart said he has fond memories of the theater, including staging versions of "Wait Until Dark" and "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare," but he is not exactly lamenting the pending demolition.

"The new theater is going to be much more modern and state-of-the-art," he said. "It will have dressing rooms and other amenities that we currently do not have, and we hope to have it ready to go by the end of June."

If you are interested in seeing "The Miss Firecracker Contest," which was written by Mississippi native Beth Henley and set in Brookhaven, time is running out.

"We are doing one more public performance, and it is Friday night," Hart said. "Saturday's performance is a sold-out show that was sort of an invitation-only thing for alumni, faculty, patrons of the theater and some of the old cast members."

Doors open for the play Friday at 6:30 p.m. and the curtain opens at 7 p.m. Admission to "The Miss Firecracker Contest" is $5 for adults and $3 for students.

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