MSA student wears crown at Shakespeare competition

Published 6:00 am Thursday, January 29, 2009

One Mississippi School of the Arts student distinguished herselfeven further from the rest of the state’s thespians Saturday andwill soon try her hand against students from all over thenation.

Kelli Ferris, 18, a senior theater student at MSA, won the StateShakespeare Competition Saturday at the State Room, giving MSA twostraight years of state competition winners. She said her selectionof the character Helena, from “All’s Well that Ends Well,” was aperfect match.

“I was thinking, ‘Is this a good character for me?'” theSeminary native said, adding that once she began practicing, “Itkinda just hit me that that was it.”

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Theater and Dance Movement Specialist Tammy Williams said thecompetition at the State Room featured four schools, includingBrookhaven High School. However, the low number of competingschools belied the level of talent present at the event.

“These students work really hard,” she said. “The competitionwas pretty stiff in that she’ll probably at least place in NewYork.”

Ferris has a fully paid trip to the Big Apple coming up in lateApril, where she will represent Mississippi against talentedShakespearean actors and actresses from all over the country.

MSA student Sam Damera set the trend last year, heading toNashville for the national competition. He placed in the top 10 atnationals.

Williams said MSA has a good atmosphere for the type ofcompetition Ferris faces in the Shakespeare competitions, astheater students are constantly giving impromptu performances forvisitors and student recruits. In addition, the field ofcompetitors for MSA’s spot in the competition was not small.

“At MSA there were14 other students that competed, so Kelli hadto cover a lot of ground to get there,” Williams said.

And Ferris had covered a lot of ground to begin with, she said.She was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocetic Leukemia as a small childand battled it through about fifth grade.

“I was taking chemo treatments, and we lived in Tampa at thetime,” Ferris said. “They were getting intense, and we were tryingto make the trips back and forth, so we decided to move back toMississippi.”

That move was what set her on this course, she said.

Her mother found MSA on the Internet. Since her high schoolcounselor had not informed her of the school, she was allowed toaudition a little late and secured her spot in the elite school forarts students.

“I never thought I was any good til I auditioned here,” shesaid. “I’m lucky I found this school or I wouldn’t be where I amnow.”

Ferris plans to attend University of Southern Mississippi topursue a degree in theatre.