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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Theatre and Dance

STILL LIFE at The Lab Theatre | February 25-28

Emily Mann's searing documentary drama about the life in the wake of the Vietnam War is at the Lab Theatre February 25-28.

The UofSC Dept. of Theatre and Dance

Still Life

by Emily Mann
Directed by Leroy Kelly

February 25-28, 2016

Lab Theatre
1400 Wheat St.
(in the Booker T. Washington Building)

Show Times:

8pm nightly

$5, available only at the door

Still Life contains adult language and content which is not suitable for children.

Cedrick Cooper as Mark

Emily Mann’s Obie Award-winner is a searing expose on the impact of war on individuals and families.  Formed out of interviews with real people in the wake of the Vietnam War, the script provides unflinching portraits of Mark, a troubled veteran suffering a difficult adjustment to civilian life; his wife, Cheryl, who struggles to keep her family together in spite of Mark’s violent outbursts; and, Nadine, the cynical friend who becomes entangled in their conflicted relationship.  “...a powerful affair, full of passion and viability.” — The Los Angeles Times.  “…a searing account of the lingering effects of the Vietnam War.” — The New York TimesStill Life contains adult language and content which is not suitable for children.

The play has a deep personal resonance for director Leroy Kelly, a senior theatre major.  Before coming to the University, Kelly served for eight years in the US Marine Corps, making four deployments to the theatres of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

“It’s a hard thing adjusting from military to civilian life for a lot of people who’ve had war in their military experience,” says Kelly.  “At war, you’re dependent on these people, these troops around you…to have your back, to make sure you don’t die.  They’re like your brothers.  Then, you come back to the civilian world and you’ve got people are who are concerned with tedious things, and they don’t have a clue about what it was like.”

Kelly is making his directing debut with Still Life, having garnered experience on stage (Ajax in Iraq at Longstreet Theatre, In the Red and Brown Water at Trustus Theatre) and behind the scenes during his tenure as a theatre student.  He says he discovered the play while looking for a monologue to perform in a class with theatre professor Erica Tobolski.  “It triggered so many memories of my Marine Corps experience, the things Mark is going through and how I relate to them,” he says.

“It’s about the tragedies, the effects, of war,” says Kelly.  “That’s what Emily Mann wanted to leave people thinking about with this play — the cost.”

The documentary-style script, Kelly says, gives the audience a unique chance to have a face-to-face interaction with the characters, as the characters address the viewers directly throughout the play. 

“That’s what I love about this play,” says Kelly.  “It’s not a separate world on a stage.  Instead, the audience is in the world.  They’re able to experience what it’s like to be each character’s friend or enemy throughout the play.” 

The intimate production features a trio of talented undergraduate students, including theatre major Cedrick Cooper as Mark, media arts major Kerri Simmons as Cheryl and hospitality management major Beth Paxton as Nadine.  The production marks the debut University theatre performance for Cooper, who sports fans will know from his four years on the football field as a defensive end for the Gamecock football team.  The show’s production design is being helmed by Kelly, who is creating hard-hitting visual projections, and set designer Curtis Smoak.

“I want the audience to walk away asking if war is really worth the effects it has on families, and the effects it has on the mindset of the troops,” says Kelly.  “I want them to walk away knowing that it’s not just the troops that will deal with post traumatic stress disorder — it’s the children, or a lover, or other family members.  War has a lasting effect on more than just military veterans.” 

For more information on Still Life or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at