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‘Tarzan’ swings into SSMS, harnesses and all

Tarzan the ape man has swung from Africa to Hopkins County for his debut performance at Sulphur Springs Middle School Friday evening. Heartwarming music from Phil Collins will fill the theater as dozens of local children tell the famous Edgar Rice Burroughs story.

“‘Tarzan’ is going to be the same story that everyone knows and loves. I tell the kids that it’s not just a love story between Jane and Tarzan, but a story about the love Tarzan shares with the mother who adopts him,” said  Shining Star Productions owner Amanda Thompson-Brandenburgh. 

“‘Tarzan,’ based off the 1999 Disney film, is about young boy who was orphaned in the jungles of Africa and adopted by apes Kala and Kerchak. The apes raise the young boy as one of their own. As Tarzan becomes a man, he is reunited with humans who have journeyed to Africa on an expedition to study gorillas in the wild. 

“It really is a beautiful story that gives me chills,” said Thompson-Brandenburgh. 

Several years ago, Shining Star Productions debuted “Peter Pan.” They used flying rigs to hoist actors high off the stage. Thompson-Brandenburgh said the experience was thrilling and she has been wanting to produce another play using the flying harnesses ever since. After listening to the soundtrack of Tarzan, she knew this would be the perfect play to bring to Sulphur Springs. 

“Out of everything I have directed, this is my favorite show because of the music,” said Thompson-Brandenburgh. “We have a group of actors who have grown with every production we have done so far. Over the years, our kids have never run away from any challenge, and we are going to see some amazing things from them this year.”

Last week, a wire-work instructor flew to Sulphur Springs to set up the rigs needed for Tarzan to gracefully swing from tree to tree across the SSMS stage. 

“Their team is out of Las Vegas and has worked with Katy Perry on her show. They helped us out on ‘Peter Pan’ a few years ago, and made it a seamless process,” said Thompson-Brandenburgh. “We have been working on Tarzan since September of last year with kids from age four to 18. So far it is going smooth. We are going to have 11 people flying in ‘Tarzan ‘with cool effects we have not done before.” 

Tarzan debuts Friday, July 24, at 7 p.m. Performances are Saturday, July 25, at 7 p.m.; Sunday, July 26, at 2 p.m. and Monday, July 27, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at Alliance Bank, the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce or by calling 903-438-5217. 

“We are going to have 500 seats available for each performance and have added an additional show from last year,” said Thompson-Brandenburgh. “Although we are at a smaller venue this year, we are not going to be sacrificing any of our normal punch or pizzazz. We are excited.”

East Texas Boy, 13, on bike struck and killed by motorist on interstate

TITUS COUNTY — The Texas Department of Public Safety is asking for assistance from the public on a fatal hit-and-run crash that occurred at approximately 4:34 a.m. Monday, July 20, on Interstate 30.


Former Cumby teacher indicted by federal court for child exploitation

TYLER – Former Cumby High School and Junior High math teacher Lucas R. Hill was indicted late Tuesday morning in the Eastern District of Texas on child exploitation charges, according to U.S. Attorney John M. Bales.


‘Streetcar’ presents different perspective than film

On his summer break from college, director Triston Pullen is bringing Hopkins County a darker side of theater.  Surrounded with adult themes, metaphor and intense emotion, “A Streetcar Named Desire” premieres this Thursday at Reed’s Entertainment. Warning, this production is for adults only. 

“This is a very dark tale,” said Pullen. “For me, this is a very spiritual show. It talks about a woman [Blanche] who is searching and loses so many times in her life. She feels that God has left her. She then finds God in men but, every time a man leaves her, it’s like her spirit is torn out of her.”

After graduating from Sulphur Springs High School, Pullen received a scholarship to Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Pullen said that working in a community that thrives in creativity has helped shape him as a director and actor. 

“I have never seen a show like this in Sulphur Springs. When I moved to Santa Fe, a world of culture hit me,” said Pullen. “I wanted ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ to be intense. It’s all about the spirit, and how it breaks down.”

While keeping the classic tale the same, Pullen wanted to add something almost religious to the production. To add multi-layered dimensions, Pullen instructed the entire set to be painted white and had technicians use LED lighting to transmit emotion, pain and ethos into the characters during the production. The effect is a visual immersion and commentary on art. 

“We wanted to show what reality was verses what is in Blanche’s mind,” said Pullen. “The film dialed down the lover’s death and only insinuated things that are actually in our show. I told my cast not to watch the movie. It might be set in the 1940s, but it has a very modern feel.”

  “A Streetcar Named Desire” will run July 23-26 and 30-31 at Reed’s Entertainment. All showtimes are at 7 p.m., except Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. 


Fall Festival lip sync contest offering cash prizes

Hopkins County Fall Festival may still be more than three months away — it’s not scheduled until Oct. 17-24 — but the HCFF Board will be sponsoring a new contest at the end of the month to raise funds for and provide a fun means to start generating buzz about the annual fair.

The Next Big Thing Lip Sync Battle will be held Friday evening, July 31, at First Baptist Church’s Recreational Outreach Center (known as The ROC). The doors will open at 6 p.m. and the cost of admission to watch the show is $5 each.

Thanks to the generosity of sponsors such as Circle E Western Store and Flowerland, HCFF will award three monetary prizes, $200 for first place, $100 for second and $50 for third.

Judging will be based on three components: synchronization, costume and performance. Each act will receive a score of 0-10 points in each of the three categories.

All songs, costumes and performances must be family appropriate. Any vulgar or obscene performances will be stopped mid-performance and disqualified. Performances must be less than five minutes each. Contestants must provide on CD the music they plan to lip sync to.

Those entering the contest should turn in the $15 per person entry fee and completed application no later than Wednesday, July 29, at Hopkins County Regional Civic Center. Entry forms are available at the Civic Center, Circle E Western Store and at The ROC.

All proceeds for the contest will benefit Hopkins County Fall Festival.

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