By BROOKE BULLOCK BURLESON, Daily Journal
TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — Since experiencing live theater in the Big Apple, Misty Cox has developed a deep appreciation for theater productions large and small.
It was the latter who won her heart.
As Vice President of the Tupelo-based Pied Piper Players, Mississippi’s only nonprofit children’s theater, Cox passes on her love of the stage to the next generation of theater kids.
“Children come from all walks of life to play in our plays, and I realized very quickly that for some children this is the only good time they have,” she said from inside Tupelo Civic Auditorium, where the band held their production of “Frozen Junior.” earlier this month.
Based on Disney’s hugely popular animated film ‘Frozen’, the musical tells the story of royal sisters Anna and Elsa, the latter of whom was born with icy powers that she must keep from everyone, including Anna. When Elsa accidentally freezes the kingdom of Arendelle on her coronation day, she flees into the frozen mountains, setting Anna and a growing collection of friends on an adventure to find her and bring her home.
Cox came through her love of acting naturally. She grew up attending Broadway productions in the hustle and bustle of New York. As a student at a boarding school in Baltimore, she sometimes traveled north by train when her mother came to visit.
“My mom and I would take the train to New York and see as many Broadway shows as we could in a weekend,” Cox said.
After living in Louisiana, Baltimore, San Francisco and Atlanta, Cox moved back closer to her hometown of Tupelo. When her daughter, Bel — now a ninth grader at Tupelo High School — started participating in theater productions six years ago, Cox got involved.
“I was just a working mom behind the scenes,” she said at the time.
But three years ago, Cox was approached by volunteers from the Pied Piper Players to direct a production. After much thought and plenty of prompting from her daughter, Cox agreed. After that, she joined the board of Pied Piper Players.
According to Cox, she was scared to death when her very first rehearsal arrived.
“I had only planned the first scene of ‘Madagascar’,” she said.
Her fears were quickly allayed when she noticed how talented her elders were and how much group work meant to the children.
“A lot of what I learned came from the kids,” said Cox, who has yet to perform on stage herself.
These days, Cox typically directs two of the theater company’s four annual productions. Since the pandemic, however, the venue hasn’t performed as many plays, although the upcoming season will see a return to its regular schedule.
Over the years, the director realized that her key role in the group was to allow children to learn to express themselves.
“If the kids have an idea, I’m always going to try it,” Cox said. “Every child’s idea is important.”
The cast of “Frozen Jr.” includes 75 children from across the region, the largest in recent Pied Piper history. Among them is Meadow, Cox’s youngest daughter, who has her first role in the production. Bel also helps direct, making the production a family affair.
Despite the headaches that naturally come with such a small scale production, Cox said the rewards in the work she does are more than she expected.
“It’s a whole different ballgame when you touch the lives of kids who really need it,” she said.
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