One of the most fabled novels of the 20th century will come to life this week on the stage at Crowder College as the college hosts a community theater production of “The Great Gatsby.”

One of the most fabled novels of the 20th century will come to life this week on the stage at Crowder College as the college hosts a community theater production of “The Great Gatsby.”
Author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story will feature a pair of Neosho students in starring roles. Zaq Ezell will play to part of Gatsby while Caitlin Baker tackles to role of Myrtle.
Crowder’s Shirley Gollhofer directs the production, which opens Thursday and continues through Saturday, while Ophelia Pugh-Towe is stage director.
“She’ll take over and run the show once the curtain goes up,” Gollhofer said of Pugh-Towe’s role. Handling costumers for the production is Stacy Pugh-Towe.
Productions are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. nightly this Thursday through Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. The play is staged in the Elsie Plaster Community Center on the Neosho campus.
Tickets are available at the door with general admission - $8; senior citizens and non-Crowder students - $5; children - $5; and tickets for Crowder students and staff are $4.
“We have a wide range of ages — from the sixth grade to college students — in the production,” Gollhofer said. The play is the final in a series of productions by the college’s theater department following a central theme, she said.
“Last summer Natasha (Davies, department chair) and myself sat and talked about the season,” Gollhofer said. “’The Great Gatsby’ falls into our theme of ‘page to stage,’”
The year-long series of productions have taken literary classics like “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
She said planning is already well underway for the upcoming season of Crowder Theater Department plays.
Among the students in the cast for “The Great Gatsby” is Jonah Drake of Granby who tackles the role of Nick Caraway. He will be enrolled at Crowder in the fall but got his start in theater at East Newton High School.
“I did a couple of plays in high school and heard about the auditions for Gatsby,” Drake said. “F. Scott Fitzgerald has been a huge influence for me and Gatsby really encapsulates the era of the 1920s with the styles and atmosphere.” Drake said rehearsing for the past several weeks has required a major commitment of time for all cast members.
“It’s everyday for at least two hours a day,” he said.
Sarah Swayne from Aurora plays the part of Daisy. She fell in love with the romantic aspect of the Roaring ‘20s. With the open auditions, she was just hoping to land a spot with the cast.
“I didn’t know I got the lead,” said Swayne, who has been driving an hour each way every day to make rehearsals.
Ezell, in the role of Gatsby, said he is a Crowder College sophomore who has been involved in theater since the eighth grade.
“I saw my brother perform and saw what he was like when he was involved in a play,” Ezell said of his normally quiet brother. “But when he was involved in theater he was so happy and radiant.
 Ezell said he too is fan of the Gatsby story line.
“It’s a classic, really fabulous story,” he said.
Gollhofer said the auditions brought out such a number of people trying out that the work could be spread out.
“We didn’t have to double cast parts like we’ve had to do some in the past,” she said. Gollhofer has been on the college staff about 27 years and has been involved in theater about the past 10 or 12 years, she said.
“I really enjoy working with kids,” she said. Gatsby has presented a lot of challenges for her, the crew and technical director Ben Davies
“It’s a technical nightmare with a lot of projections used,” Gollhofer said. “It’s been a challenge but rewarding for myself and the cast.”
Other cast members include Rebecca Weaver of Neosho as Jordan; Katrina Gratton of Neosho playing the maid; Ryan Kidd of Neosho as Wilson and Colin Oriz of Neosho as an extra.
Tyler Counts of Stella is playing Tom Buchanan while Dalton Compton of Stella is the policeman; Heather Alexander of Seneca plays the role of Mrs. McKee; Tyler Dallis of Exeter is one of the cast members pulling double duty, playing both Mr. McKee and Wolfshiem.
Nichole Foster of Sarcoxie rounds out the cast in the role of Mrs. Michalis.
Free admission will be provided for the 2 p.m. Saturday matinee performance for anyone brining a donation of a children’s book. The offer fits with the season’s theme “Bring a Book: Youth Literacy Campaign,” which lends itself to an opportunity to give back within the community. The books will be donated to local children, in the hope that we can inspire reading outside of the classroom.