MC Theatre Department presents "The Sniper's Nest"

Nov. 13, 2012
Contact: Mary Moates ‘14, Communications Assistant

The Maryville College Theatre Department will present Lisa Soland’s “The Sniper’s Nest” Nov. 29 through Dec. 2.

The play follows Lee Harvey Oswald, the sniper who allegedly assassinated John F. Kennedy in November of 1963. Several government organizations, including the Dallas Police Department, FBI and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, concluded that Oswald acted alone. However, the mysterious events surrounding one of history’s most compelling moments have left many wondering whether or not the American public will ever know the whole truth.

Not only will the MC performance of “The Sniper’s Nest” be the world premiere of the play, but the play will open during the same month as the 49th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22.

Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Nov. 29 through Dec. 1 and 2 p.m. on Dec. 2 in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Haslam Family Flex Theatre.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for seniors, MC Theatre alumni and area students. Admission is free for MC students, faculty and staff, although a printed ticket is required for admission. You may purchase tickets online or by calling the Clayton Center Box Office at 865.981.8590.

“The Sniper’s Nest” is presented by the College’s Alpha Psi Omega honor society. Playwright Soland, who is also an adjunct instructor of theatre at Maryville College, will act as director of the production.

Soland’s play approaches the assassination with new information about Oswald. Inspired by Judyth Vary Baker’s book Me and Lee: How I Came to Know, Love and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald, Soland incorporated the character of Baker into her play as Oswald’s love interest. The role of Baker will be played by junior theatre major Caitlin Campbell of Maryville, Tenn.

“I'm bringing to the stage, for the first time, a person who contributed so much to Lee's life and to the story surrounding Kennedy's assassination,” Campbell said. “She played such a vital role, and now she's finally getting the recognition she deserves.”

Walker Harrison of Loudon, Tenn., will star as Lee Harvey Oswald. A senior theatre major, Harrison is basing his senior thesis project on acting in this play.

Dr. Heather McMahon, associate professor of theatre and Harrison’s thesis advisor, said that Harrison will be researching acting theory to prepare for his role as Oswald, as well as keeping a journal during his performance and constructing a written response after each show.

I am keeping a journal of my work with Lisa in an attempt to find and correlate our work with the work of other artists and acting theories,Harrison said.

Due to Soland rewriting and editing the play as the actors learn their scenes, McMahon said that the rehearsal process for “The Sniper’s Nest” is different from other plays that the students have been involved in.

The best way to get better at acting is to not just read a lot of theory,” Harrison said. “It is the constant practice of acting.”

Junior Rachel Jarnagin of Knoxville, Tenn., is the assistant director and sophomore Daniel Noles of Knoxville, Tenn., is the stage manager. Jennifer Luck is the technical director.

Because of some adult language and themes, the play is not intended for children or young teens.

The four MC theatre students and Soland are currently raising money to travel to New York City to perform a staged reading of “The Sniper’s Nest” in Times Square. Hosted by the Dramatists Guild of America, the trip is planned for Dec. 14, and the students are fundraising for the event online at

“This trip to New York will show the importance of building a bridge to the real world for our students,” Soland said.

In an attempt for the students to establish contacts in both technical theatre and acting while in New York, Soland said that she is in the process of making appointments for the students to meet successful theatre practitioners in the area.

“It's one thing to read about people working in the profession, but it's something totally different having someone tell you face-to-face what their every day lives are like,” Jarnagin said. “They are the only people that can really give me an honest answer about the profession I want to go into.”

McMahon said that traveling to New York would provide more than one opportunity for the students.

“The students going to New York will be able to meet lots of theatre professionals, including playwrights, publishers, stage managers and actors. They will find out how those artists got where they are,” McMahon said. “They will be able to make connections and start thinking about their own lives after college.”

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,198.