Among the 60-plus productions beloved University of Southern Mississippi Professor Dr. Louis “Lou” Rackoff directed at regional theatres and at USM many were Shakespearean titles such as “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Comedy of Errors,” and “King Lear.”
He fondly shared stories with colleagues about stage managing for Joe Papp in New York, the founder of the New York Shakespeare Festival (now known as Shakespeare in the Park), and his experiences as a director for the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival.
With this evident love for the work of William Shakespeare, USM Theatre will honor the memory of Dr. Rackoff during the upcoming spring production of Macbeth set to open on April 20 in the Tatum Theatre on the Hattiesburg Campus. Additionally, a memorial will be held for Rackoff on Saturday, April 22 from 2-4 p.m. in the theatre. A livestream of the memorial can be viewed via USM Theatre’s Youtube channel.
Performances will be held from April 20 through the 22 and again on April 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m. The matinee performance is scheduled for April 30 at 2 p.m. In-person tickets are now available for purchase and the show is recommended for audiences who are 13 years old or older. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for seniors, military, faculty and staff, and $8 for students.
This show is dedicated to honor the memory of USM Theatre’s late Professor of Directing and former Chair of Theatre who passed away earlier this semester. Rackoff spent countless hours working on this production before his passing in February.
Guest director and alumnus, Sam Buchanan, says the production is based on many of Lou’s concepts and ideas.
“I am honored to be guest directing this production, following in the steps of my mentor, Louis Rackoff,” said Buchanan. “Audiences can look forward to outstanding performances delivered by both seasoned and budding artists. It’s a great showcase of the talent and creative potential offered at USM.”
Costume Designer Madison Queen, an MFA candidate from Ashland, Ore. graduating this May shares her experience with designing the costumes for the production.
“Working on the costumes for Macbeth has been delightfully challenging because we aren’t basing the show in a specific time period. The costume designs reflect a sort of familiar feel to medieval fantasy, and the same familiar feeling to modern day military. They are nondescript and feel timeless,” said Queen.
“We’re working with a dramatic color palette, interesting textures, and building some really incredible garments for the Macbeths, the Witches, Banquo, and various other cast members,” Queen added. “Before Lou’s passing, we had been designing a specific garment for Macbeth that he loved, and you’ll get to see. I’m proud to say the costume shop has really gone all out for this show.”
Lou joined the USM faculty in 2004 as a visiting guest artist before being elevated to assistant professor; later, he took over as chairman and head of the department’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Directing Program; he achieved full professor ranking before his retirement.
Prior to his stint at USM, Lou served as director of the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival after working as an adjunct instructor and assistant professor with the Department of Theatre at Fordham University from 1984-1988.
He was guest director for more than 60 productions in professional regional theaters. At USM he directed multiple plays throughout his career at the university, including Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (2004), The Comedy of Errors (2010) and King Lear (2011). His most recent directing for Southern Miss Theatre include memorable productions: Once in a Lifetime (2021); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2021); Ah, Wilderness (2020); Guys and Dolls (2019); Southern Arena Theatre’s I Hate Hamlet (2019); and Cabaret (2018).
Meg Brooker, director of the USM School of Performing and Visual Arts, said that while she only knew Lou for a short time, he made a strong and positive impression on her. “I’m grateful to have crossed paths with him at USM,” Brooked further noted. “He had a prolific artistic career and deeply inspired countless theatre students. The outpouring of support from former students and alumni has been amazing to witness.”
In an effort to establish a memorial fund to honor Lou, family, colleagues, alumni and friends are making gifts through the USM Foundation. To contribute, visit usmfoundation.com/rackoff.
Visit Southern Ticket Office to purchase tickets.
Visit Southern Miss Theatre’s YouTube Channel to join the livestream for the memorial.
Visit USM Foundation to support effort to establish a memorial fund.
The guest direction by Sam Buchanan was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Robert N. Kinnaird, Jr. and Lucille Ehlers Kinnaird Memorial.