Gatsby Takes Center Stage MSU Department of Theater puts on The Great Gatsby this fall

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This October, the Pasant Theater at the Wharton Center will showcase the drama, music, and romance of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic story, “The Great Gatsby.” Set in the 1920s, this tale follows protagonist Nick Carraway in his encounters with his mysterious millionaire neighbor, Jay Gatsby. The beloved novel has inspired an Academy Award-winning film adaptation, a ballet and even an opera.

For director Dr. Deric McNish, preparations began nearly a year ago. To perfectly capture the spirit of the Roaring Twenties, McNish spent all of this past spring semester working with other crew members on everything from set design and lighting to costumes and hair styling.

“We began the process with broad conversations about the story we want to tell the audience and, over the course of time, we slowly began to narrow our ideas down so that, by summer, we had our entire set designed,” McNish said.

Early preparations allowed cast members like DJ Shafer and Heather Mahoney to jump into rehearsals as soon as the fall semester started.

Mahoney was first drawn to the MSU Theater Department during a weekend visit in her senior year of high school.

“I decided on a whim to try out for the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program and got in,” Mahoney said.

Now just a sophomore, Mahoney is an understudy to Daisy, the female lead, and plays an ensemble member named Nanette. She is also looking forward to performing with veteran MSU actor, DJ Shafer.

Shafer, now a senior, will be taking the stage this fall as Jay Gatsby in his fourth MSU production.

“Gatsby is such an interesting and mysterious character,” Shafer said. “Each character has a different opinion about him.”

Like Mahoney, Shafer prepared for his role by studying both the novel and the play over the summer, deciphering Gatsby’s personality and motivations.

“Having this kind of deeper understanding about a character is crucial when attempting to portray them authentically in front of an audience,” Shafer remarked.

McNish is excited for audiences to see the “beautiful set and incredibly talented cast” in this adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” that stays truer to the novel than the 2013 film adaptation.

“The story is familiar to people but will be presented in a new light,” McNish said, adding that the show will feature a live band, with music composed by MSU professors. McNish believes this play will be very popular with MSU students.

“Most students likely read [Gatsby] in high school,” Shafer said. “I think it’s both an exciting and nostalgic experience for an audience that is willing to see this classic story told through a new medium.”

“The Great Gatsby”runs from Oct. 13 through Oct. 22. For show times, ticket prices and seat availability visit