MMNT kicks off 50th anniversary with a southern take on “The Miser”


Calista Robledo / Hilltop Views

Mia Ramirez makes her grand entrance as the local matchmaker, Frannie, in the production.

The Mary Moody Northern Theatre kicked off their 50th anniversary season with “The Miser”. Originally written by classic French playwright Molerie, this adaptation by director Bob Tolaro takes a noble turn from high French society to the Wild West in 1950s Texas. But 50 years ago, during MMNT’s first season, “The Miser” became part of a legacy that showcases local talent and educates future stars. 

MMNT began as what Kathryn Eader, department chair and “The Miser’s” lighting designer, described as a “star model” — where productions cast one big name star and cast the rest of the roles locally. She noted how the star model evolved into this equity model where actors from the Actors’ Equity Association are cast alongside students so they can continue obtaining professional experience. 

Moving forward, MMNT is looking to further embrace the community it occupies. 

Anna Skidis Vargas, the new resident artistic director, is excited to join the hilltop during this 50th anniversary season. 

“It’s an exciting time to find all of the things that are working really well, and then figure out how we can improve and grow, so we can really match the community here,” Vargas said. 

A director and playwright herself, Vargas focuses on Latinos and mixed identity in her work. Through devised work and musicals within her personal scholarship, she plans to incorporate more Black, Indigenous and people of color on and off the stage. 

“I’m excited to figure out where can I offer support because no one person can speak for an entire community,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the fourth show ‘Luchadora!’ by Alvaro Saar Rios. It’s about Latina empowerment. So having that in the season and really catering to the school’s population is amazing.”

Vargas was particularly drawn to the hilltop’s large Latino community. 

“Coming from St. Louis I’m like, ‘What do you mean it’s 40% Latin students?’ That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard!” Vargas said. 

Her enthusiasm is well known and radiating throughout the department. 

“We’re really trying to offer more opportunities to our Hispanic performers,” stage manager Nicolai Diaz said. “We haven’t done enough in the past, and I’m ready to see more of my culture onstage.” 

The vibrant delight of theatre that began 50 years ago will continue to leave a legacy on the hilltop. 

“We need to support the arts more as a campus and come together to see shows,” junior and acting major Zach Benoit said. “We have our instagram @seu_mmnt and we just made a TikTok with the same name. So please follow those, stay connected with the theatre and come see the shows we work so hard to put on!”