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Theatre & Dance presents 'Beaumont's Babe: A Sportrait of Babe Didrikson Zaharias'

Born in 1911 in Port Arthur and raised in Beaumont, Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias is considered one of the greatest female athletes of the 20th century. The Lamar University Department of Theatre & Dance will present her life story in “Beaumont's Babe: A Sportrait of Babe Didrikson Zaharias,”April 28 through May 1in the Studio Theatre.

A basketball champion who achieved Olympic gold in track and field, Babe also won multiple golf championships and blazed the trail for women in sports.“Beaumont’s Babe,” an original work, created by the students of Lamar, will draw upon her life and words to celebrate the centennial of her birth through scenes, songs, dance and athletic activity.

“Babe really enjoyed having fun with people, with her audiences. We’re encouraging the audience to participate – to cheer her on – as if they lived the journey with her. The stage is set up like a sports arena, so the audience will feel really close to the action,” said Ron Zank, visiting instructor of theatre and director of the play.

The production was created through a collaborative process between Zank and the 11-member cast. Cast members researched Zaharias’s life story, and then created the spoken text through a series of exercises and guidance from Zank.

“The cast flung themselves into the process,” said Zank. “Devising a work usually happens around a single historical event, but tackling something this large is rare.Her life will be presented in a series of snapshots – her key moments, punctuated by newspaper headlines and advertisements that she appeared in.”

The timespan of the play runs from around 1920, detailing her childhood in Beaumont, to Zaharias’s death from cancer in 1956. Events covered include her medal-winning Olympic triumph in the 1932 Los Angeles games, her groundbreaking golf career and her appearances in vaudeville shows.

Three different actresses portray the part of Zaharias at various time periods in her life: Jacquelyn Gower, Debra Howell and Maci McFarlin, all of Nederland. Two actors play her husband George Zaharias: Jason Parker, Jasper, and Daniel Whitton, Buna. The cast is rounded out by Dylan Ball, Orange; Sarah Green, Fort Worth; Steven Hoffman, Silsbee; Justin O’Mara, Commerce; Carley Stewart, Sulphur Springs; and Amanda Van Dorn, Lumberton.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. April 28-30. There will be a 1 p.m. matinee on April 29and a 2 p.m. matinee on May 1.The production will be staged in the Studio Theatre, 4400 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway on the Lamar University campus in Beaumont. Tickets are priced at $10 for general admission; $7 for senior citizens, students and LU faculty/staff; and $5 for LU students. Call (409) 880-2250 for reservations and additional information.