Premiere Tonight: Johanne d’Arc

Joe Frost written and directed original play Johanne d’Arc should not be missed.

It opens tonight and run though next week, but don’t wait until the end of the run or you might miss it.  And because it is  improv driven theatre, you may want to see this dynamic show more than once.

This week and next week:  Thursday 7:30,  Friday 7:30, Saturday 2:00


















From the Jackson Free Press

Joan of Arc goes on stage fueled by improv for Belhaven University’s production of “Johanne d’Arc.”

The university’s theater director and department chairman, Joe Frost, decided to let the creative process of improvisation determine and guide the script for “Johanne d’Arc.” During improvisational rehearsals, the students tailored their roles to fit the characters.

“That’s when I write the script, after the creative process ensues,” Frost says. The cast worked on improvisation together for about a month before Frost wrote a script based on the scenes they workshopped. Then, they continued to tweak the script through rehearsals.

For the production, an all-female cast researched Joan of Arc historical accounts together. Using their knowledge and improv skills, they built the characters, defined their scenes and applied dialogue based on their interpretation of their characters to construct the play. Joan of Arc’s story as a peasant girl God called to lead the fight against the English for the reestablishment of the French throne expands based on how far the actors wish to hone in on the adventures of the heroine.

I want to produce a new point of view and interpretation, painting another picture of what audiences already know about the bold escapades of the historical person,” Frost says. “Possibilities exist through improvisations that don’t come out in a pre-scripted play. (Students are) given the opportunity to personalize their feelings because their guard is let down.” Many cast members are returning students who already have acting experience.

“But there were so many new students too that gives us fresh perspective, evoking even more invention,” he says.

Students went through rehearsal exercises to prepare for the experiment in improv. The exercises helped them to become more accepting and comfortable with fellow actors.

This will be an “in the round” production that allows for flexible seating which brings the audience in close contact with the actors as they perform.

Laina Faul will portray Johanne. All other roles will interchange. Belhaven faculty members Kris Dietrich and Nadine Grant are designing the final set and costumes, respectively.

Rwandan Belhaven student gives back to his country

Belhaven, along with more than a dozen other US universities, hosts several of Rwanda’s brightest students through an exchange program. But what about Rwandan students who are interested in a good university education, but don’t have the English scores to qualify for entrance into a US university? Belhaven student Anselme (Nathan) Mucunguzi has started a foundation to help 25 rural Rwandans prepare for entrance exams each year. The brilliance of the foundation, called Inspire Scholars Foundation, is that it does not waste money. Each summer, ISF’s team (made of Rwandan students pursuing a university education abroad) goes to Rwanda to select 25 highly motivated eleventh grade students attending schools located in rural areas. During each school break, they organize an intensive English course for the selected students. Each course is taught by teachers whose native language is English. ISF’s first English course is scheduled for the 9th to 20th  of December 2013.

Mucunguzi’s foundation was recently featured in a story at The New Times Rwanda.  Click here for the full story.

To give to the foundation, go to their website Inspire Scholars Foundation

Coach Willie Heidelberg

I was shocked this morning to learn of the death of Coach Willie Heidelberg, our Assistant Football Coach.  Coach Heidelberg was found deceased at home this morning, of an apparent heart attack.

Coach Heidelberg has been a part of the Belhaven Football staff longer than any other coach, joining Belhaven as the program began 16 years ago.  He is a Mississippi sports legend, having played football at Pearl River Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi.

It is hard to imagine Belhaven football without Willie.  He’s been there since the beginning, and has been a voice of significance in the life of every Belhaven football player.  I always knew we could lean on Willie because he honored the Lord in everything he did as he cared for our players – he was a winner every single day.

Many of you knew Willie, but may have not known about his significant history in the sports and racial reconciliation history of Mississippi.  He was small, but he cast a very long shadow.

Willie was remembered today by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame


Willie Heidelburg, a tiny, kind, mild-mannered man who never sought the spotlight but flitted into it nonetheless in October 1970, has died. Heidelburg, an assistant coach at Belhaven, was the only African American on the field on Oct. 17, 1970, when he scored two touchdowns to help Southern Miss defeat fourth-ranked Ole Miss 30-14 in surely the biggest upset in Mississippi football history.

Belhaven head coach Joe Thrasher played for Heidelburg at Belhaven before returning to the school as head coach.

“I would have run through a wall for that man,” Thrasher said. “Our guys now would do the same. This is a hard, hard day for us. Willie was a man of stoic humility. Everybody here loved him. His passion for football was only exceeded by his faith in the Lord. He is going to be missed and cannot be replaced.”

What follows is a column I wrote for The Clarion-Ledger about “Wee Willie” at the state high school basketball tournament in 2010.

The dapper, little man with the wire rim glasses is as much a fixture at the MHSAA/Cellular South State Championships as the funnel cakes, the bouncing balls and the squeaky sneakers.

You’ll find him seated at the scorer’s table directly behind the possession arrows. Game after game, year after year, Willie Heidelburg keeps the official scorebook at the Big House. He hasn’t missed one in 13 years. Barring something unexpected, he’ll have recorded more than 500 consecutive state tourney games before this year’s event ends.

That’s a lot of history for a man who made plenty himself. Forty years ago this coming fall, he was known as “Wee Willie” Heidelburg when he flitted his 143 pounds into the end zone twice to help Southern Miss stun Ole Miss 30-14 in what remains the biggest, most unbelievable upset in Mississippi football history.

Wee Willie was like a black dot on an ivory domino, the only black player on the field for either team that day. His performance foreshadowed sweeping changes in Deep South football. On this, the last day of Black History Month, it seems appropriate to ask the question: Was Heidelburg aware of the ramifications back then as a 20-year-old junior?

“Oh no,” Heidelburg says. “I knew that was a special victory. I knew we had done something big. But, as for me, I was just playing ball. I certainly wasn’t thinking about making history.”

But he did. He carried the ball three times that day, scored twice.

If you ever run into Hamp Cook, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer and an offensive line coach on that USM team, ask him about Heidelburg’s two touchdown runs.

“I couldn’t wait to get back and watch Willie’s runs on film and see how well my guys blocked for him,” Cook once told me. “Hell, we didn’t block anybody. Willie just dodged them all.”

‘Never gets old’

At 60, Heidelburg remains as trim as he was in his playing days. He spent 25 years as a teacher and coach at Murrah, the last 11 as a coach at Belhaven.

He recorded the first six games of the State Tournament on Friday, the first one beginning at 9 a.m., the last ending around 10 p.m.

Of his official scorekeeper duties, Heidelburg says, “It never gets old to me. Here’s the thing, if I wasn’t here working, I’d be here watching anyway. I just love the games.”

There is, as I suspected, a story behind Heidelburg’s basketball scorekeeping, and he laughs as he tells it.

“When I was a junior in high school at Jefferson High in Purvis, I played football for Harry Breland (later the Oak Grove baseball coaching legend),” Heidelburg says. “Well, Coach Breland also coached basketball. He asked me why I didn’t play basketball. He said, that, quick as I was, I’d make a great point guard.

“So Coach Breland watched me play basketball one day in a gym class and he came up to me afterward and said, ‘Boy, I need somebody to keep my scorebook for me.’ That was the last I ever heard about point guard.”

Run for history

Forty years later, Heidelburg says rarely a week goes by when somebody doesn’t mention that day 40 years ago when he ran into the end zone twice and into history – not just black history, Mississippi history.

“I think about it a lot and try to make some sense of it,” Heidelburg says. “As I get older, I ask myself, ‘What really did happen that day? What was the impact?’ ”

I can give him one family’s view. My dad, Ace Cleveland, was the USM sports information director at the time. He had grown up on a dairy farm on the southern end of Hattiesburg. He was the sixth of six children who all worked that dairy farm along with some black helpers. At a very early age, I noticed that the black help always came to the back door. They never came to the front door as all other visitors. They always came around to the back.

Didn’t seem right to me, and I asked my daddy about it. He said it was “Papa’s rules,” meaning my grandfather, a good man in so many ways but a product of upbringing and the times.

Years later, when the Southern Miss football team returned to Hattiesburg from Oxford after stunning Ole Miss, an impromptu victory celebration ensued in front of the athletic dormitory. Dad served as the emcee and called the heroes to the makeshift stage one by one for huge cheers: Ray Guy, Craig Logan, Hugh Eggersman, Rickey Donegan … and Wee Willie Heidelburg, who got the biggest cheers of all.

When Willie walked up, Dad picked him up, bear-hugged him and planted a big kiss on his forehead.

I’ll never forget the moment, and I vividly do remember wishing that Papa had lived to see it.

Celebrating the Life of Dr. Howard Cleland

Dr. Howard Cleland, Belhaven’s former president, passed away yesterday at the age of 95. I am deeply thankful for all he did for Belhaven when in office, and his wonderfully supportive help to all three presidents who came after him.

Howard was one of Jackson’s most significant, and long-time educators, having served as president of Belhaven for 17 years, and before that as principal of Bailey and then Murrah High Schools for 13 years.

He was the third longest serving president in our history.

The legacy of his remarkable life and accomplishments are detailed included in the obituary below.

Howard was a wonderful Christian leader who cared deeply for students, and invested his life in thousands.  I’m glad that now, in heaven, he can see fully the fruits of his labor for the Lord.

Howard Jonathan Cleland, beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, went home to be with his Lord on October 13, 2013. He was 95 years old.

Visitation will be held Tuesday, October 15, from 5 to 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church. A graveside service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, October 16, at Parkway Memorial Cemetery, followed by a memorial service at First Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m.

Howard was born in Buffalo, Missouri, on July 5, 1918. He received a Bachelor of Science in English from Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield and a Master of Arts in school administration and psychology from Peabody College in Nashville. He was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate in law from Mississippi College and an Honorary Doctorate of Christian Ministries from Belhaven University.

During World War II he served as lieutenant in the United States Navy in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of operation. In the Atlantic, his ship, the USS Humbolt, participated in the capture and return of the German U-boat, U-505. It was the only German U-boat seized intact during World War II. In the Pacific, he was involved in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. At Iwo Jima, he witnessed and recorded in his ship’s log the raising of the United States flag on Mount Suribachi.

After World War II his entire professional career was devoted to education administration. One of his greatest pleasures was his association with young people of all ages, and he took great pride in their achievements, both as students and later as graduates.

He served as Bailey Junior High School’s third principal from 1947 to 1955. When Murrah High School opened in 1955, he was selected as the school’s first principal and served until 1961. During this time, Murrah excelled in both academics and athletics and was named by Time and Newsweek magazines as one of the top high schools in the nation. Later, Murrah’s athletic field house was named in his honor.

In 1961, he was named president of Belhaven University and served until 1978. Dr. Cleland strengthened Belhaven’s commitment to academic excellence based on strong Christian principles. He also expanded its facilities, increased enrollment and broadened its number of degrees.

For many years he organized and directed the Mississippi Youth Tour, which later became Belhaven College Teen Tour. This tour provided hundreds of teenagers the opportunity to travel throughout the United States. He served as an elder at both First Presbyterian Church and Trinity Presbyterian Church in Jackson.

He was past-president of the Mississippi Association of Colleges, the Mississippi Foundation of Independent Colleges and the Mississippi Association of Private Colleges. He served on the board of directors of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce and the Mississippi Economic Council and was a member of the Mississippi Congress of Parents and Teachers, Phi Delta Kappa, Delta Kappa Phi and the National Association of School Administrators. Dr. Cleland was also inducted into the Belhaven University Sports Hall of Fame.

He had a love for art and gardening, painting countless landscapes and still life paintings in oil and growing beautiful roses and other colorful flowers for his family to enjoy.

Dr. Cleland was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Floral Cleland; two sisters, Inez Rhea and Marie Wattles; brother, William Cleland; and daughter, Jane O’Mara. He is survived by his loving wife of 69 years, Gustava Barksdale Cleland; three children, Beth Cleland Harper and her husband, Eddie, of DeBary, Florida, Dr. William Howard Cleland and his wife, Gyanne, of Brandon, and Charles David Cleland and his wife, Rebecca, of Madison.

Howard was the proud grandfather of Charlie Harper and his wife, Charlotte; Stephen Harper and his wife, Kimberly; Cheryl Harper Poole and her husband, Cameron, Meredith Cleland Johnson and her husband, Chad; Drew Cleland and his wife, Kimberly; Kate O’Mara Chandler and her husband, Martin; Mandy Brownlee and her husband, Derrick; and Michelle Smith and her husband, Clayton. He was blessed with nine great-grandchildren.

Belhaven Students Launch Video Game for iPhone


From the Clarion Ledger:

Video games are not just for kids anymore, and app games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush on Facebook have opened the doors of gaming for an older generation and women.  With that in mind a couple of Belhaven University arts majors are taking their love of art and video games and diving into the growing market of mobile gaming.

Chadwick Harman and Joey Nelms, who are seniors at Belhaven and Logan Grandberry, who attends Southern Mississippi University, started Cryogenic Studios and they hope their debut title will be available for download this month.

Cryogenic’s puzzle game “Rails”, can be played on any Apple or Android device, which includes smartphones and tablets.  Harman, is the president and founder of Cryogenic and he describes his company’s initial effort.

“You’re a wheel and you pick-up little orbs and it gets harder-and-harder to collect the orbs as you go,” Harman said. “It’s a very low commitment game, you can sit down if you have two or three minutes, play a level or two.”

For these full-time students this is not some mid-term assignment, but their first taste of real world business. The trio does their best to balance their business and school, and they say they are fortunate Belhaven has provided them with plenty of resources and support.

“There’s some direct influence of people actually working on the projects, as-well-as people being mentors for us through the projects,” Nelms, Cryogenic’s CEO, said.

The aspiring entrepreneurs found that a good way to break into the video game industry is through smartphones and tablets.

“The whole mobile sector has opened video-gaming up to everybody,” Harman said. “My mom plays videogames. I thought that would never happen.”

“Mobile projects aren’t as in-depth or complicated as the big XBOX titles,” Nelms said. “Those things take five years, with 400 employees and a few million dollars.”

By contrast, “Rails” was produced with about 10 people and a few thousand dollars. With “Rails” about to hit app stores they still have their sites on XBOX and Playstation, and taking their art to the blank canvas those consoles provide.

“We’re taking it much more from a creative standpoint of story-telling of art making,” Nelms said. “We take it from the standpoint of art-making, not game-making.”

Their next project is already in the works and it tells the story of Lenny, a mail delivery robot.  It’s an adventure game that the Cryogenic crew hopes will be available for download on XBOX Live in spring 2014. That is the same time Harman, Nelms and Grandberry are scheduled to graduate, and they are excited about transitioning from full-time students to full-time video game developers.

Tramaine Awarded Game Ball from Bob Costas

One of the special honors of Sunday night football is for NBC to award a “game ball” to the MVP of the game.  The player’s picture is also added the side of the NBC Sunday Night Football bus that travels to all the games.

Sunday night football is the most-watched primetime television show

Here is the NBC summary about Tramaine’s game tonight:

Tramaine Brock took over as the 49ers third cornerback Sunday for a sore-kneed Nnamdi Asomugha.

There’s no indication he should be giving the job back anytime soon.

Brock had the job prior to a minor injury in camp, but at this point, it’s hard to see them going back to an older player, who is also in a contract year.

Making him compete seems to have brought the best out in Brock, who is also positioning himself for a bigger deal from someone this offseason.

BU Football Alum Grabbing NFL Headlines – RIGHT NOW, 8:30 pm

It is not yet the end of the second quarter, but already our alum, Tramaine Brock, has TWO interceptions – the first one for a touchdown.

He plays for the San Fancisco 49ers.  The game is on NBC.

Trmaine is getting lots of attention from Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, who are broadcasting the game.

Here is the a news story about Tramine from two days ago:

49ers’ Tramaine Brock faces tall order

By Cam Inman

SANTA CLARA — Injured cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has been impressed by what he’s seen from his replacement, Tramaine Brock, who’s expected to be the 49ers’ No. 3 cornerback for a second straight game Sunday night.

“He’s played well ever since I’ve been here. He’s quick,” said Asomugha, an 11th-year veteran who joined the 49ers in April.

Brock, who’s 5-foot-10, will need his speed Sunday night to help keep track of Houston Texans star Andre Johnson, who’s 6-3.

“I like that matchup. (Brock) is an aggressive corner, and he’s not going to back down by any means,” safety Eric Reid said. “We’re going to depend on him to do his job.”

Johnson is listed as questionable because of a shin injury, but he told Houston-area reporters: “It’s all right. I’m playing. That’s all that matters.”

Johnson ranks first in NFL history with 81.8 receiving yards per game.

Brock played well in the 49ers’ win at St. Louis on Sept. 26, tipping a third-down pass that Donte Whitner snagged for an interception in the 49ers end zone. “That was a very critical play at that time and he made that,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “And he made some other good plays.”

Brock had been limited to special-teams snaps through the 49ers’ first three games. A fourth-year veteran, he’s playing this season on the one-year, $1,323,000 million tender he received as a restricted free agent. That’s a higher salary than starter Tarell Brown ($925,000) and Asomugha ($1 million)