By MATT CRANE
The writers at Summer Scholars are making sure the zombie apocalypse has a compelling story and rocking soundtrack to match the impending disaster.
Under the leadership of camp director Joe Ray Underwood, a group of young writers gathered Monday at Cresswell Hall on the Mississippi State University campus to begin writing the program's newest musical comedy.
Underwood said in the course of only one week, the group of writers prepare a script used for the program's production camp beginning Monday, July 9.
"It's the only camp that creates a viable script in a week flat," Underwood said. "They also come up with the music."
Titled "Don't Panic! (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse)," the writer's camp participants have crafted a three-act story inspired by the mysterious conspiracy of the Mayan calendar.
While acts one and three occur without a zombie presence onstage, act two will see the apocalypse commence on Dec. 21, 2012, during a 30-year high school reunion, a plot line veteran writing member Lauren Hughes said excited her group.
"Writing about zombies is going to be fun," Hughes said. "We're trying to fit in a good story and make these characters good for the actors."
The Summer Scholars productions regularly feature music, a process which writer Cullom McCormick said has been a fun process.
"We try not to write around the music," McCormick said. "It's all about finding the music that fits a particular situation."
On Monday, July 2, Underwood brought in accomplished Mississippi author Joe Lee to speak with the writers before the process began to help them understand and learn about certain writing devices and elements.
"We pick people that we think will be good role models," Underwood said. "We wanted to expose them to someone from Mississippi who has become a famous writer."
Script Coordinator Eric Fritzius said Lee's talk helped the writers understand story and character development.
Fritzius said he has been amazed at the young writers' work thus far.
"It's been awesome to see the creativity they bring to the process," Fritzius said. "This whole this is such a collaborative effort."
Writers submitted a final draft of the script Saturday and campers participating in the production camp will receive the scripts Monday and audition later that evening.
Summer Scholars celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and the musical promises to feature references to past productions the entire audience can enjoy.
Production dates for "Don't Panic! (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse)" are scheduled for Friday, July 20, 2012 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 1 p.m. Both performances will be held in the theater of McComas Hall.
For more information on Summer Scholars, visit its website at http://www.summerscholarsonstage.msstate.edu .