Performance artist and Oxtales Theatre director Andrea Stover, who
was found dead Monday morning at Oxford Centre, was no stranger to controversy
even before a 2000 production landed her in prison on sex crime
Stover first made headlines in 1992, when her play "Sade and the
Serpent" offended some audience members because of its explicit
language. Local church groups picketed the show's two-week run at the
Oxford Community Center and 400 residents signed a petition protesting
the performance being held on city property, but the Oxford City Council
refused to shut it down.
In 1994, Stover created another controversy when she was invited to
stage Shakespeare's "Hamlet" at the University of Mississippi.
The production included full frontal nudity and simulated non-consensual
sex between the title character and Queen Gertrude, his mother.
Academicians questioned Stover's interpretation of the text, while
residents again protested the use of public funds for controversial
"What we've seen that's upsetting is the government sponsoring
her lewd productions," said former Oxford resident Patricia Doyle,
who headed several picketing campaigns against Stover. "It's like
the Playboy magazine getting a grant. It's just not right."
Doyle whose group, Mothers for Decency in Art, disbanded in
1996 when Doyle moved to Texas also organized picket and boycotting
campaigns for Stover's 1995 play "Boot Slaves" at the Stone
Center, which was partially funded by a grant from the Yoknapatawpha
Arts Council, and Oxtales Theatre' interpretation of "The Story
of O," which received a Mississippi Arts Commission grant.
But while Stover attracted local criticism, she also garnered praise
"Her productions were well-executed they asked a lot of
questions without sacrificing plot or character," said New Orleans
Times-Picayune theatre writer Leonard Chabeaux, who began reviewing
Stover's work in 1997. "She was a maverick along the lines of Annie
With her growing notoriety and commercial success Stover
took bigger risks, such as the 1996 performance piece "leather
$ale," an explicit verse recitative accompanied by a slide show
of male prostitutes.
But Stover's most controversial piece was the 2000 "Snopes,"
which depicted an imagined love affair between William Faulkner and
the daughter of his African-American nanny, Callie Barr, and included
partial nudity as well as simulated heterosexual and homosexual sex.
The production also led to Stover's conviction and imprisonment after
parents of three teenagers who volunteered as stage technicians for
"Snopes" saw a video of the production and filed sex-crime
The production Stover was working on when she died would have been
as controversial as her previous works, according to Oxtales Theatre
assistant director Dale King.