Excerpt: "[Andrea] became the primary target of …"
Andrea Gayle Stover was born July 14, 1987, to Irene and Jerry Stover of Abbeville, Mississippi.
Even as a small child, Andrea was willful and knew her own mind. It wasn't that she was spoiled exactly, but her parents usually went along with her wishes unless it was harmful to her. She was always positive that her choice was the right one.
She loved to play "Dress Up" and "Let's Pretend" and was very creative. She'd dress each of her dolls and stuffed toys then create plays for them. When she got older, her playmates took the place of her toys. Andrea seemed to have a talent for getting her friends to willingly participate in her productions.
In high school, she auditioned for all the school productions and was usually awarded the biggest part because she knew everyone's lines as well as her own. She also knew where and when each person should be on stage and didn't hesitate to tell them so.
This behavior did not always endear her to other cast members, who were not keen to have her boss them when they already had a director. Sometimes, the director would tell her to back off, which merely strengthened her determination to be the director when she grew up.
As a teenager, she began to rebel against her parents and the community, all of whom she perceived to be so conservative they were stifling her artistic creativity. She thrived on doing outlandish things and shocking her parents and their friends. In college when she had a brief experimental physical relationship with her friend, Gretchen Doyle, she made sure her parents knew about it.
As brave and daring as she thought she was, Andrea had one fear that never left her: heights. When she was a child, her family had taken a trip to Seattle to visit the Space Needle. Once off the elevator, Andrea refused to leave the wall of the observation deck and immediately wanted to return to ground level. After that, she was always very nervous in high places and avoided them whenever possible.
Andrea felt fortunate that the University of Mississippi had a strong Theater Arts department. After high school, she entered the College of Liberal Arts to study acting and directing and earn a B.F.A in Stage Management. She participated fully in their program and became known for being game to try anything creatively.
Her reputation for willingness to be a part of controversial works brought her to the attention of Owen Norris, benefactor of the controversial acting troupe, Oxtales Theatre. He recruited her to join Oxtales, and after she had performed in one of their productions, Owen hired Andrea as the director of the small company.
In early January 2015, Oxtales staged a production called "Snopes." Word got around that "Snopes" was sexually explicit and that minors had been permitted to attend and some had been allowed to participate in the stage crew. In February 2015, multiple members of the production were arrested.
Since Andrea was the director and the driving force behind the production, she became the primary target of the prosecution. Although she was initially offered a plea to a lesser charge, she insisted on a public trial to call attention to what she called "the government's attempt to stifle freedom of expression."
In late May 2015, Andrea was found guilty of disseminating sexually oriented material to persons under eighteen and was sentenced to eighteen months in prison and a fine of $10,000.
She served her full sentence at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, where she was sent in June 2015. She was released in December 2016, and as required by law, she registered as a sex offender.
Andrea returned home to live with her long-suffering but supportive parents in Abbeville. It was a difficult situation for all of them, and it strained the relationship between Andrea and her parents. But it was a temporary arrangement until she could afford to move out on her own.
Sometimes, she would crash at Gretchen Doyle's apartment in Oxford if she didn't feel like going home after a late night. Gretchen was her best friend, and Andrea felt she could talk to her about anything.
Owen Norris welcomed Andrea back to Oxtales and reinstated her as director. A new production was in the works and looked to be as controversial as "Snopes" had been. Once again attracting the attention of community watchdog groups and the press, Andrea remained fearless in her pursuit of creative freedom.
On January 2, 2017, Andrea Stover was found dead in the atrium between Buildings Two and Three of Oxford Centre. The investigation into her death is ongoing.