While attending the University of Mississippi in 1967 as a freshman, Hollywood screenwriter David Sheffield worked as the manager of the former Henry Hotel – a small establishment that attracted “bizarre” characters.
It was located in the building that now houses Rafter’s Blues House.
“It wasn’t an upscale hotel,” Sheffield said. “Our clientele was mostly runaways, alcoholics, drug users and people who would walk around the lobby naked. It was quite an education for a young man.”
His dream of writing his own play based on the Henry Hotel was put on hold for decades but never died. Finally, that dream came to fruition in 2018 when his play, “The Heartbreak Henry,” premiered at Center Stage in Biloxi.
Now Sheffield’s play will be performed where it began – here in Oxford at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts in the Mary Ann Mobley/Gary E. Collins Studio Theatre, Aug. 12-15 with a preview on Aug. 11.
The Theatre Oxford Production features Ole Miss student Jamie Pippen, who takes the job of manager and soon finds himself surrounded by con men, pool sharks, hookers and quite possibly, the love of his life.
The production is co-sponsored by the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media.
“The School of Journalism and New Media agreed to co-sponsor the production to provide opportunities for students to hone their professional skills,” said professor Kathleen Wickham. “Assistant Professor Michael Fagans joined the project to produce a documentary with students Margaret Bushway, Alexander Norris, Tucker Robbins and Billy Schuerman. It was also an opportunity for me to refresh my professional skills in a new venue, having worked in public relations at one point in my professional career.”
Sheffield wrote for Saturday Night Live from 1980-1983. From there, in collaboration with screenwriter Barry Blaustein, he went on to write for such comedic movies as “Coming to America,” “Boomerang,” “The Nutty Professor I and II” and the newly released “Coming 2 America.”
Tickets can be purchased through the Ford Center Box Office at 662-915-7411.
News Editor Alyssa Schnugg and LaReeca Rucker with the School of Journalism and New Media contributed to this story.