Stella Shouting Contest celebrates 10th anniversary with MSMS invasion


Karlene Deng

Junior Piper Britt screams for Stella at the 10th anniversary.

Ada Fulgham, Student Life Editor

I’ve always depended on the loudness of MSMS-ers. Whenever there’s a quirky event, or a chance to shout, there’s going to be a crowd of MSMS students right there ready, and last Friday was no different. This has been the case every time I go to the annual Columbus Stella Shouting Contest, which honors Mississippi writer Tennessee Williams and his play “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and which always attracts a good portion of the MSMS population.

We gather to flock around the high balcony on the street in front of Hollyhocks, with the blaze of a Columbus sunset blinding those not sheltered by the antique buildings of downtown. We shout and fight children over the chance to weigh our necks down with Mardi Gras beads thrown from the balcony above where a woman stands, dressed in bright red like a flag fluttering in the wind. She’s Stella, one of the characters in Tennessee Williams’ play, and he’s standing beside her in an old fashioned suit, ready to watch the scene he so lovingly wrote unfold. These are just costumed people of Columbus, but it’s not hard to imagine a time when their clothes wouldn’t seem so old fashioned. The energy mounts as the sign-up time for the shouters is drawing to a close, dares and peer pressure pushing some MSMS students to rush to sign in at the last moment.

The competition begins with the MSMS-majority crowd busting some moves with the “Cupid Shuffle,” but the chaos is soon quieted by the announcement of the start of the competition. The “Shout Off” is beginning. Citizens of Columbus–as well as students–crowd away from the balcony, forming a ring centering around a rug on the street. This is where contestants will “channel their inner Brando and shout up to Stella on the balcony,” as one poster proclaimed. The stakes are high, and spots are limited to 25 contestants with a grand prize package of a romantic dinner for two and a carriage ride to the Tennessee Williams play. Whether it’s because of the prize or just the thrill of reenacting such a passionate point in a creative work, the majority of the shouters are MSMS students, with the juniors stepping up this year.

Zach Medlin is one junior contestant, starting out his act with a dramatic entrance. He steps from the crowd while emptying a Dasani water bottle over his brown curls, mirroring the gleam of sweat displayed by Marlin Brando in the 1951 film based on the play. Medlin steps up to the rug, using it to break his fall as he yells his last “Stella!” up towards the balcony where the woman dressed in red swoons in a blossoming flare. His act quickly over, leaving the crowd breathless, he melts back into the crowd in the Mississippi heat.

Other MSMS students step up turn after turn, Elijah Dosda and Will Sutton representing the MSMS seniors with original takes on the scene, with Dosda incorporating a chocolate pie as the co-lead in his act. Sutton is a familiar face, returning with a shirt-tearing vengeance after getting second place at last year’s Stella. He steps out with a roar, with ripped clothes and passionate frustration evident in his face. More MSMS knees hit the rug as the competition goes on, with only a few Columbus people participating as shouters; however, the kids’ competition following the main event is–surprisingly–predominantly non-MSMSers.

Despite the sun dropping steadily lower in the sky, the competition has yet to lose heat. When the last contestants are called for the final round to break any ties, MSMS still pulls through strong with Sutton as one of the last contenders. He steps up yet again, bringing his “a”-game as he fights to avenge last year’s defeat. However, despite the passion of his final performance, which includes him tearing his shirt off to reveal “Stella” written across his chest and bringing the utmost emotion possible, the competition goes to a resident Columbus Airforce Base trainee, Robby Kishaba. While the rewards are being bestowed, the MSMS crowd disperses slowly, trailing off down the cooling streets of Columbus. This Stella was a success, with the MSMS takeover efficient and fueled by the energetic fresh blood of the junior class.

Student Reflections:

Zach Medlin, junior houting participant, reflected on the thrill of the moment, not only citing his excitement but also the historical significance of the event. “It was awesome! I didn’t plan on signing up until before the contest started, and having to improvise and come up with my whole little act in just a few minutes before I went in front of everyone was a little stressful,” Medlin said. “But once I actually got out there, all of the stress I had just melted away, and it was just an exhilarating experience that I’ll never forget. Events like the Stella Shout and the Tennessee Williams Tribute at large are incredibly important for the spread and preservation of art; they allow profound art and artists, like Tennessee Williams, to live on for generations after their haydays in the minds of everyday people and not just trained historians.”

A close friend and fellow student of Medlin’s, Mabrie Woods, said the event was “honestly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen” and was apart of the MSMS gang cheering from the sidelines.

Will Sutton still had fun, despite not winning. “I guess I did it again just because I thought it was interesting the first time, and I thought with a little more practice I could win the second time,” Sutton said. “I got 2nd place last year but [this year] it wasn’t supposed to be. I had fun though.”

However, when I asked him if he was sad he didn’t win this year, the answer was “definitely.”