Longtime Theatre Professor Directs “London Road” in Final Show Before Retirement in June

April 3, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Forty-five years and 10 months. That’s how much time will have passed when Jimm Cox retires in June.

It’s a lifetime of experiences that Cox, a longtime professor of theatre at the University of South Carolina Upstate, looks back on without regret and with great joy, but he admits thinking about retirement has been hard.

“Every experience that I’ve had has taught me and brought me to this moment,” Cox said. “Even bad decisions allowed me to learn and go forward.”

Cox may be one of the biggest cheerleaders the University has ever known. Just months away from freedom, he’s still intent on helping others to find themselves. Sitting in a Spartanburg coffee shop, a young barista bounces past the table, but not before Cox can catch his attention and ask why he hasn’t seen him around campus.

“‘I’m not attending this semester,’” the young man said. “‘I’m not sure what I want to do, yet.’” Cox replied, “Well, let’s talk about this, your education is too important. The longer you stay away, the harder it is to return.”

Cox grew up in Independence, a tiny town in southwestern Virginia. He joked that perhaps the town itself was what propelled him into education and to helping change others’ lives, as he had worked so hard to change the course of his own.

“I grew up dirt poor in a house with no running water and parents who sacrificed everything for me to get an education,” Cox said. “An education was my ticket to travel and to see the world, when so few people I grew up with ever escaped their own geography.”

Which brings us to the last show that he will direct as a full-time faculty member in the Humanities and Performing Arts Center Theatre, “London Road.”

Cox said first saw the show at the National Theatre in Great Britain and was “astounded by it.”

“London Road” documents the events from 2006, when the quiet town of Ipswich in England was shattered by the discovery of the bodies of five prostitutes. The residents of London Road, victims of years of curb-side soliciting, became suspicious and weary of their neighbors.

“It divides the community because they are just sure that someone amongst them is doing it,” Cox said. “When it’s discovered who is committing the murders, the play becomes about how they put themselves back together as a community especially after they’ve become so mistrustful of others.”

Taken from police transcripts, “London Road” is a unique documentary musical that has been “ripped from the headlines.”

The residents devise a scheme to help them look forward to something else by creating sort of a community garden, where hope springs. So they create a contest to see who can build the most beautiful boxes and baskets.

“People had grown so accustomed to looking down and finding corpses in the street and all of them have flower boxes hanging, so it encourages them to look up to the brightness of the flowers. It begins to bond them together.”

The cast includes:

  • Stanley Martin of Spartanburg as Ron
  • Chelesea Boone of Goose Creek as Julie
  • Kyle McIntyre of Spartanburg as Gordon
  • Jenna Lawson of Spartanburg as Helen/Old Lady/Radio Techie
  • Hope Phillips of Boiling Springs as Rosemary
  • Gabrielle Sassone of Tucson, Ariz., as June/Female Reporter
  •  John Gibbs of Lyman as Terry
  • Jillian Wain of Boiling Springs as Jan
  • Harrison Reed of Mount Pleasant as Tim
  • Dexter Simmons of Clinton as Dodge
  • Damion Deslaurier of Gaffney as Alfie/Mark/LIDL Man/BBC Newsreader/Simon Newton
  • McCray Earls of Lugoff as Orange Girl/ Starbuck’s Girl 2/Female Reporter/Nicola/Gemma
  • John Marshall Branham of Sharon as Radio DJ/Jason/Man/Newsreader/Chris/Wayne/Male Reporter 1
  •  Jordan Montemayor of Piedmont as Stephanie/Starbuck’s Girl 1/LIDL Woman/Woman 1/Female Reporter #1/Rebecca/Kelly McCormack/Inga
  •  Gabe Troski of Boiling Springs as Alec/Grahame Cooper/Harry/Chris Eakin/Newsreader/Anglia Newsreader/Male Reporter 2
  • Kat Powell of Evansville, Ind., as Kirsty/Stella/Woman 2/Mary Nightingale/Ward Councilor Carol/Sarah/Female Reporter
  • Najee Joyner of St. Stephens as Kirsty’s Boyfriend/Hector/ITN Cameraman/Police Man/Producer 1/Producer 2
  • Trey Jackson of Columbia as Seb/Tannoy/Cameraman /Alan

“London Road” will be performed at 8 p.m. on April 12-14, 2018 and at 3 p.m. on April 15, 2018.

Tickets are $5 for students, faculty and staff; and $10 for the general admission. Cash and check only. For reservations, contact the Humanities and Performing Arts Center Box Office at boxoffice@uscupstate.edu or call at 503-5695. The box office is open from 1-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.