Tabitha Hewitt-Rafferty

Portrait of Tabitha Hewitt-Rafferty on a stage set
Photo by Megan Bean

Tabitha Hewitt-Rafferty knows how to design an on-stage theatrical scene from scratch. Off-stage, she is learning to create her own scene at Mississippi State through communities she never expected to find.

As a freshman communication major with a theater concentration, Hewitt-Rafferty has already worked with Theatre MSU on designing props, set construction, scenic artistry and as assistant stage manager for the productions of “The Light Princess,” “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live Radio Show” and “Macbeth.”

The Clinton native discovered theater at Clinton High School through the encouragement of her future adoptive parents, who she was placed with after a few months in a Jackson group home for foster children at the age of 14.

“Growing up, I had friends in theater and wanted to join, but I was never able to do it. When I was presented with the opportunity to become involved in something in high school, I chose theater since it was something I was once interested in. It just took off from there,” said Hewitt-Rafferty.

Through competitive theater at Clinton High School, she was able to connect with Theatre MSU faculty at competitive drama festivals where she learned more about the university program and its opportunities.

With “The Light Princess,” her first Theatre MSU and Theatre for Young Audiences production as an MSU student, Hewitt-Rafferty was able to share her enjoyment with a younger community—that she was once a part of—through the children’s show about a princess cursed with a lack of gravity.

 “I have a large interest in the Theatre for Young Audiences program, just because of my own background and finding theater when I was young and loving it, and I want to do that for other people.”

One of the performances invited local foster children and social workers for free and to participate in a carnival afterwards that included food, games and face-painting.

To make the event possible, Theatre MSU partnered with the university’s Association of Student Social Workers and Thrive Program.

Created for students considered independent through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, MSU’s Thrive assists students who have been a part of the foster care system, an emancipated minor, homeless, had both parents pass away or any combination of these.

As a former foster child and Thrive member, Hewitt-Rafferty participates in activities such as Thrive Tuesdays to learn valuable life skills, cultural events, one-on-one meetings with the Thrive coordinator and community service.

“Thrive has given me a support system on campus, and all the events are really fun, interesting and great at teaching skills such as cooking, car care and test-taking,” said Hewitt-Rafferty.

She also is working hard in 18 hours of classes this semester, and this fall will begin a new curriculum in which she can receive class credits for her work in Theatre MSU productions.

“I’ve had a lot of fun doing the Theatre MSU shows. They give me something to do and have also created a really important community for me. I met a group of my best friends through the program and have become friends with the upperclassmen. Because theater is such a collaborative thing, especially when you major in it, you really have each other’s backs,” said Hewitt-Rafferty.

She said MSU has greatly helped with her transition to college, helping with time management, self-regulation, making friends and more.

“I have no regrets about attending MSU. This is exactly where I need to be,” said Hewitt-Rafferty.