About Our Founder

Michael Marks, CEO of Stage, Style, and Study, is a former Mississippi Teacher of the Year, National Milken Educator and America’s Outstanding Teacher of the Performing Arts.

As Instructor of theatre for over 20 years at Hattiesburg High School, he directed over 50 productions including The Wiz, which played at The International Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Under his direction, Music Theatre International selected HHS as America’s Best High School Performing Arts Department. His theatre students have originated roles in national shows from Broadway’s Hairspray to Marvel’s Black Panther. HHS Thespians became the first high school in America to establish a chapter of Equity Fights AIDS on its campus.

As debate coach at Hattiesburg high School, he qualified students to national tournaments in every event. His mock trial teams claimed 8 state championships and as many Top Ten finishes in national competition. He served on the Deep South District Committee, chaired The Mississippi NFL District, served as a national parliamentarian for NFL Congress, and founded the Biloxi Catholic Forensic League.

As a playwright, his Hattiesburg High School docudrama The Katrina Project: Hell and High Water toured the continental United States, including a performance in Dallas at the National Forensics League Tournament; enjoyed a command performance for Congress; and received the NEA’s National Human and Civil Rights award. The show was recently revived for the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and to date has generated over $400,000 in relief benefits for natural disaster victims in our country.

As former president of The Mississippi Association of Educators, he once negotiated a 36% pay raise for his state’s educators. As former Executive Officer of the 3.3 million-member National Education Association, he was responsible for the National Read Across America Program. He represented America at The Education International Conference in Berlin, keynoted the India Teachers Conference and championed diversity via workshops he presented in Barbados. In addition, he served as Treasurer of The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and chairs the Hattiesburg Mayoral Health Council. He also chaired the National Task Force on Early Childhood Education. Hattiesburg Mayoral Health Council. He also chaired the National Task Force on Early Childhood Education.

When funding was recently cut from the Hattiesburg High School Debate Team, he organized Speak Up, Hattiesburg, a community-built coalition that raised $16K to keep the speech and debate team on the road. This year, Speech and Debate coaches from across the country recognized his efforts with their Josephine Dukes National Teacher of the Year distinction. 

A member of the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, he is co-author of the book, Katrina: Ten Years After and serves as a director on the boards for Hattiesburg Public School District Foundation, Downtown Hattiesburg, the Pine Belt Foundation and Mississippi’s Miss Hospitality Competition.

For his exceptional community service, he received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award from his alma mater, The University of Southern Mississippi. He is a former principal of Mississippi’s ADEPT Dropout Recovery School and is the former Public Relations Coordinator at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg and recently raised thousands of dollars for Hattiesburg Public School District student scholarships, teacher grants and early childhood education, as chair of the inaugural Hattiesburg Hall of Fame.

  • Chaired Theatre and Dance Credentialing Committee for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Arlington, Virginia
  • Conducted national survey on status of Dance Programs in Mississippi Secondary Schools
  • Choreographer, City of Hattiesburg’s entry in All-American City Competition, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Host, Summer Dance Workshops for South Mississippi public schools
  • Mississippi Arts Commission Visual Arts Grants Adjudicator
  • Coordinator of Extra Table Philanthropy Student Christmas Card Design Partnership
  • Hattiesburg Children’s Museum Exploratory Committee
  • Volunteer, Congressional Art Show
  • Host, Disaster Art Show, Hattiesburg Cultural Center (The Katrina Project 10th Anniversary Revival Show, City Visual Art Exhibit, part of Governor’s Katrina Remembrance Commission)
  • Coordinator, South Mississippi “Healing Through the Arts “(Tornado Relief/Arts Therapy)
  • 13 years private piano (Grace Lane Leggett Piano Curriculum Diploma)
  • Three consecutive state superiors, Bach/Concerto Festivals
  • 13 years of private saxophone
  • Youth Choir Director/Accompanist: New Zion Baptist Church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, New Jerusalem Baptist Church
  • Pianist, Forrest Health Spirit in Action Awards
  • Musical Theatre Production Composer/Arranger
  • Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity, Region VIII Historian
  • Chaired Theatre and Dance Credentialing Committee for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Arlington, Virginia
  • Conducted national survey on status of Dance Programs in Mississippi Secondary Schools
  • Choreographer, City of Hattiesburg’s entry in All-American City Competition, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Host, Summer Dance Workshops for South Mississippi public schools
  • BS Degree in Speech Education/Theatre, University of Southern Mississippi (MS Degree in Public Relations/Journalism)
  • 30-year arts educator (musical theatre, show choir, drama)
  • Directed more than 50 student showcases
  • Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera Director, Actor, Board of Directors
  • Just Over the Rainbow Theatre President and Director
  • Director, Hattiesburg Coalition for the Arts (Black Theatre)
  • National Chair, Secondary Schools Theatre Programs
  • National Steering Committee of National Arts Education Partnership
  • Playwright: The Katrina Project: Hell and High Water (National Tour and Congressional Command Performance)
  • Hattiesburg High School (HHS) honored by Music Theatre International as America’s Best High School Performing Arts Department
  • HHS Chapter of Equity Fights A.I.D.S. – first high school chapter in the nation
  • America’s Outstanding Teacher of the Performing Arts, 1994 (presented by Richard Dreyfuss)
  • Solo and Duo Acting Championships: Yale, Harvard, Wake Forest Tournaments
  • Director Finalist for Yale University Drama
  • Four Mississippi Theatre Association High School Drama Championships (The Dining Room, Romance-Romance, The Laramie Project, and The Katrina Project: Hell and High Water
  • Three national drama championship first runner-up shows: The Dining Room, The Laramie Project and The Katrina Project: Hell and High Water
  • Mississippi Theatre Association Community Theatre Representative to National Drama Championship (Driving Miss Daisy/JORT)
  • HHS Cast of The Wiz selected to the inaugural Top Ten American High Schools to perform at the largest theatre gathering in the world:  International Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland and for the Queen of England
  • Cast of Guys and Dolls performed on international television via the Disney Channel, telecast live from Washington D.C.’s historic Warner Theater.
  • Laurel Little Theatre Performer
  • Best Actor, Mississippi Theatre Association
  • All-Star Cast Actor, Southeastern Theatre Conference
  • Outstanding Director, Mississippi Theatre Association
  • Special Commendation for Mississippi Teacher of the Year from Mississippi Theatre Association
  • Special Commendation for Mississippi Teacher of the Year from Mississippi House of Representatives
  • Student Alumni have appeared on Broadway in Showboat, The Lion King, Gillette, and Hairspray; movies: Princess Diaries, The Hollow, The Magnificent Seven, The Historian and Marvel’s Black Panther; as well as with the famed comedy team, Blue Man Group
  • Local Casting Director for Historia Films
  • Founder, Hub City Classic Tournament for Student Actors
  • Founder, Biloxi Catholic Forensic League for Student Actors
  • Command Performance of Freedom Summer at Southeastern Theatre Conference
  • Narrator, “Peter and the Wolf,” Saenger Theater Regional Theatre Production partnership with Hattiesburg Arts Council
  • Narrator, Dr. Kimberly Davis’ Southeastern United States Showcase, “Honoring the African- American Artist and Composer”
  • Narrator, Festival South production of Robert Johnson: “The Man, The Myth & the Music” (with Vasti Jackson)
  • Phyllis Barton Scholar to University of Iowa Summer Acting Institute
  • United States Delegate to India Street Theatre Festival, Bangalore, India
  • Original Exploratory Committee for Hattiesburg Arts Center (HAC)
  • Commissioner, Mississippi Arts Commission
  • Hattiesburg Arts Council Board of Directors, Artist of the Month Chair
  • Television Publicity for Arts Lobby Day at the State Capitol
  • Coordinator, “Kindness in Action,” FOX23 Community Good News Television Segment  
  • Southern Miss Partners for the Arts, Board of Directors and Governance Council
  • Mississippi Arts Commission Whole Schools Institute
  • Participant, The Art of Culinary Food Presentation Workshop/Disney World, Orlando
  • Founder, Speak Up Hattiesburg ($16K community-led HHS Fundraiser for HHS Performing Arts Department)
  • Director, Hattiesburg Arts Council Gospel Brunch, Hattiesburg Cultural Center
  • Narrator, Public Broadcasting Video: Education the Way Up (with Hollywood actress Alfre Woodard)
  • Adjudicator, Poetry Alive Project, Mississippi Arts Commission/Lauren Rogers Art Museum, Laurel, MS
  • Adjudicator, California State Poetry Slam Finals, Los Angeles
  • Coordinator, Forrest General Hospital Concert Series
  • Staged countless national, regional, state and local workshops on “Building Community Support for Arts Programs”
  • National Education Association’s National Fine Arts Caucus
  • Benefactor, Mackenzie Westmoreland Memorial Scholarship for the Performing Arts (Pine Belt Foundation)
  • Benefactor, Michael Marks Performing Arts Scholarship (Southern Miss)
  • Helped design Fine Arts Wing at Hattiesburg High School
  • National Chair, NEA Early Childhood Education Task Force
  • Miss America National Producers Committee for Live Broadcasting
  • NBC’s Today Show Guest:  Read Across America National Spokesperson
  • CNN Guest Commentator: Funding Public Education
  • Hundreds of electronic and print interviews as NEA Spokesperson for the arts
  • Co-author of the book, Katrina: Ten Years After