Imagine a world without Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, or David O. Selznick’s film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s, Gone with the Wind. While Hamlet and “Grapes” seem secure in the Pantheon of great drama, many are unaware of how close we came to not having the beloved classic film, Gone with the Wind – or at least the version we know today.
And it is the true story of how GWTW avoided landing on history’s trash heap that forms the basis for Ron Hutchinson’s hilarious madcap comedy, Moonlight and Magnolias, opening for a six-performance run on February 14 in the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center’s Joe Frank Theatre of the Arts. Opening on Valentine’s Day, this play is a Valentine in its own right – a love letter to Hollywood’s golden age, and the studio system that fueled its rise.
From Ben Hecht’s memoirs comes the plot. It’s 1939, and movie mogul David Selznick has halted production on Gone with the Wind just three weeks into its shooting. The problem? He’s realized the screenplay is a disaster! Now, locked in his office with Hecht—one of the best script doctors in the biz—and director Victor Fleming, yanked from the set of The Wizard of Oz, the three have just five days to re-write the flop into one of the great films of all time – all while eating only bananas and peanuts! Oh yes; there’s one more catch. Hecht has never read the book, so Selznick and Fleming have to act out the story for him, taking on the roles of Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley, Melanie, Prissy and many more.
This production marks an exciting moment for Theatre at the J. Relaunched in 2014 after a 20-year hiatus, the J’s theatre program initially began its new lease on life by partnering with existing Houston theatres to offer plays in its Kaplan Theatre, and bringing small cast offerings from off-Broadway and elsewhere to the J.
Now, this February’s Moonlight and Magnolias will mark Theatre at the J’s first full-length, completely “home grown” and fully produced play offered in the Joe Frank Theatre of the Arts in more than 20 years. Theatre at the J will have truly come full circle, reclaiming its place as a major member of Houston’s vibrant, growing theatre community.
Actors in the piece include: Josef Anderson, Brad Goertz, Calvin Hudson and Rachel Ollagnon. Performances will take place at 7:30 PM on Thursdays, February 14 and 21; at 8:00 PM on Saturdays, February 16 and 23, and at 3:00 PM on Sundays, February 17 and 24, 2019, in our Joe Frank Theatre of the Arts.