The next production in the refurbished Arts Center at Dunham in Price Hill is the Sunset Players’ Moonlight and Magnolias, a comedy about the making of the classic film Gone with the Wind by Ron Hutchinson.
The play is based on a true story—three weeks after filming began in 1939, producer David O. Selznick threw out the original screenplay by Sidney Howard and fired director George Cukor. Selznick hired famed screenwriter Ben Hecht to write a new script from Margaret Mitchell's bestselling novel—and Selznick needed the script in a week to get the film back into production.
Selznick and his newly hired director, Victor Fleming, woke Hecht at dawn on February 20, 1939, and told him that work on rewriting the script had to begin immediately. But, since Hecht had never read Gone with the Wind, Selznick and Fleming acted out scenes as Hecht wrote. Fueled by bananas and peanuts, the three men worked eighteen to twenty hours a day to finish the screenplay.
David O. Selznick was well-known for interfering with his production staff, making his own recommendations about everything from the screenplay to the costumes. Jerry Yearout, who plays the legendary producer in the show, has found the role challenging and fun, noting that “Selznick was an individual running a mile a minute with thoughts coming just as fast and furious.”
Mike Burke is Ben Hecht, a man, as Burke says, who challenges the beliefs and actions of the other men in the show. Bob Kelley portrays Victor Fleming in the show, which Kelley describes as a “runaway train.” Merritt Beischel rounds out the company as Selznick’s secretary, Miss Poppenghul, the only character not on stage for the entire show. Nevertheless, the character has some great lines and Beischel says she has had fun working with the director, Don Frimming, and the rest of the cast to create her version of Miss Poppenghul, who often manages to steal the scene.
Moonlight and Magnolias, produced by Allen Moellmann, opens on Friday, February 21, just in time to enjoy the play’s look back at Hollywood past as Hollywood present reaches its annual Oscar frenzy. (Gone with the Wind was nominated for 15 Oscars and won 10, including one for best screenplay, which was given posthumously to the original writer, Sidney Howard, at Ben Hecht’s request.)
Show dates are February 21, 22, 23, and March 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 2013. All shows are at 8:00 p.m. except on Sundays, when the curtain rises at 2:00 p.m., with performances at the Arts Center at Dunham, 1945 Dunham Way, Cincinnati 45238.
Tickets are $14; $12 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information about the production, call 513-588-4988 or visit the Sunset Players website.