In Production

“Moonlight and Magnolias” – a little background

"Moonlight and Magnolias"

Cast (missing Cindy Hartog), Director and Stage Manager – "Moonlight and Magnolias"

Just in case you missed the excellent article in “The Prompter” – a little background information for “Moonlight and Magnolias”:

From its inception, the film version of Margaret Mitchell’s epic Civil War novel, “Gone With The Wind,” was a monumental undertaking – the biggest, most expensive production Hollywood had ever seen. But filming had hardly begun in the winter of 1939 when producer David O. Selznick suddenly fired the director, George Cukor, and shut production down. It seemed that Selznick was appalled at the initial scenes Cukor had shot. Those closest to the production blamed not the director but the script he was working with, which had been largely crafted (and repeatedly recrafted) by Selznick himself. A hyper-driven, insufferable micro-manager, Selznick meddled in every aspect of production, from the details of the costumes to the art direction and especially the screenplay, firing numerous screenwriters who could not come up with an adapation to his satisfaction, and often rewriting their work himself. (One of the writers he fired was F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose fragile confidence was so damaged by working with Selznick that he afterward entered a downward spiral of drinking and depression.)

Selznick replaced Cukor with Victor Fleming, who was in the middle of directing “The Wizard of Oz”; it was Fleming who had the nerve to tell Selznick that his script was no good (nobody had ever said that to the Boss before), which so surprised and rattled the producer that he called in his old friend Ben Hecht to do an emergency rewrite. Known sardonically as the “Shakespeare of Hollywood,” ex-newspaperman / prolific screenwriter Hecht (“The Front Page”) was working on a Marx Brothers film when he was suddenly called away: At dawn on Sunday, February 20, 1939, David Selznick and director Victor Fleming woke up Hecht to inform him he was on loan from MGM and they spirited him away to the studio to work on Gone with the Wind. It was costing Selznick $50,000 each day the film was on hold waiting for a final screenplay rewrite, and there was no time to waste. The episode that ensued behind closed doors is the basis for Ron Hutchinson’s uproarious comedy “Moonlight and Magnolias,” which opens WCT’s new season in September.

An engaging anecdotal account is described in an article in Atlantic Monthly, “The Making of Gone With The Wind,” by Gavin Lambert (March 1973)*, and by the writer himself in “Ben Hecht: A Biography,” quoted here: “[Hecht] said he hadn’t read the novel but Selznick and director Fleming could not wait for him to read it. They would act out scenes based on Sidney Howard’s original script which needed to be rewritten in a hurry. Hecht wrote, ‘After each scene had been performed and discussed, I sat down at the typewriter and wrote it out. Selznick and Fleming, eager to continue with their acting, kept hurrying me. We worked in this fashion for seven days, putting in eighteen to twenty hours a day. Selznick refused to let us eat lunch, arguing that food would slow us up. He provided bananas and salted peanuts….’” For Irish playwright Hutchinson (who is himself a successful Hollywood screenwriter) the comic potential in such an arrangement was too much to pass up, as he said in an interview (Ron Hutchinson, A Celebration by David G. Anderson): “…it struck me, wow—this is classical farce. Can you imagine? All the elements are there. Three high-powered individuals lock themselves in a room existing on peanuts and bananas, and they are ever mindful that the clock is ticking, in a total pressure cooker situation.”

Selznick’s obsession with minute production details also resonated with Hutchinson’s experience: “The people in the industry are way too worried about the costuming, scenery, casting, and staging. They will have all this in place and then realize, hey—we have to do something with the script. This mess is total garbage. Unfortunately, the script has become a complete after-thought, and there are millions of dollars at stake.” Nevertheless, “Moonlight and Magnolias,” he admits, “was really more of a celebration to correct the image of film’s golden age writers, directors, and producers than an indictment of Hollywood…. Selznick had everything on the line: his fortune, reputation, and his marriage.” At the end of that week in 1939, Hecht emerged from the pressure cooker, took his hefty writing fee, gathered what strength he had and ran for a train to take him home to Chicago. He refused to take credit for the massive fourhour screenplay; credit eventually went to Sidney Howard, along with an Academy Award. The episode seemed to be something he wanted to forget. But what happened in Selznick’s office is, in Hutchinson’s imagination, an hilarious, thought-provoking Hollywood tale of men fighting themselves (and each other) not just for survival but for a chance at immortality. As the playwright says: “Is there an abundance of crazy, driven, slightly off kilter people out here? Yes, and they all want to leave their indelible imprint on the precious celluloid.”

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Auditions: The Seafarer

WESTPORT COMMUNITY THEATRE
Announces AUDITIONS for
The Seafarer
By Conor McPherson

Directed by Ruth Anne Baumgartner
Auditions will be held on:
Monday, September 19 & Tuesday, September 20 at 7:00 PM
at the Westport Community Theatre
Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT

Award-winning Irish playwright Conor McPhersonʼs THE SEAFARER is a wonderful achievement of character, plot, and atmosphere, and is another expression of his continuing fascination with myths, legends, and the supernatural. Set on Christmas Eve in north Dublin, the play presents a boozy night and a visit from…no, not Santa, not by a long shot. Sharky Harkin, chronic knockabout, returns home to visit his brother, who has recently gone blind. Some old friends come by, the drinking starts (or, more accurately, continues), and Sharky finds himself playing poker with the Devil. The London Observer said of this play, “Succinct, startling and eerie, and the funniest McPherson play to date.” McPherson has been called the outstanding playwright of his generation—The Daily Mail says “McPherson writes like a dream.” Director Ruth Anne Baumgartner says of The Seafarer, “Itʼs funny, itʼs suspenseful, itʼs moving, and at last it will fill you with a strange and triumphant joy.” (The ETC staged reading of this play in December of 2009 received a standing ovation.)

Needed: 5 men. Characters, as described by McPherson:

James “Sharky” Harkin, erstwhile fisherman/van driver/chauffeur, 50s. “He is not a big man, but is wiry and strong. A very tough life is etched on his face. His eyes are quick and ready.”

Richard Harkin, his older brother, blind, late 50s/60s. “He is unshaven and looks terrible. He has recently gone blind.”

Ivan Curry, old friend of the Harkins, late 40s. “A big burly man with a red face and curly hair.” For most of the play, he canʼt find his glasses, and his vision is poor, especially for reading.

Nicky Giblin, a friend of Richardʼs, late 40s/50s. He “has a skinny, nervy appearance. He rarely seems in bad humour.”

Mr. Lockhart, an acquaintance of Nickyʼs, 50s. “He looks like a wealthy businessman and bon viveur.”

The director will be guided by these ages and descriptions but not bound by them. Casting decisions will be made for the sake of the ensemble.

For ALL roles: a credible Irish (Dublin) accent is important, as is the ability to create and sustain the impression of functional inebriation.

Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script.

People interested in working backstage in design or execution are warmly invited to attend the auditions.

Auditions: at Westport Community Theatre. Monday 19 September and Tuesday 20 September, 7-9.

Performance dates: Nov. 25 – Dec. 11.

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Meet the Cast, Director and Stage Manager of “Moonlight and Magnolias”

"Moonlight and Magnolias" at Westport Community Theatre, September 16 – October 2

Cast, director and stage manager of "Moonlight and Magnolias"

A little more about our wonderful cast, director and stage manager of “Moonlight and Magnolias”:

John Bachelder – “Victor Fleming”
John is very happy to be back at WCT with this great cast and crew. Other Westport productions include:  Joe Cantwell in “The Best Man,” Col. Jessup in “A Few Good Men” and Sherlock Holmes in “Sherlock’s Last Case.” Other theater roles include: Mr. Lockhart in “The Seafarer,”  Teach in “American Buffalo.” Jake in “Jake’s Women”  and Allen in “Play it again Sam.”  John can also be seen in the movies, in “Greenmail” with Stephen Baldwin and Tom Skerritt, and “Benefit of the Doubt” with Donald Sutherland and Amy Irving. His favorite productions remain his two sons, Philip and Mickey, co-produced with his wife, Marilyn.

Bob Filipowich – “David O. Selznik”
Bob has a very vague memory of watching the burning of Atlanta while dressed in his pajamas, in the back of his parents Country Squire at a drive-in movie theater on Cape Cod many summers ago. Who knew he’d be reenacting scenes from this epic movie years later on the WCT stage? He is happy to be working on this production with such a wonderfully talented ensemble cast and awesome crew. Bob has appeared most recently on the WCT stage as John Stapleton in “The Hound of the Baskerville’s” Other recent credits include, Floyd Spinner in “Love, Sex and the IRS”, Bobby Carlye in “Postmortem” and Buddy in “Follies” all at The Powerhouse Theater in New Canaan. Other favorite roles he has performed in locally are, The Leading Player in “Pippin” and Vittorio Vidal in “Sweet Charity” at The Wilton Playshop and Harold Hill in “The Music Man” at Stamford’s Curtain Call Theater.

Cindy Hartog – “Miss Poppenghul”
Cindy Hartog is thrilled to be back on the stage at WCT, where she is a long-standing board member. She was last seen in WCT’s “Rumors,”  “Lend Me A Tenor,” and “Spider’s Web,” Eastbound’s “Brooklyn Boy,” and The Wilton Playshop’s “The Nerd.”  To WCT audiences, Cindy might be most famous for catering all the goodies for the opening night parties! Cindy is a graduate of The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC and classically trained in acting at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, and NYC’s Neighborhood Playhouse. In addition, she has a Masters in Educational Theatre from New York University. Merging her roles as real life chef, actor, and teacher,  Cindy is the owner of Cindy’s Sous Chefs, a company which teaches both children and adults the art of cooking, always sprinkled with a bit of the dramatic!  Cindy truly feels lucky to finally work with such a gifted and artistic director as Jessica Denes, a trio of such polished, professional, and talented actors, and a capable and caring pair of Producer and Stage Manager!

Rick Waln – “Ben Hecht”
Rick Waln finds himself once again lured into the pursuit of thespian glory. It was nine years ago that he appeared after an eighteen-year hiatus right here at WCT in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Be forewarned: at this rate he may be coming your way again in 2015. Global stardom has thus far eluded him, but the older of those among you may recognize his face from any of the two hundred commercials he has made both in Los Angeles and New York. Truly dedicated fans can find him in reruns of “M*A*S*H,” “Barney Miller ” and “Married: With Children.” Whoever said, “You can’t go home again” didn’t check with Rick. He’s back and having a grand time thanks to all involved with “Moonlight and Magnolias.” One can only hope that it’s as much fun to watch the show as it was to prepare it.

Jessica Denes – Director
Jessica is thrilled to be once again working on the Westport stage!  For WCT she directed last season’s production of “Mixed Couples,” one of WCT’s most acclaimed productions,“Master Class,” and “Veronica’s Room.” Last spring she brought the gripping and provocative “Orange Flower Water” to the ETC stage. She has also directed for Eastbound Theatre, Crystal Theatre Company, and several other area stages. She is a member of the WCT Administrative Board. Jessica Denes has appeared for WCT in “Orson’s Shadow” and “A Murder Is Announced” (among others); she has also performed with Town Players of New Canaan, Eastbound Theatre, Wilton Playshop, and Crystal Theatre Company.

Robyn Mortiboys – Production Stage Manager
This is Robyn’s first production at WCT. She has recently been PSM for “Blithe Spirit,” directed by Scott Brill, and the staged reading of “A Woman Called God,” written by David Canary and directed by Maureen Maloney, both at the Wilton Playshop. After “Moonlight and Magnolias,” Robyn will be production stage manager for “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” directed by Larry Schneider at the Ridgefield Theatre Barn this November.

 

 

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“Sabrina Fair” brings a smile to the audience – and cheers!

"Sabrina Fair' at Westport Community Theatre, June 3 – 19, 2011

Cast of "Sabrina Fair"

The news today is all good news about our current production, Sabrina Fair – an absolutely charming play with memorable performances from actors who are cast to perfection! The audiences for the first weekend of performances gave the most amazing feedback – in a nutshell, they loved it. And the actors. And the set. And did we mention the play? Tom Rushen is applauded for his excellent directorial eye.

Make no mistake about it, this is what we call an “ensemble” play as no matter the size of the role, every performance is excellent. We’ll start in this posting with three of the principal characters. Actors are always challenged when assuming roles that are widely identified with famous celebrities – it is inevitable that an audience member will remember a favorite film. And we’re proud to say that WCT has overcome that challenge three times this season with our productions of Enter Laughing, Angel Street (“Gaslight”) and now Sabrina Fair.

For Sabrina Fair, the challenge is even greater as it means two films etched into memory over five decades – and a very successful Broadway run. The character of Sabrina Fairchild was beloved, made memorable in film by Audrey Hepburn in the 1950s and then again in the 1990s by Julia Ormond – and yet on Broadway it was Margaret Sullavan’s performance that brought the attention of the world to a new play destined to be a hit.

We are so, so lucky to have Debra Hanusick create this wonderful role in the Westport Community Theatre production – audiences this first weekend have absolutely fallen in love with her. To quote an overused phrase, she has “made it her own” – she is beguiling and sweet, feisty and smart, impetuous and patient, in-depth and frivolous – and absolutely charming. If for no other reason, everyone should see this production to see Debra’s wonderful performance in her WCT debut.

Sabrina Fair, Westport Community Theatre, June 3 – 19, 2011

Sabrina Fairchild (Debra Hanusick) and Linus Larrabee (Jeff Pliskin) – sparks fly...

We are so pleased to have Jeff Pliskin return to WCT in the role of Linus Larrabee after a string of hit roles at Curtain Call Theatre in Stamford. His challenge was having no less than Humphrey Bogart and Harrison Ford precede him on film – and Jeff’s superb talent has brought Linus Larrabee to life so convincingly, so intelligently, so sophisticated, so debonair… Linus is a terribly complex role that requires the actor to assume a rich “inner life” and take the audience with him in this endearing story. Jeff has the audience from his first line to his last, and we heard audience members wishing there was more when the play ended. We  looked up the definition of “heartthrob”… and…

In this story there are two Larrabee brothers, Linus and David – and they are effectively polar opposites. David is somewhat of a ladies-man. He’s funny. Somewhat care-free. Maybe somewhat care-less… He’s sure of himself, in control and easily infatuated. We are very pleased to welcome Terry LaPolice to the WCT stage as David – an amazing actor who captures the heart and soul of David Larrabee, creating a different version of the character than William Holden or Greg Kinnear played. He shines in his scenes with Sabrina, goes head to head with Linus, is a sympathetic confidant of elder Larrabee family members – and is the epitome of the suave sophistication that the 1950s is so well known for. We looked up the definition of “playboy”… and…

"Sabrina Fair" at Westport Community Theatre, June 3 – 19, 2011

Sabrina Fairchild (Debra Hanusick) and David Larrabee (Terry LaPolice) – a childhood crush is revisited...

There is much more to follow this week – as previously mentioned, this is a cast of 14 equally talented actors. Based on the reaction to this first weekend, we encourage you to make your reservations early – performances are Thursday, June 9 at 8:00 PM (great after-work outing!), Fridays and Saturdays June 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 8:00 PM, and matinees Sundays June 12 and 19 at 2:00 PM. WCT Box Office is (203) 226-1983.

The cast includes Michelle Blau, Jessica Denes, Andrea Garmun, Debra Hanusick, Terry LaPolice, Manny Lieberman, Andrew Morris, Sue O’Hara, Jeff Pliskin, Brendan Quinn, Tara Reuter, Catherine Samose, Nik Shpilberg and Fred Tisch.

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Sabrina Fair

June 3 - 19

Sabrina Fair, Opening June 3rd

It’s a whirlwind of activity this week at WCT as we put the finishing touches on the set, the lights, sounds, costumes, props, and of course our actors’ lines. It’s a hefty laundry list, but it’s also a veteran cast and crew. Tom Rushen is a regular here at WCT on stage, back stage and in the directors chair where he is currently sitting as I write this post.

“Sabrina Fairchild has reinvented herself after living for five years in Paris. Returning to her home with the wealthy Larrabee family, she struggles to find her identity between the independent, self-supporting woman she has become, and the chauffeur’s daughter she has always been. At the same time, a modern Cinderella story unfolds as suitors vie for her affection, until Sabrina must decide where her heart truly belongs.”


Performances are as follows:

Friday June 3 – 8PM
Saturday June 4 – 8PM
Sunday June 5 – 2PM
Thursday June 9 – 8PM
Friday June 10 – 8PM
Saturday June 11 – 8PM
Sunday June 12 – 2PM
Friday June 17 – 8PM
Saturday June 18 – 8PM
Sunday June 19 – 2PM

For tickets, call the box office at: 203.226.1984

 

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