‘Moonlight and Magnolias’ latest offering from Mad Anthony

HAMILTON — The Mad Anthony Theatre Company will bring “Moonlight and Magnolias” to the Fitton Center for Creative Arts stage Thursday, April 30 through Sunday, May 3. Show times are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“This is a comedy, and with a comedy, the audience takes on an important role. As they laugh, or react, the actors feed off of that. I think the audience will enjoy it,” said director Patricia (Pat) Ganz.

Based on a true story, the play is about the three key people that are most responsible for the screen play of “Gone with the Wind,” she said.

The show is set in 1939 as legendary Hollywood producer David O. Selznick has shut down production on “Gone with the Wind.” He is desperately searching for a new director and a new writer – in the midst of multiple revisions and the firing of his acting director. The writer he hopes for, Ben Hecht, has never read the novel. Selznick also calls on director Victor Fleming, just as he’s finishing up on the set of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Starring in “Moonlight and Magnolias” are cast members Bob McClain as David O. Selznick; Steve Tunning as Victor Fleming and Henry Cepluch as Ben Hecht. Sue Combs also acts as Miss Poppenhul. The supporting crew includes Carol Walker (props, rehearsal assistant); Mary and Larry Slocum (set); Denny Thomas (lights) and Cary Wagonfield (sound.)

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“I chose a cast that has a real professional attitude. They have a good work ethic and they are dedicated,” Ganz said. “There are a lot of lines to memorize, and those three guys never leave the stage. They are also committed to the script, and getting it the way it was written.”

Selznick wholeheartedly believes in “Gone with the Wind,” so he locks the three of them in his office for five days. “Moonlight and Magnolias” gives theatergoers a fun, behind-the-scenes look at what happened in Selznick’s office over the course of the week as they delve in to work on one of the most successful and beloved films in history, said Actor Henry Cepluch, who plays Ben Hecht.

Hecht is a cynical newspaper man, Cepluch said of his role, he downplays the whole thing. He doesn’t see how the 1,800-page book can be made into a movie.

“Hecht is sort of a rough character, who has been around the block a few times,” Cepluch said. “He knows the ups and downs, and how far down people can go in everything. The other thing is because he is Jewish, he is very interested in what’s going on in Europe at that time. He is involved with the Jewish Relief Committee, and he knows what’s going on with Hitler and the Jews in Germany. The play begins with him admitting he has never read the book.”

The Mad Anthony Theatre Company is the Fitton Center’s resident drama group. The group includes a team of semi-professional directors, designers and actors. Each season, they offer three productions ranging from dramas and comedies to musicals. In addition to the new theater this year, tickets for all shows are $10.

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