By Laura Acuff, Opinion Editor
ACU Theater’s Moonlight & Magnolias opens Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Fulks Theatre, located in the Williams Performing Arts Center.
The comedy details the efforts of producer David O. Selznick, screenwriter Ben Hecht and director Victor Fleming to write the screenplay for Gone with the Wind in the late 1930s. Locked in an office, eating only bananas and peanuts until the screenplay’s completion, the three worked to save what would be the most expensive movie ever made at the time of its release.
“The good thing about this play is that it lays the history out for you,” said Katie Hahn, junior theatre major from Abilene, who plays the role of Miss Poppenghul, Selznick’s secretary, in the play.
“People who’ve seen the movie will definitely see things and be like, ‘Oh, I remember that from the movie,’ but the good thing is, this is a true story, and it does lay out what happened,” she said.
Beside Hahn, Will Christoferson, senior theatre major from Abilene; Matt Worthington, senior English major from San Antonio, and Jeremy Varner, junior theater major from Abilene, round out the four-member cast. Christoferson, Worthington and Varner remain onstage the entire play for the complete one-hour-and-40-minute duration.
“That’s hard; I mean they fill that stage, and you’re never off,” said Gary Varner, the director of Moonlight & Magnolias and associate professor of theatre. “It’s a fairly short show. For that one hour and 40 minutes, they are constantly on, and it’s draining. At the end of rehearsals, they were exhausted,” he said.
Despite the play’s comedic fa‡ade, Hahn said it contains portions of seriousness that deal with social issues of the late 1930s.
“I would say that it’s a light-hearted show, but there are parts of it that deal with some really difficult things, some things that really were a big deal at the time,” Hahn said. “It’s interesting to see the kind of things that were going on socially in 1939, verses where we are now. While it’s funny, there’s also an element of seriousness that gets dealt with,” he said.
Although the comedy may seem over-the-top, research shows most of the play’s events and characters to be true to history, Varner said.
“It’s just that these people in the movie business, they are bigger than life,” he said. “I mean, Selznick was nuts; he was a crazy man when he was trying to produce a movie. He’d do whatever it takes to try to get the movie done, and this one he was going to do without any compromises,” he said.
However small his cast, Varner said he believes the actors will hold their own, and the students will appreciate the play’s comedy.
“They’re all worth seeing onstage,” Varner said. “They’re really funny guys. It’s got a lot of improvisational moments built into it, and these guys-they run with it. It’s really funny, and it’s just fun to watch them eat that many bananas,” he said.
The show will play Aug. 28-30 and Sept. 5-6 and 12-13, with performances starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets purchased in advance cost $12 each, while tickets purchased at the door, pending on available seats, cost $6. For advance tickets, call Box Office at 325-674-ARTS.