Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An Evening At The Theatre

Tonight, my Moonlight and Magnolias cast/crewmates were treated to Kernersville Little Theatre's production of Don't Cry For Me, Margaret Mitchell. Both shows deal with the story of how the Gone With The Wind screenplay was written.

Having just closed our production, I tried to view things as objectively as I could. I had also heard this production might be representing NC during SETC's Community Theatre Festival. I tried to watch as if I was an impartial adjudicator.

The set was nice, and it was a very good use of the Folly stage. Bill and Kathy Cissna designed lights, and it was very nice to see more than just off/on at the Folly.

Judith Gillis, who played Mrs. Peabody, was my favorite. She was spot-on in her realistic portrayal of Mrs. Peabody.

I don't know whether it was because it was a Wednesday performance or whether they were nervous because the playwright was also in attendance, but the guys had some line issues. That, combined with very poor pacing, made the production painful to watch at times.

I was also surprised that neither the actors (save Peabody who had at least 5 costume changes) nor the set showed signs of wear and tear during the 7 days. And while Hecht lamented about being starved on a diet of bananas and peanuts, Selznick was the only one who partook. (Peabody must have been very efficient-no banana peels, peanut shells - no litter at all!)

It was a good production for the normal KLT audience, and they were appreciative in their response. I think the overall production, especially the male actors, need some more work if the production is selected to represent NC.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kudos for Moonlight and Magnolias

Sorry I didn’t get to catch you after tonight’s show. It certainly looked like you were having fun up there, Miss Poppengul!
~BC 9.24
Cheryl Ann....What can I say? In the hands of a lesser actress Poppenghul could be lost and not really add much to the show. In your hands, you really give the guys a run for their money. You are so incredibly funny and make every time you come on stage something special. She could be just a generic secretary. But with your performance she is a unique character and you've carved out a very specific and very strong personality for her. And most importantly she is so very, very funny. This is a wonderfully funny show and I love watching you on stage.
~SB 9.18

Friday, September 25, 2009

An Afternoon At The Movies

I've been eagerly awaiting opening day since I first saw the trailer during So You Think You Can Dance. I vaguely remember the original movie, but I do remember religiously watching the Saturday night TV series. I happily purchased my matinee ticket and breathlessly waited for the remake to begin.

My excitement slowly gave way to out right boredom. I was disappointed in the various storylines. There were too many main characters and not enough time devoted to getting to know them. I was also completely underwhelmed with the production numbers.

The movie's one saving grace is Naturi Naughton. She plays Denise, a classically trained pianist, who has a voice that begs to be heard. Her rendition of "Out Here On My Own" blew me away.

Is There Such A Thing As Bad Publicity?

This "Letters To The Editor" appeared in the paper today.
Increasingly common

My wife and I recently attended a performance of Moonlight and Magnolias at Twin City Stage ("Movie Stage," Sept. 13). What we were hoping for was a wholesome comedy. What we experienced was a profanity-laced production that made frequent use of a variety of obscene language.

This is the type of language that is becoming increasingly common not only at Twin City Stage and in movie theaters, but also throughout our society.

A sewage pond is not pleasant to smell. Most people would try to avoid being anywhere near it. Yet, it seems as if many people in our society today don't mind hearing -- and even speaking -- obscenities.

Ephesians 4:29 instructs us to "let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth."

Likewise, Colossians 3:8 instructs us to rid ourselves of "filthy language out of your mouth."

It would be no stretch to assume these biblical passages also imply that Christians shouldn't casually stand by and listen to such language when it is spoken by others. Such language not only contaminates the person who is speaking, but may also contaminate those who are listening to it. Consider what the psalmist says in Psalm 19:14: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."

How pleased God would be if each of us tried to honor him through the words we speak and the words to which we listen.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Congratulations, Tony!

My hearty congrats and a dancing bear hug to my Moonlight and Magnolias castmate, Anthony Liguori. Last night Metrolina Theatre Association held their 2009 MTA Awards show at the McGlohon Theatre in Spirit Square in Charlotte. Tony was up for Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor for his role as Max Bialystock in Hickory Community Theatre's production of The Producers.

While I did not see him in this show, I've seen many of Tony's other shows and know that this was a well deserved win for him.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

True love is neither physical, nor romantic.
True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will and will not be.

The Journal Review

Spoofing Scarlett for the Fun of It - Twin City Stage delivers the laughs
By Mary Martin Niepold
Published: September 20, 2009
You can't make this stuff up, and in the new play at Twin City Stage, we get a dramatized comedy about the real deal behind the making of Gone With the Wind.

Moonlight and Magnolias is set in 1939 when Hollywood mega producer David O. Selznick actually locked famous writer Ben Hecht and film director Victor Fleming in his office for five days to save his production of Gone With the Wind.

Selznick fed them peanuts and bananas. He needed a new script to resuscitate what would become one of the most popular movies of all time and was willing to lose $50,000 a day while production was delayed and the men worked.

Knowing the plot of the movie means that audiences already have a good handle on the events and characters we see acted out by three grown men.

Director Stan Bernstein has parodied the actual events with restraint.

The whole situation is made for laughs, and the lead actors manage to bring some slapstick humor to reworking the movie's script, especially Melanie's giving birth and Scarlett's slapping of Prissy.

Anthony Liguori as Selznick carries the show.

He can deadpan lines as easily as he can bark out producer's edicts.

When he mimics Scarlett, he's hilarious.

His counterpoint, the morally earnest Hecht, is effectively portrayed by Chad Edwards.

It's a fun sendup of the famous melodrama.

Twin City Stage (formerly the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem) will present Moonlight and Magnolias at 2 p.m. today and Sept. 27 and at 8 p.m. Sept. 24-26 in the Arts Council Theater, 610 Coliseum Drive. Tickets are $22, $20 for seniors and $18 for students. For more information call the Twin City Stage box office at 336-725-4001.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Life isn't about surviving the storm
It's about learning to dance in the rain

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's Official!

Mallorie and I will be in the cast of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. It's the first acting role for Mallorie and I'm excited to be sharing the stage with her.

I'm also hugely honored to be part of this historical staged reading. Our castmates include some of the most talented folks in the Triad.

The reading will be one night only, on Monday, October 12, at the Arts Council Theatre. The performance is free, and you can reserve your tickets through Paper Lantern Theatre Company.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Making of classic film is play's backstory

By Mary Martin Niepold
Published: September 13, 2009
Afrenzied romp through the era of Southern legend and Hollywood moguls will open the season at Twin City Stage this week.

Moonlight and Magnolias is based on real events in Hollywood's golden era and takes us behind the scenes in 1938 when famed producer David O. Selznick decides that things are not going so great in filming his epic, Gone With the Wind.

He stops production. The film needs resuscitation.

To that end, Selznick grabs famous writer, Ben Hecht, to rework the script alongside the film's new director, Victor Fleming, who had just completed The Wizard of Oz.

Atlanta has already burned and been put to film, but Selznick is adamant. The epic needs a new script, and so he locks himself, Hecht and Fleming in his office for five days to produce one. The three men are literally locked inside his office, and they have only bananas, peanuts and dueling egos to sustain them. Fueling the dramatics and laughs is the fact that Hecht has never even read the book.

"This is straight-up comedy," Anthony Liguori said. Liguori, an associate professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, plays Selznick. "These are real events in a real place and people trying to tell this story that everyone knows except the screenwriter."

Selznick's secretary, Miss Poppengul, played by Cheryl Ann Roberts, supplies the bananas and peanuts.

At the center of the action are Selznick and Fleming taking turns acting out the roles for the rewrite. Since Moonlight and Magnolias is based on true events, playwright Ron Hutchinson simply takes the improbable and works it for all it's worth. Stan Bernstein returns to Twin City Stage as director.

Selznick, one of Hollywood's more infamous couch producers, plays Scarlett and Ashley while Fleming, a successful director, plays Melanie, Prissy and Rhett.

"So you can imagine these two men enacting the birth of Melanie's child," Liguori said.

Meanwhile, Hecht, the no-nonsense journalist, is typing.

Hecht, who wrote the highly successful Broadway play, The Front Page, 10 years before, is hard-boiled and short on sensitivity. He doesn't think that Scarlet O'Hara is so likable, and even though he hasn't read the novel, he suggests that the story is a light-weight, essentially some fluff about "moonlight and magnolias."

Nonetheless, Selznick is losing about $50,000 a day while they squabble over the script; Fleming's reputation is on the line; and Hecht is Hecht, someone who is convinced that he can learn whatever he needs by watching the other men act out the plot.

Selznick, epitomizing the powerful mogul, sums up the stakes: "Big book, big brain, big guy, big shot. Five days, one screenplay."

Thus, the laughs.

Holding all the action together is a set that is a very proper rendition of Selznick's actual office. The space is large -- enough room for a birth and free-wheeling reenactments of the story -- complete with floral draperies and 12-foot ceilings, which designer, Charles Murdock Lucas, has created.

Lucas, who is completing his master's in scenic design from UNC School of the Arts, researched extensively and says that the set, true to the real thing, actually helps the laughs. "The more realistic the environment is in this, it throws the comedy in sharp relief."

In the play, the action is high-pitched, the laughs inevitable, but something obviously did work in those five days: The film went on to win 10 Academy Awards.

■ Twin City Stage (formerly the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem) will present Moonlight and Magnolias at 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sept. 24-26; and at 2 p.m. next Sunday and Sept. 27, in the Arts Council Theater, 610 Coliseum Drive. Tickets are $22, $20 for seniors and $18 for students. Call 336-725-4001.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A Script Report

From Samuel French:
In Skin Deep, a large, lovable, lonely-heart, named Maureen Mulligan, gives romance one last shot on a blind-date with sweet awkward Joseph Spinelli; she's learned to pepper her speech with jokes to hide insecurities about her weight and appearance, while he's almost dangerously forthright, saying everything that comes to his mind. They both know they're perfect for each other, and in time they come to admit it.

They were set up on the date by Maureen's sister Sheila and her husband Squire, who are having problems of their own: Sheila undergoes a non-stop series of cosmetic surgeries to hang onto the attractive and much-desired Squire, who may or may not have long ago held designs on Maureen, who introduced him to Sheila. With Maureen particularly vulnerable to both hurting and being hurt, the time is ripe for all these unspoken issues to bubble to the surface.

I purchased this script at the Drama Book Shop in New York. It was shiny and slick, and the cover art attracted my attention. Yes it's another fat-girl-finds-love story, but I thought it was refreshingly charming. I especially enjoyed the scene between Maureen and Squire.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September skirt! Philosophy

Let there always be one more race to be run...once more rung to reach...the novel waiting to be written... A career change to be dared...a higher mountain to climb...unexpected love waiting to walk into your steps to be learned...the most daring adventure still to plan...another painting waiting on the palette. Let every safe harbor be a place to rest up, not rest on your laurels, before you set off again for unknown jeopardy and joy. Broken heart? Turn it into a happy beginning. Layoffs looming? Start working your resume. Empty nest? Try your own wings...Sign up for Yes! instead of hanging on to yesterday. Yes! to the blind date, the scary new job in another city, the new level of yoga. Ready, Set, Yes!