Moonlight and Magnolia Madness Opens San Miguel’s Newest Theater

By Henry Vermillion

Movie fans know that the British actress Vivien Leigh was chosen for the part of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind only after a two-year search (and 1400 auditions), winning out over such actresses as Bette Davis, Gene Tierney, and Olivia de Havilland (who wound up with a pretty good but different part.) Fans also know that Clark Gable was reluctant to take the Rhett Butler role after Gary Cooper turned it down.

Moonlight and Magnolias by Ron Hutchinson
San Miguel Theater Company Inaugural Show
Wed, Oct 15-Sun, Oct 26
Wed-Sat, 7:30pm
Sun, 5pm
Ave Independencia 82
Tickets at La Conexion (Aldama 3 and Café Monet)
150 pesos; 250 pesos for Opening Night

However, not many people know how chaotic the writing of the classic film turned out to be. That story is told in “Moonlight and Magnolias”, the inaugural production of the new San Miguel Theater Company. The legendary producer David O Selznick got scripts for Gone With the Wind from eight or more screenwriters—men such as John Van Druten, Charles MacArthur and Scott Fitzgerald—but stopped the shooting of the picture after two weeks because the screen play still didn´t work.. He also fired the director George Cukor and pulled fhe formidable director Victor Fleming off the filming of The Wizard of Oz to be his new director.

Fleming protests. He needs to get back to finish The Wizard: “I have a hundred and sixteen munchkins dead drunk in the corridors or fornicating in the bathrooms of the Culver Hotel”, he says. Selznick also brings in the brilliant writer and script doctor Ben Hecht and locks the three of them in his office for five days to do a complete re-write. They are fed nothing but peanuts and bananas. “Bananas are brain food”, Selznick declares. Presumably the peanuts are for protein.

The five days are hilarious, farcical, and filled with knowing insider lore about the Hollywood dream factory—“This gold-lined sewer”, as the cynical Hecht calls it. As the days roll by, Selznick and Fleming act out the parts of Scarlet, Rhett, and Prissy for Hecht (who hasn´t read the book). Hecht and Fleming make jabs at each other. Hecht says there´s no way he can write that Scarlet slaps Prissy. Selznick insists that every line of dialogue will be from Margaret Mitchell’s novel, even if different people say them, and in different scenes.

The action is sometimes slapstick, the dialogue is wonderful and the spectator may feel that they are watching a Marx Brothers film from the thirties.

The actors are Mick Diener, Ken Albanese, Jim Newell.and Phoebe Greyson. The playwright is Ron Hutchinson. The director is Jim Newell. The new theater is at Avenida Independencia 82, which is easily reached by turning right off Canal just past the bridge over the arroyo, going pats the San Juan de Dios market and on up Avenida Independencia past the primary school. The theater is on the left. There is ample and secure parking space.

The play opened its run October 15, and finishes next week Wednesday through Sunday. Curtain is 7:30 except for Sunday, which is at 5pm. Tickets are 150 pesos donation, and all seats are reserved in the new 124 seat space. Tickets are available at the two locations of La Coneccion: Aldama 3 and behind Café Monet on Ancha San Antonio.

Come and get in on the ground floor of a new theater institution in San Miguel. And as one New York critic said: “Frankly, my dear, this is one funny play.”


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