Ashley on the Arts

By Dottie Ashley

Although the holidays have finished their run, the ever-expanding Charleston theater community has been working non-stop to produce an array of diverse stage performances, a perfect way to brighten the dark winter evenings ahead.

Don’t Cry For Me, Margaret Mitchell

Tracing the rocky journey that Margaret Mitchell’s famous 1936 novel Gone with the Wind underwent while being transferred from the printed page to the silver screen by famous Hollywood luminaries David Selznick, Victor Fleming and Ben Hecht, “Don’t Cry For Me, Margaret Mitchell” will be performed by Threshold Repertory Theatre starting Jan. 15.

The comedic stage production, penned by playwrights V. Cate and Duke Ernsberger, will be directed by highly respected local thespian Robin Burke. Among those in the cast are seasoned actors Brendan Kelly, Jay Danner, Sarah Coe and Nat Jones.

Jones, in the role of film director Victor Fleming, said in an interview with the Mercury: “The framework surrounding ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell’ references a true story in that producer David O. Selznick and Fleming did essentially kidnap screenwriter Ben Hecht and then sequestered themselves in Selznick’s office for seven days, (reportedly subsisting on black coffee, peanuts and bananas), to rewrite the screenplay for Gone with the Wind. Since it was already under production, the movie was costing Selznick $50,000 a day, so the tension is incredible.”

A semi-retired businessman from outside Philadelphia, where he also acted professionally, Jones and his wife Chris moved to Mount Pleasant eight years ago. Once here, he proceeded to fully immerse himself in the local theater arena. He has performed in more than 30 locally produced shows, most recently “Brooklyn Boy” at Midtown Productions on James Island.

“One of the reasons I auditioned for this role of Fleming is because the almost non-stop physical comedy involved is something that I don’t usually do,” Jones admitted.

“It’s incredibly hard work to perform madcap antics which call for the seamless fluidity needed to maintain what is, in many ways, an homage to the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello and other comedians of the 30s and 40s. Certainly Robin Burke is a genius as to the manner in which he has punctuated the action on stage with such nuance and impeccable shtick; moreover, he also demonstrates a superb eye for welding and melding together the elements of this comedic opera.”

However, Jones warns that the comedy “does contain references to racial stereotypes and language (no obscenities) which possibly may seem harsh now, but were acceptable at that time.”

“Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell” will be performed at various times Jan. 15-Feb. 8 at the Threshold Repertory Theatre, 84 1/2 Society St. For ticket information, call 277-2172 or go online to thresholdrep.org.

New mystery stage creation

Local writer Erin Danly’s first play, “It’s Time to Bring Back Charlie” opens Jan. 8 as a production of the South of Broadway Theatre Company. Danly is keeping the original work’s plot somewhat under wraps, perhaps as a way to pique the curiosity of future audience members.

“Basically, Erin’s play centers upon a famous playwright who is called back from the dead to guide a production of his most popular and famous theatrical work before an inept director and cast can cause it to careen into chaos,” explains SOBTC founder Mary Gould. Gould was involved in the entertainment business in New York, often managing orchestras, before deciding more than a decade ago to transfer her theatrical talents to the Charleston area.

In an email interview, Danly, a former New Yorker who, charmed by our city’s “friendly people and great weather” moved here four years ago, explained that her play was inspired by a conversation she once had with a friend in which they imagined what a particular playwright’s intentions were upon deciding to write a particular play.

Although unable to recall which playwright was being discussed, Danly remarked, “It was definitely NOT someone like Williams, Miller or Inge who provided inspiration for the creation of my playwright,” she said.

Mainly educated in London thanks to the nature of her father’s business, Danly became interested in classical music, eventually earning a degree in music with an emphasis in operatic performance from Washington University in St. Louis. Although she works as a freelance copy editor, Danly’s interest in writing plays was sparked when she attended SOBTC’s “Second Sundays” writers’ workshop. “I really learned a great deal about being creative,” she said. “In my play, the person I have concocted is a conglomerate of various brilliant writers,” noted Danly, who further elucidated, “It’s important to note that my playwright’s conjured spirit can be seen and heard by only one of the play’s characters, whom I named David in honor of my friend.”

To non-fans of the supernatural, the playwright makes it clear that “beyond the speaking-with-spirits element, the rest of the play is realistic.” Performances will take place at various times Jan. 8-18 at the SOBTC’s theater in North Charleston. For ticket information, go online to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 814-4451.

Dottie Ashley, winner of the 2003 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for her combined 37 years of coverage of the arts for South Carolina’s two largest newspapers, is the arts columnist for the Charleston Mercury. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Mercury newspaper racks are located at the following locations:

The Meeting Street Inn

Clair's Service Station at 334 Folly Rd.

Harris Teeter on Houston-Northcutt Blvd.

The Square Onion in I'On

Mt. Pleasant Library on Mathis Ferry Rd.