Barter Theatre kicks off its 2014 season Friday, Jan. 31 with the return of a crowd favorite.
Playing through May 10 on Barter’s Stage II, the hilarious comedy “Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell” goes behind the scenes of one of the greatest movies of all time.
It’s spring 1939, and the public is eagerly anticipating the release of the film “Gone With the Wind.” Actors are on set, cameramen are standing by and the bills are piling up for one of the most expensive movies ever made. The only problem? The script is a stinker.
Legendary Hollywood producer David O. Selznick grabs his new director Victor Fleming, famed scriptwriter Ben Hecht and his loyal secretary Miss Peabody, and locks himself and them in his office, ordering cases of bananas and peanuts for “brain food” until they have a new script. To make matters even more complicated, Hecht has never read the novel, so Selznick and Fleming frantically act out key scenes while he types.
It’s a wild and exhilarating ride as Selznick and his team race to meet their deadline and save the epic movie from becoming an epic flop.
“Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell” celebrates not just the effort, but the enormous risk that goes into creating a great work of art. It’s one of the things that appealed to Barter’s creative team when they selected the play, according to director Katy Brown.
“Selznick really was losing money every day, the pressure was truly mounting and all signs pointed to very real failure,” Brown said. “But they succeeded — wildly succeeded. That kind of success in the face of impossible risk is what we celebrate every time we push ourselves beyond what we think we can do.”
“Don’t Cry For Me, Margaret Mitchell” is a fitting kick-off for the 2014 season for two reasons, one of which Barter could not have anticipated when it planned the schedule. Not only does 2014 herald the 75th anniversary of “Gone With the Wind’s” release, but it also marks the passing of co-playwright V. Cate earlier this month. Barter has dedicated this production of “Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell” to Cate’s memory, and will celebrate her life and work during a special presentation to be held immediately prior to the Feb. 8 performance.
Playwrighting team V. Cate and Duke Ernsberger are known for their fast-paced comedic dialogue and surprising plot twists that leave their characters scrambling to keep out of trouble. Over the years, they have produced some of Barter’s biggest hits, including last season’s “A Visit From Scarface.”
Cate was 99 years old when she passed, and she completed her final play, the comedy “Hollywood Confidential,” just last year. Barter will produce the world premiere of “Hollywood Confidential” this fall.
“Don’t Cry For Me, Margaret Mitchell” received its world premiere as part of Barter’s Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights in 2006, followed by a successful run at Barter the following year. Past Cate and Ernsberger productions at Barter include “Elvis Has Left the Building,” “Dracula Bites,” “Losing Patients” and “Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose.”
Audiences of “Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell” will see plenty of familiar faces on stage, including Michael Poisson and Mary Lucy Bivins, who are reprising their roles from the 2007 production as David O. Selznick and Miss Peabody. These two long-time Barter Resident Acting Company members are known for their comedic roles — most recently, Poisson as the befuddled gangster in “Kiss Me, Kate,” and Bivins as the busybody Ozella in “Southern Fried Funeral.” Nicholas Piper, who plays screenwriter Ben Hecht, was just seen in December as the adult Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” and David Alford plays Victor Fleming, after a recent comedic turn as the General Patton-inspired General Harrison Howell in “Kiss Me, Kate.”
A full schedule of performances is available at www.bartertheatre.com, where patrons can also order tickets or purchase Season PassBooks for maximum savings on tickets. Tickets can also be purchased through the box office by calling (276) 628-3991.