By Leilani Roberts Ott
Ask Tim Dunn anything except how his “little play” is going.
That question gets this kind-hearted, dedicated, hard-working man just a little riled. He heard it from a co-worker recently, and it didn’t make him happy.
Dunn is directing “Moonlight & Magnolias” for Muskogee Little Theatre. The show opens at 8 p.m. today. The cast of four — Kelly Robinson, Steve Thomson, Frank Godman and Camille Sain — have put in a lot of work and hopes into the comedy, Dunn said.
“People don’t understand the nights and holding hands it takes,” Dunn said of the production, the sixth he is directing for MLT. “It’s a great sense of accomplishment.”
The setting is 1939. Hollywood is buzzing about producer David O. Selznick stopping production on his new epic movie, “Gone with the Wind,” an adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel.
Selznick, portrayed by Robinson, brings in famed screenwriter Ben Hecht, portrayed by Thomson, and pulls director Victor Fleming, portrayed by Godman, off the set of “The Wizard of Oz.” They are locked in Selznick’s office for five days, with only bananas and peanuts to eat, to create the screenplay for one of the most successful films of all time.
Coni Wetz, executive director of MLT, notes in the program that “Moonlight & Magnolias” by Ron Hutchinson is being presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service Inc. of New York. It had its premiere in May 2004 in Chicago. This is its first MLT production. Shows are at 8 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Oct. 10 to 12. Tickets are $15 and $12.
“You have to maintain that comedic level while going through serious subjects,” Dunn said. “It goes into slapstick comedy to serious like Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and prejudice against Jews.”
The challenge is that it’s a “very wordy play,” he said.
“It’s absolutely the most lines I’ve had,” he said. “It’s been a challenge. There’s no song to sing.”
Thomson, like Dunn, got his start at MLT while bringing one of his children to try out for a part. A musician and vocalist at First United Methodist Church, Thomson has done numerous musicals. He tried out for this part and “decided to dive in.”
Dunn wanted the Selznick role, but he was asked to direct after director Martha Cherbini had to pull out because of a timing conflict — the production of “Gin Game” that she was directing in Broken Arrow made it to an international theater competition.
Dunn, who takes his directing seriously, has come a long way since he came with a friend to MLT tryouts in 1978. Freshly out of the Marine Corps, he thought he would give acting a try. He saw a few actors try out — and walked out from fear.
“It took 20 years to come back,” he said.
He portrayed six characters in “Annie” with his daughter, Samantha Luscomb, who now lives in Magnolia, Texas. He recently switched positions at work, moving from working nights in trucking to working days in shipping at Owen-Illinois, formerly Brockway. That gives him more time to be involved in MLT.
“They’ll probably get sick of me,” he said of MLT audiences.
Robinson of Muskogee and Sain of Fort Gibson will be on the MLT stage for the first time. Robinson does comedy improv and acting in Tulsa. He calls this show “comedy with a sneaky little side of drama.”
Sain was transferred to the area from Washington, D.C., to work for the Veterans Affairs department. The Atlanta native has a framed program from “Gone With the Wind” on her living room wall.
“My grandmother went to the premiere in Atlanta,” Sain said of the film. “The premise of the play is hysterical. Tim has been very kind and patient with someone who has never done this before.”
Godman has been on the MLT stage for five or six years, starting with “Twelve Angry Men.” He wanted to be a part of “Moonlight & Magnolias.”
“It’s a fun experience ... a chance to be someone else,” he said.
Robinson added there’s “no high like being on stage.”
If you go
WHAT: “Moonlight & Magnolias.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Oct. 10 to 12.
WHERE: Muskogee Little Theatre, D and Cincinnati streets.
TICKETS: $15, adults; and $12, students, available at Soundworld, 123 E. Okmulgee Ave., or at the MLT box office one hour before the show.
THE CAST: Kelly Robinson as David O. Selznick, Steve Thomson as Ben Hecht, Frank Godman as Victor Fleming, and Camille Sain as Miss Poppenghul.
PRODUCTION TEAM: Tim Dunn, director; Beverly Boyer, stage manager; Dr. Tom Kennedy, producer; Penny McGill, technical director; David Eckerson and Michael McGill, set construction; Penny McGill, Boyer, Jeran McGill and Mackenzie Connaway, artistic design; and Susan Winters, prompter.
SPONSORS: Georgia-Pacific with assistance of The Oklahoma Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts.
INFORMATION: www.muskogeelittletheatre.com or email muskogeelittletheatre@