Sept. 27--Folks attending the latest production by the East Lynne Theater Company might not recognize the name Sidney Howard, but mention "Gone With the Wind" and you're probably going to get their attention.
Fans of Hollywood history know Howard won an Oscar for his work converting Margaret Mitchell's tale of the old south into one of our most popular films.
"He was a big a playwright before 'Gone With The Wind,'" said Gayle Stahlhuth, East Lynne's artistic director. "He became known in Hollywood as a great adapter (of books into scripts). Other writers of the time had a great deal of respect for him, that's probably why the studios selected him to be the first writer for this massive film."
Howard crafted a timeless story with "The Late Christopher Bean," a comedy that revolves around the art world's discovery of a great artist -- after his death.
A scramble ensues as folks try to figure out who owns Bean's now priceless paintings.
"It's a great play. The audience on our opening night gave it a standing ovation," said Stahlhuth.
Based in Cape May, East Lynne specializes in bringing to the stage classic American plays from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
"Christopher Bean," written in 1932, is one of the more modern plays the group has staged.
Stahlhuth said she selected the piece because of the rave reviews productions of the play have received and its ability to strike a chord with audiences today.
"It's timely. It was written in the 1930s. We are going through our own time of unemployment being high -- I think it is a play for our times," she said.
While modern theatergoers might relate to the play's material, they might notice something unusual about East Lynne's staging.
Modern playwrights tend to keep the cast of characters small and the settings static -- all in an effort to keep production costs low.
East Lynne's production features a cast of nine -- a veritable crowd on the stage. (The cast's medical insurance alone costs the company $1,200 per week, Stahlhuth said.)
Stahlhuth says the larger casts add to the richness of a production and lets more experienced actors mentor their younger counterparts.
"The sad thing is that people don't know these plays exist. They don't get a chance to work on them," Stahlhuth said. "From a director's point of view they are challenging, all these personalities, but they are also exciting."
Contact Steven V. Cronin:
If You Go
"The Late Christopher Bean" presented by East Lynne Theater Company 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays through Oct. 12 and 7:30 p.m. Oct.13, no show Oct. 9 at The First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes Street, Cape May. Tickets are $30 general admission; $25 ages 62 and older; $15 students, free for ages 12 and younger. Call 609-884-5898 or visit
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