Last spring I had the good fortune to attend a performance of the Festival Stage’s hilarious farce, Hatchetman, which was brilliantly directed by Steve Umberger. The moment I walked into the Hanesbrands Theatre I fell in love with the space, and the moment the lights went down I fell in love with the production. I am extremely grateful to Steve and Pedro Silva, Festival Stage artistic and managing director, for giving me the opportunity to direct in Festival Stage’s third season.
As I write these notes, I am preparing to direct Alfred Uhry’s delightful Tony-Award winning playThe Last Night of Ballyhoo. The play takes place in December of 1939 in Atlanta, Ga., in the home of the Freitag family. The Freitags are wealthy Southern Jews of German descent who strive to be part of their elite Christian neighborhood. In 1939 the main event for the Freitag family is the premiere of the film Gone with the Wind. In the distant background (and even ignored by many in the Freitag household) is a concern for the possible actions of a relatively unknown man in Germany named Hilter. Entering into the Freitag’s home is Joe Farkas. Joe is a Yankee of Eastern European Jewish heritage. Sparks fly when the North and the South meet. To me, the play is as relevant today as it was when it opened in 1997 as we continue to struggle with what it means to hold onto one’s heritage and faith in a multi-cultural and often prejudiced world.
I am certain this is the perfect season opening for Festival Stage: not only because of the play’s universal themes but because of its Southern charm. When I first read the play, I was immediately drawn to these endearing characters. Most of them are eccentric, humorous, loveable Southern folks (in fact, you may see strong similarities to an aunt, uncle, cousin or even your mother). They will have you laughing and crying simultaneously.
Steve and I have put together a first-rate cast. Festival Stage lovers will see actors you have come to enjoy on this stage along with new ones.
The Last Night of Ballyhoo is a beautiful, powerful and humorous family story that exudes with Southern warmth. The actors and I are hopeful our production will entertain as well as enlighten. Thank you for coming!
Ann Marie Costa