JIMMY STEWART GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Plays Covey Center for the Arts Tonight
The old stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood will be shining at the Covey Center for the Arts on March 28th and 29th as a new play about the life of Jimmy Stewart performs on their main stage. Jimmy Stewart Goes to Hollywood, written by national Kennedy Center award winning playwright Mahonri Stewart, and directed by Utah theatre veteran Scott Bronson, is being produced by Zion Theatre Company at the Covey, marking the first time the group has been produced at one of Utah County's most prominent theaters.
William McCallister, who is playing Jimmy, considers the everyman actor one of his heroes, so jumped at the chance to play him, "I love Jimmy Stewart. Ever since I was a lad, I appreciated him in the films I saw him in. I sensed a niceness, a goodness in his eyes and voice. As I grew, I continued to watch his films - he's made so many, you can always find one you haven't seen before - and I fell in love with him even more. Now I'm a high school film teacher. When I teach my students about film history, I can't help but gush about the man, and I am tempted to spend more weeks on a "Jimmy Stewart" unit than I probably should. The more I study the man, his craft as an actor, the films he chose to be him, his incredible ability, the more he has imbedded himself in my heart as a hero."
McCallister noted that, like any human being, Stewart had his flaws, but that has been part of what makes him relatable, "Playing this part has been a dream come true. I get to attempt to do this man justice in telling a part of his rich story. I get to study more and more about him as a person, his history, learn about his hopes and dreams and loves. It has been a remarkable experience. I've learned that he was human. He had weaknesses and flaws like we all do. But, that never changed the fact that he had a great heart, and that he was a good man. He cared about people deeply, and did his best to be his best. I love him even more now that I did before."
The play details Jimmy Stewart's rise in Hollywood, and the challenges and opposition he faced there. Vital in that process was his friendship with another great Hollywood star, Margaret Sullavan, and the play focuses a good deal on their relationship. Actress Kate Forsythe, who is playing Sullavan, notes how vital "Peggy" was in Stewart's development as an actor, "Margaret Sullavan has been a really fun role to play because she is exactly what Henry Fonda called her, a dish of cream and sugar over a bed of hot coals. Sometimes that was good and often it caused her a lot of pain, but there was only one person that she was always cream and sugar for, and that was Jimmy Stewart. She believed in him before anyone else did, loved him before it was cool, and never let her darker side taint his innocence. People say she made Jimmy Stewart into a star, and I think she would be happy to know that was what she would be remembered for."
Mahonri Stewart based the play on his screenplay, so director Scott Bronson has gone to great lengths to give that translation a "theatrical" edge. "There will be no blackouts or set changes," Bronson said, "We're going to move this story along."
Bronson said that he wanted to direct the play because of the way the playwright handles the script, and also because of his own personal fondness for the famous actor, "I was initially attracted to the play because of the subject matter. I have been a Jimmy Stewart fan for decades. He's always one of the first names I mention when I'm asked who my favorite actors are. Secondly, the treatment of the subject was appealing to me. Mahonri doesn't try to make excuses for any of Jimmy's actions or behaviors-not that there's any need to-and because of that I sensed a real love for the man and his work. Also, many of the scenes mirror bits and pieces of the films that Jimmy starred in and that's fun."
The play performs tonight, March 28 at 7:30 pm and March 29th with a 2:00 pm matinee and 7:30 pm evening performance. Tickets are $16/$14. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Covey Center for the Arts at (801) 852-7007(801) 852-7007 or on the Covey's website www.provo.org/community/covey-center-for-the-arts. The Covey Center for the Arts is located at 425 W Center St, Provo, UT 84601.