Kandace Christian stars as Margaret Mitchell at Atlanta's Ansley Park Playhouse
Nashville actress Kandace Christian - fresh off an acclaimed performance of her one woman-show in which she portrays Margaret Mitchell, the creator of such time-honored characters as Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler as the writer of one of the biggest novels of the 20th century, Gone With the Wind - is taking her show deep into Georgia's Tara-tory, as it were, from June 2-19 as Atlanta's Ansley Park Playhouse presents Mrs. John Marsh: The World Knew Her as Margaret Mitchell.
Written by Melita Easters, the one-woman show was mounted as a staged reading in Franklin earlier this spring by the Southern Writers Theatre. That performance has led to new opportunities for the former Miss Mississippi who has gained a laudable reputation as a singer and actress throughout the region - and now, as she takes the show to Mitchell's hometown, Christian has the chance to gain even more fans and followers as she "becomes" the woman who wrote the novel that set the publishing world on its ear in 1936 when it was first released.
How did you get cast as Margaret Mitchell in this production? I attended an open call audition last fall with the Southern Writers Theatre (Jaz Dorsey) and was cast for a reading of the play at the Franklin Library in March. They were looking for feisty redheads to play Margaret, and after the audition I was sent home with a script in hand. The playwright, Melita Easters, drove up from Atlanta to attend the reading. We had a conversation after the reading at the Battle Ground Brewery in Franklin on Saint Patrick's Day and among the Irish motif and green beer drinkers, she asked my interest in staging this for a full run in Atlanta this summer. It was fitting that among Margaret Mitchell and Scarlett O'Hara, two well-known Irish women, we were having this discussion on Saint Patty's Day. I was extremely honored to have the playwright in attendance, and that she wanted to move "onward and upward" to a full production.
How do you identify with Margaret Mitchell? I identify first and foremost with her need to be unknown. There was a period of my life, during my year as Miss Mississippi, that I ached for the chance to go to the Dairy Bar without being recognized. I know I am no Margaret Mitchell, but for that short period of time I felt the way she expressed feeling from 1936 until her tragic death in 1949. Margaret was a lot more salacious than I am - she loved "the bizarre and the wild," but I do enjoy being unconventional and have been known to "let my hair down" from time to time.
What's been the most gratifying aspect to this journey for you? The most gratifying aspect is simply tackling the work. Being onstage alone is a daunting thought and a seemingly impossible task, but I have worked very hard to bring Margaret to life for a couple of hours for the fans of hers that know her so well and for the fans of the book or movie who want to learn more about her life and her process of writing Gone With the Wind. Another fun part of this process is getting to be involved with the growth of the show itself. The playwright and I have spoken every day for the past month making adjustments and finding new paths to tell Margaret's story. I love being a small part of the evolution of the script. (By the way, being onstage and having no one to take cues from is tough stuff...if you draw a blank....as I have... good luck!)How have the scores of Gone With the Wind devotees responded to your performance? Many of my friends who attended the reading were very interested to learn about her life. She was spunky, smart, flirtatious and they loved seeing some of the parallels between Margaret and her beloved Scarlett...there are many! Now the Gone with Wind fans (The Windys) that I encountered at the preview at the University of Georgia [on] May 7 went absolutely mad for this play. They came up to me in their Scarlett O'Hara sweaters, Civil War period hats, sequined Tara jackets, and other Scarlett regalia and immediately bought tickets for the Ansley Park run in June. I spoke personally with most of the attendees of the preview for an hour after the show. Herb Bridges and John Wylie (two authors of Mitchell biographies) loved the play, loved that a Southern actress was playing the part, and planned to come to the run as well, bringing along fans of theirs for the ride. The response I have received and the reviews have been extremely positive and very humbling.
- Mrs. John Marsh: The World Knew Her as Margaret Mitchell. By Melita Easters. Starring Kandace Christian as Margaret Mitchell. Presented by Ansley Park Playhouse, Atlanta, June 2-19. For more information, visit the company's website at www.ansleyparkplayhouse.com.