(From left) Actors Ansley Frank as Judy Stacy Powell as Mrs. Brown and William Shiflett as Billy in the stage play “Moonshine and Magnolias.”
FOREST PARK — The house lights were dimmed at St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church on audience members last week, and there was a single spotlight that shined on the actors in the long-awaited play “Moonshine and Magnolias.”
The time had finally come for the hard work of the producers — behind the theatrical production — and actors to unveil before Clayton County residents.
Peering into the crowd you could see an array of mixed emotions as some cried, laughed and nodded their heads.
Local dignitaries Mayor Joy Day of Jonesboro and Jonesboro council member Bobby Wiggins lavished the production with praise, according to Kathryn Wood, one of the directors of the show.
“They both came up to me and bragged about how much they loved it,” she said enthusiastically. “I thought it went really great! I’m so proud of the cast — everyone did a really good job!”
Historical Jonesboro of Clayton County premiered “Moonshine and Magnolias” on Wednesday evening.
Wood said this is the first time in more than a decade that Historical Jonesboro has hosted a major production.
“Moonshine and Magnolias” is a two-hour production that is set in Clayton County in 1845 and moves to the present day.
According to the Historical Jonesboro website, the play features the stories of Clayton County citizens and weaves them into inspiring funny scenes. The history of Clayton County is revealed through chronological segments. The original script is owned by Historical Jonesboro Clayton County, according to Jean Peacock, spokesperson for the show.
Karen Ferrell-White, another director, said “Moonshine and Magnolias” captures the true essence of the south.
“It’s so interesting and sweet in its nature. It shows the innocence of Southern life, which is one of the characteristics you lose in modern time,” White said.
White, who has an extensive background in theater, acting and directing in several productions with the Henry Players, said this was her first time directing a show with Historical Jonesboro. She said she was even more humbled by the audience response from Wednesday night’s show.
“It was a lot of positive response, a lot of laughter and head nodding,” she said. “I was sitting back by the spotlight and I could see into the crowd and I saw smiles on people’s faces.”
Out of this endeavor, the Front Porch Players was established under Historical Jonesboro/ Clayton County Inc., and the actors in Moonshine and Magnolias are the first cast under the organization.
“There’s a need in Clayton for a community theater,” Wood said.
Wood said a community theater would also provide an outlet for Clayton County children to do some acting outside of school productions.
“We hope to perform this play annually,” she said.
White added having a permanent theater space is vital.
“I wish we had our own space. It’s frustrating having to go from one place to another,” she said. “St. Philip [Benizi Catholic Church] has been so gracious with the use of their facility and Stately Oaks as well. But, we need our own space.”
Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County Inc. President Barbra Emert said the organization is looking to eventually buy a building in Jonesboro to convert into a small community theater where regular productions of “Moonshine and Magnolias” and other plays can be staged.