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Civic theater takes stage with 'Ballyhoo'

Nov. 3, 1999



The Waco Civic Theater (WCT) is celebrating its 53rd anniversary by bringing The Last Night of Ballyhoo to the stage at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, as well as at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The play is written by Alfred Uhry, the author of Driving Miss Daisy, and is set in Atlanta. It takes place in December 1939, and focuses on the season's biggest social event, Ballyhoo.

The main characters of the play are the Freitag family, a Jewish family attempting to hide its religion by celebrating Christmas. Over the course of the play, the family members come accept their heritage through the help of a stranger from New York.

The New York Post calls Ballyhoo a 'charming Broadway comedy' and the Los Angeles Times said it was 'luminous and powerful. Uhry draws his characters with so fine a pen...that the story takes on the sharp poignancy of life.'

The Last Night of Ballyhoo is a play about being comfortable with the fact that there is no one true American identity.

'This play deals with a Jewish family that has lost touch with its heritage,' said John Forkner, a San Antonio sophomore. 'The family has social pressures to not be Jewish, and Joe, my character, helps them see themselves as what they really are.'

Forkner calls the play a 'dramedy,' and considers it to be a beautifully written script and the best he has worked with. He also considers the play to be a type of commentary.

'There's something to be said for things that are mind-opening. This play is one of those things,' said Scott Hargrove, executive director of the Waco Civic Theater. The Alliance Theater Company in Atlanta commissioned the play for the 1996 Olympic Arts Festival. According to Hargrove, the play ran on Broadway for about 18 months.

The WCT has ties to Baylor and the Baylor Theater department. Before Baylor had its own place to perform, plays were performed at the WCT facility.

Many students have been part of casts at the WCT, including Forkner and Athens sophomore David Tart, cast members of Ballyhoo.

'We need community support for our plays, and we consider Baylor part of the community,' Hargrove said.

Forkner agrees with Hargrove that the play will impact audiences.

'My hope is that people would leave the show and come away asking who they are and if they're true to themselves,' Forkner said. 'Let the message of the play change you.'

For more information on tickets and future performances, call the WCT at 776-1597.