Steel Magnolias. Who hasn’t seen or at least heard of this iconic movie? Released in 1989 and starring the like of Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, and Sally Field, it explores the lives of six southern women in small-town Louisana and revolves around the life and death of young Shelby. It was remade as a TV movie in 2012 with an equally iconic cast including Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad, and Alfre Woodard.
But, most people do not know that Steel Magnolias began its life as an excellent stage play written by Robert Harling in 1987 after the passing of his sister, Susan. She died due to complications of diabetes after the birth of her only son, Robert. Heartbroken by his sister’s death, Harling experienced a surge of creativity and ten days later had completed the initial draft of the play.
Unlike the movie, the play has only six characters: Truvy, Annelle, Clariee, Ouiser, M’Lynn, and, of course, Shelby. All of the action takes place in Truvy’s beauty salon on four Saturday mornings about two years. The first is the morning of Shelby’s wedding as everyone prepares for this joyous spring occasion. Later that year, Shelby announces to the group that she is pregnant. While also joyous, that joy is restrained by the dangers pregnancy poses to Shelby’s diabetic body. The next Saturday morning finds the ladies gathered again as they discover that Shelby is to receive a kidney transplant and that M’Lynn is the donor. Finally, they gather once again after Shelby has passed away, her body having been too frail to survive pregnancy, birth, and dialysis.
Like the movie, however, our production benefits from having six talented, though perhaps not as well-known, actresses portray the eponymous characters. Terri Hoover, a frequent actor and director, plays Truvvy, the salon’s owner. Madeline Owen returns for her third production as Annelle Dupuy, a shy young hairdresser with a past(?). Clairee Belcher, Chinquapin’s former first lady is played by Elke Schmaker who has graced our stage before, moved away, and returned. The irascible Ouiser Boudreaux is brought to life by Dee White, also a veteran of our stage. Lori Smilowitz plays Shelby’s mother, M’Lynn (Mary Lynn) Eatenton. And darling Shelby Eatenton, the prettiest girl in town is being portrayed by Mary Louise Johnston, a newcomer to our stage and is every bit as charming and lovely as Shelby.
There will be six performances of Steel Magnolias: May 12th, 13th, 19th, and 20th at 7:00 pm and May 14th and 21st at 3:00 pm. All shows will be performed on our home stage in J. Frank Hillyard Middle School’s auditorium. Tickets are $17.00 and $15.00 for seniors and students. And yes, we know the 14th is Mother’s Day. Normally, we would not schedule a show on Mother’s Day, but this is a story that plays well on such a day, don’t you think?
Auditions for our next show, Catherine Bush’s Walking Across Egypt, directed by Ron Smith, will be held in the JFHMS auditorium on June 4, 2023, at 4:00 pm and June 5, 2023, at 5:30 pm.
For more information about Steel Magnolias, auditions for Walking Across Egypt, or the rest of the Off Broadway Player’s 2023 season visit our website: offbroadwayplayersva.org.