Festival’s re-creation of playwright Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias has the same laugh-through-the-tears validity as the film, but its atmosphere and unique group of local cast members sets it apart. The cast members each demonstrate a personal flare for their characters, which makes this Steel Magnolias show one that remains fresh. Interim Artistic Director, Andrew Bradford Benson, highlights the multi-generational feel Steel Magnolias has and reflected that “it's so lovely to see mature women tackling roles with such depth and substance.” Director Jennie Ward mirrored Benson’s sentiment, and shared how wonderful it has been to work with the cast, “We deeply benefitted - as humans and as artists - from the collective experience of so many different perspectives on life as a woman - from college student to young professional to working parent, to grandparent, to widow and beyond. As in the play, each of us occupies a very specific time of life *now*, and sharing that with each other was a great blessing.”
Not only do the actors benefit from their amazing work backstage, the audience plays an intimate role in this alley-style production. Elizabeth Albers, who plays Shelby in the production, mentions how every show feels unique based on the audiences’ reactions to certain climactic moments in the show. Robbye Lewis, playing Ouiser, added, “Every performance is different.” Since the space is small and intimate, the cast members can hear every sob and gasp that audience members make. While the actors immerse themselves in their roles, they also pull a lot of their tears, outrage, and joy from the people surrounding them.
When you watch Steel Magnolias this summer, Ward asks that you “try to see the play for itself, with clear eyes.” Remember to treat Truvy’s beauty parlor as a beacon of refuge. While comedy is incessant, so are some of the deepest emotions we all go through at difficult points in our lives. Steel Magnolias is a testament to the raw and sweet emotions, the faults and the successes, the profound and the facile, the squabbling and the loving – it is a testament to the art of community.