“Steel Magnolias” to close out DCC Spring Theatre Season

Steel Magnolias

By: Mary Achary

Steel Magnolias was originally written by American writer Robert Harling as a short story to help him cope with the death of his 32-year-old sister, Susan, from complications of Type 1 diabetes in 1985. It was also intended as a keepsake for his nephew Robert to help him know and gain a better understanding of his late mother.

          Steel Magnolias evolved from short story to play and originally opened Off-Broadway at the WPA Theatre in New York City on March 28 1987 with one set and an all-female cast. The male “characters” were never seen and were referenced only through dialogue.

When the play was adapted as a film in 1988, Harling wrote the screenplay and the film Steel Magnolias was released in 1989 starring Sally Field, Julia Roberts (by this time, Susan became Shelby), Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, and Shirley MacLaine.

To recap, Steel Magnolias tells the story of the bond amongst six Southern women who gently rib and gossip about each other for fun, and yet seek comfort and solace from each other in times of sadness. A steel magnolia has come to mean a woman who is strong yet vulnerable.

Thirty years after its Off-Broadway premiere, adjunct Theatre Professor Jerry Johnson is directing Robert Harling’s comedy-drama in its original form. Steel Magnolias is a small production with just 6 cast members including Emily Boudreaux as Clairee, who was married to the mayor of Natchitoches, Elizabeth Christiansen as M’Lynn, Shelby’s mother, Gabriella DiMaria as Annelle, the newcomer who works in Truvy’s beauty shop, Anna James (A Raisin in the Sun) as Ouiser, the town curmudgeon who has been in a bad mood for 40 years, Hillary Kelin as Truvy, owner of the beauty shop, and Meghan McDermott as Shelby, who has Type 1 diabetes.

When the director was asked if Steel Magnolias still has as much relevance to women now as it did 28 years ago, Johnson said, “It is a very important play, especially considering the ugliness, misogyny, and derogatory portrayal of women from all walks of life during the recent presidential election. Women are trying to regain their identity as they continue their struggle for empowerment and equality.”

“Each female character has a male counterpart, and you can see and feel the empathy they have for one another,” Johnson continued. “I also see the humanity in the characters, and since the beauty shop acts as a “safe space” for the characters, you could change the beauty shop to a barber shop, have an all-male cast, and it would still have the same effect. In the end, it’s all about human nature.”

Opening night for Steel Magnolias is Wednesday April 5, with performances at 8 p.m. through Saturday April 8, and a Sunday matinee April 9 at 3 p.m. in the Timothy K. Baker Theatre at Delgado Community College. Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 for senior citizens, Delgado students, faculty, and staff. For reservations and additional information, call (504) 671-6360.



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