MONROE, Ga. – On Stage Walton, Monroe’s community theater presents “Steel Magnolias,” the beloved comedy-drama that explores the humor and strength of Southern women in times of crisis, from Oct. 18-Nov. 3.
Performances are at 8 p.m. on Oct. 18, 19, 25, 26 and Nov. 1 and 2. Sunday matinees will be staged Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $20 and are available beginning Oct. 4 at www.onstagewalton.org or at Carmichael’s Drugs, 150 MLK Blvd. in Monroe. Carmichael’s accepts only cash and checks. Online purchases are by credit card only. Recent On Stage productions have sold out quickly.
The hilarious and touching play, written by Robert Harling in response to the death of his sister, is set in a Louisiana beauty parlor. Through the years, the staff and customers engage in small-town gossip and find deep strength they didn’t know they had.
Fans of the popular 1989 movie with the all-star cast, including Dolly Parton and Julia Roberts, will discover that the play is quite different than the film. “I love the movie too, but the show is so much more intimate and a true showcase of these very real women,” said director Amber McCullough, who previously directed “Red Velvet Cake War” for On Stage. “I read the script quite a few times and came up with a vision that includes a lot of ‘80s and a lot of laughter through tears that I hope you all enjoy!”
Twenty-five women auditioned for the six roles in the cast. Joni Howard of Cumming, who portrays Truvy, was previously in production of “Steel Magnolias” in Conyers in 1989 as Shelby, with McCullough as Annelle and her own mother as M’Lynn. “We found out who these women are organically, and our audience was introduced to Shelby, M’Lynn and Annelle, not Julia Roberts, Sally Field and Darryl Hannah. It was glorious.”
Howard says “Truvy is my spirit animal. I feel like she and I are as close to one another as possible. Truvy has a line, ‘Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion’ and that’s so true.”
Amanda Gibson, who was active in theater at her alma mater, Armstrong State University in Savannah, portrays Shelby, the character whose crisis is the centerpiece of the play. “My favorite trait of Shelby’s is her tenacity – once she sets her sights on something, her determination moves mountains in her own life and in the lives of those around her,” Gibson says. “She is witty and sharp, but can be gentle in the most delicate situations, and never fails to find the silver lining in life.”
Bee Dyer, in her second production at On Stage, portrays Clairee. “I love that Clairee understands that life is short and wants to spend it having fun and sharing in laughter and great style.” Dyer says humor, for Southern women, “might not be a permanent solution, but it sure helps get through the initial part of it. Some of the strongest people use humor to pull themselves out of sadness.”
Other cast members are On Stage veteran Paula Gerhardt as Annelle, Laura Griffin as M’Lynn, and Angela Longenecker as Ouiser.
ABOUT ON STAGE: Organized as On Stage Walton in 1971 “to bring a little culture to our town,” the theater moved in 1975 to the current On Stage Playhouse in the old Monroe Primitive Baptist Church, built in 1910. On Stage holds summer workshops for adults and youths. The theater helps support a 501c3 organization. For more information: www.onstagewalton.org.