Driftwood’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ captures magic of powerful women together onstage

Steel Magnolias jPeg4Steel Magnolias
Wade James Theatre
950 Main Street, Edmonds

Opens: Friday, Feb. 14, 2014
Shows: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.

(ASL Interpreted performance – Saturday Feb. 22 at 8 p.m.)

It was with a sense of homecoming that I walked into a rehearsal this week for the Driftwood Players production of “Steel Magnolias”. You see, “Steel Magnolias” takes place in Louisiana, and I am a New Orleans kind-of-gal – having moved from there to the Northwest many years ago.

The Driftwood Players production of “Steel Magnolias” this year is impeccably timed for Mardi Gras season, and listening to the light, sweet lilt of women speaking in Southern accents was exactly what I was longing for.

“Steel Magnolias,” set in a styling salon buzzing with Southern women on a Saturday morning, takes a poignant look at friendships meant to last a lifetime, marriage, motherhood – and much more.

Written by playwright Robert Harling, the production premiered off-Broadway in 1987 before opening on-Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre in 2005. The 1989 film featured Dolly Parton, Sally Fields, Shirley MacClaine, Olympia Dukakis and Daryl Hannah, and garnered an Oscar nomination for Julia Roberts.

The Edmonds cast consists of
• Laura Couch, who plays Truvy – the styling salon owner;
• Anne Arnhold as Annelle, a new employee of Truvy’s;
• Sarah Karnes is cast as Shelby, who is at the styling salon the morning of her wedding day;
• Molly Hall plays M’Lynn – Shelby’s mother;
• Rebecca O’Neill plays Ouiser, twice-widowed, and plain-spoken to the point of being brash;
• Cindy Giese French is cast as Clairee, widow of the late mayor

“Steel Magnolias” is directed by Paul Fouhy, a veteran of the theater who most recently directed the Wade James Theatre production of “The Importance of Being Earnest”. This is Fouhy’s fifth show with the Driftwood Players.

Fouhy observed that the Edmonds cast of “Steel Magnolias” is “a dynamic ensemble”, a comment that holds sway when considering that 83 women tried out for the production’s six parts. Imagining that selection might have been overwhelming and difficult, I asked him about the process. Fouhy said that after choosing the line-up of six finalists, the cast selection committee was able to easily conclude with a resounding “there they are!”

Sitting in on a recent technical rehearsal, I found authenticity in the direction of Fouhy, who spent his early years “just outside of Atlanta”. He offered that Tennessee Williams, who “captures the strength and fragility of his women characters,” ranks at the top of his list of favorite playwrights.

I was able to spend a few moments with Molly Hall, who plays M’Lynn. Hall was also on stage during the Driftwood Players’ 1991 production of “Steel Magnolias,” playing the role of M’Lynn’s daughter, Shelby. Asked about the mother-daughter roles, Hall said, “M’Lynn has only one truly joyful moment in the play,” and goes on to explain the mother’s “feelings of fulfillment” when she makes personal/medical decisions regarding her daughter’s fragile condition. Hall personalizes the role, telling me that, “In the past 23 years, since I played the role of the daughter, I have become a mother”. But, although there are similarities between M’Lynn and herself, Hall is eager to point out the contrasts. “M’Lynn is an introvert; whereas I’m playful – and like to have fun!”

Hall was also cast in “Crimes of the Heart,”another Southern part, and appreciates the “new generation of parts” for women in the theater.

Judy Ann Wyrick-Eaton was also involved in 1991’s “Steel Magnolias” and returns to this year’s production to manage the hair and wigs of the cast members.

Sue O’Hare is the lead costumer, assisted by Faye Mattingley, owner of Faye’s Shear Delight, located at 330 Dayton St., Edmonds. This is Mattingley’s first production and she tells Artfully Edmonds that backstage life is, “very busy, and definitely very exciting!”

“Steel Magnolias” is co-produced by Nikki Fey-Burgett and Diane Jamieson, both veterans of the theater. Fey-Burgett has over 40 years as an actor, director and stage manager. She describes “Steel Magnolias” as her “first adventure with Driftwood,” and she is “delighted to be working with Diane Jamieson, Paul Fouhy and the cast and crew.”

Fey-Burgett is also currently directing “The Wizard of Oz” for Edmonds-based Madrona Children’s Theatre.

Diane Jamieson said she is excited to be co-producer, after focusing for a number of years on her first love: stage managing. Jamieson has a long affiliation with the Driftwood Players as well as Madrona Children’s Theatre.

The cast members agreed that something magical happens when powerful women come together on stage. And, after watching Act One, Scene One of “Steel Magnolias,” I would wholeheartedly agree.

Tickets: General Admission is $25; Junior (18 and under), Senior (60 +) and Military is $22.
Box office location: 306 Main St., Suite L101 (lower level of Bank of America.)

You can find event details, theater location and more information here.

— By Emily Hill

Emily ~ Square jPegEmily Hill is an author and long-time resident of Edmonds. She is retired from a career in public information and news media relations. If you would like your event listed, or venue featured, in Artfully Edmonds, Emily invites you to contact her at arts@myedmondsnews.com

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