Steel Magnolias on Stage in Visalia

Aug 10, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Theatre

by Nancy Holley

Special KRL coupon for this show at the end of this article

Steel Magnolias, a witty comedy/drama by Robert Harling, is set in Louisiana in Truvy Jones’ beauty salon, which serves as a gathering place (think Starbucks) for women, more family than friends. Truvy (Leeni Mitchell) employs her magic wand and pixie dust making these women feel particularly special. Mitchell, who has southern roots, says “I grew up with these women. Truvy reminds me of my grandmother who never met a stranger, had a wonderful sense of humor, and was the care giver. Truvy is the glue that holds these women together.”

From left to right: Leeni Mitchell as Truvy and Julie LeFils as Shelby

Steel Magnolias might be considered M’Lynn Eatenton’s story. M’Lynn (Janice Talbert) takes a journey during the play from over-doting mother to going with the flow and tragedy. Talbert, who also has southern family connections, says she is excited about the opportunity to work with a talented women’s ensemble. Talbert describes the play as “a wonderful and honest look at life in its totality. M’Lynn tries to manage her family, realizes she can’t, and lives in the moment as horrific as it may be.”

Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Julie LeFils) is M’Lynn’s dynamically spirited daughter, who relates to everyone. LeFils, who is new to the Ice House Theater and to California, is a theater major with extensive experience in children’s theater as a musical director and choreographer. “Shelby is a lovable character struggling with a tough illness for the era.”

The other young character in the show, Annelle Dupuy-Desoto (Haley White), is also on a journey. Initially, Annelle is meek, mild, recently divorced, and new to the beauty salon family, but by the end of the play she has found where she belongs and is an accepted family member. White is also new to the Ice House Theater, having just returned to the Valley from Southern California. White has extensive acting experience, but this is her first venture into community theater. “Annelle’s pendulum swings from shy and insecure to devout Christianity in which she comes into her own and finds security.”

From left to right in front: Leeni Mitchell as Truvy, Janice Talbert as M'Lynn, Susan Mathews as Ouiser, & Melinda Hatfield as Clairee, in the back, Haley White as Annelle

Clairee Belcher (Melinda Hatfield) and Ouiser (pronounced Weezer) Boudreaux (Susan Mathews) complete the “family”. Hatfield says being in a play is therapeutic, but when the cast is also friends it is even more therapeutic and powerful. Clairee, a recent widow adjusting to being alone, reflects on her marriage and romance in her relationship with Shelby. Hatfield describes the family of women as “like pieces of a puzzle. Everyone is oddly shaped, but yet they fit together. These women really value friendship.”

According to Mathews, Ouiser is a very difficult friend to have. She is hard work. Ouiser’s best friend is Clairee, but even that relationship is prickly. Ouiser cares but keeps her emotions to herself. Only Shelby is able to break through Ouiser’s wall. “Although the play is about women, men will find the show funny and typical. In these colorful characters, everyone will find a piece of themselves.”

Steel Magnolias is written from the heart according to director Peg Collins. While she liked the movie, Collins thinks that you have to see the play to experience the heart of the story. “Life is full of reflective surfaces. For me, theater is holding up a mirror so we can see ourselves. Steel Magnolias is an affirmation of life.”

The theme that ran through all conversations with actors and the director is the wit and humor of the play. They emphasized that although there is sadness, the audience will be laughing 99% of the time.

The show opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 12, 2011 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 8/12, 8/13, 8/19, 8/20, 8/26, and 8/27 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 8/14, 8/21, and 8/28. Reservations suggested and can be made by calling 559-734-3900.

For more information about the Visalia Community Players, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.

Print this page and take to the show to get a special discount for KRL readers:
Visalia Community Players Two-For-One Coupon
Steel Magnolias
By Robert Harling
Admit 2 Adults for $12.00
Coupon good for any performance of the play.
One Coupon Per Family

Watch for a new Local Live every Wednesday evening at 7!

Nancy Holley has been involved with the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970’s, both as a director and actor. In July, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since then expanded her role at the Players and is now Vice President of the Board, and on the perusal committee.


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