For the City Times
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — The Wisconsin Rapids Community Theatre winds up its main stage season with Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling.
Performances are Friday and Saturday, May 12-13 at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday May 18 – Saturday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday May 21 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 and may be reserved by calling the WRCT office at 715 421-0435.
Steel Magnolias is set in Truvy’s beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana, where all the ladies who are “anybody” come to have their hair done. Helped by her eager new assistant, Annelle (who is not sure whether or not she is still married), the outspoken, wise-cracking Truvy dispenses shampoos and free advice to the town’s rich curmudgeon, Ouiser, (“I’m not crazy, I’ve just been in a bad mood for forty years”); an eccentric millionaire, Miss Clairee, who has a raging sweet tooth; and the local social leader, M’Lynn, whose daughter, Shelby (the prettiest girl in town), is about to marry a “good ole boy.”
Filled with hilarious repartee and not a few acerbic but humorously revealing verbal collisions, Steel Magnolias is alternately hilarious and touching—and, in the end, deeply revealing of the strength and purposefulness which underlies the antic banter of its characters.
Recently, WRCT Executive Director Ellen Roeseler sat down with Steel Magnolia director Michael Barrett, and talked about the show.
Roeseler: This isn’t the first time you’ve directed Steel Magnolias for WRCT. The first time was in 1992, and we were still performing at McMillan Library. So, why did you want to direct this show again?
Barrett: One of my best theater experiences was doing this show the first time around. I found out how much everyone likes the show, and the people who did it with me were so very talented and cooperative. That memory kept the show in the back of my mind always, and after a few of my theater friends started telling me they would like to see it again, I found the time, and a new amazing cast.
Roeseler: How has your approach to this show changed – what do you see differently this time around, and how does that change your direction?
Barrett: My approach has changed in how I see actors finding a way to show real emotion out in the open. The first time we did this play youth and inexperience for our group kept us to expressing the words of the playwright, and hoping the emotion would consistently be seen. Now I have been able to find ways to show actors how to connect with deeper emotions and use that to color the words, and the results have been so real, and so emotional for all of us involved. There have been lots of laughs, and as many tears.
Roeseler: A lot of people have seen the movie. What do you want audiences to know about any differences in the play version?
Barrett: The play is very, very close to the timeline and setting of the movie. The real difference is we never leave Truvy’s shop so all the great dialogue takes place there, and sometimes our actors are so good, it seems the walls disappear. I have been telling everyone who will listen that I think when you see something emotional live, on a stage, it is more real than in a movie. Also, the play is only the women, and I think it works better this way.
Roeseler: Any funny stories to share about rehearsals?
Barrett: Every one of us has had a ball living in the 80s these last few weeks. When I play the music, we all swing between dancing around, and looking into the distance when the sad songs come on. Jody came in wearing a wig for her character (Clairee) one night and asked our Stage Manager (Deb Ciszewski) what she thought of her new hairdo. Deb took it as real, and she and Jody had a hilarious exchange when the wig came off. The wig does look great, and Deb took it all in stride. Every night of rehearsal has been filled with laughter, we can’t wait to perform!
The Wisconsin Rapids Community Theatre is located at 220 3rd Ave. South.