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Theatre Guild to present ‘Steel Magnolias’

Lesi Jonap, Amanda Cline-Grant and Sheena Forbes rehearse a tense scene on Tuesday for the Lincoln Theatre Guild’s upcoming performance of “Steel Magnolias.”

Cast member says show is ‘something people will relate to’

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

“You need to get together with a group of your best girlfriends and come see it,” Amanda Cline-Grant said.
The Maiden resident plays the part of “Shelby” in the Lincoln Theatre Guild’s performance this month of “Steel Magnolias.”
Director Chris Kerley called the six-member, all-female cast one of the best group of actors he has ever worked with since directing his first show, a one-act play, during the 1980s at Georgia Southern University, still a college at the time.
“Without this cast, the show would not be as good,” he said.
Written by Robert Harling, the story of “Steel Magnolias” follows the life and friendships of a group of close-knit women in northwestern Louisiana.
“It’s fraught with emotions,” Kerley said of the play’s mixture of comedic and mournful elements.
Actress Logeme Solberg agreed with the seasoned director, advising audience members remember to pack some Kleenex for the show’s more somber moments.
Solberg plays the part of “Clairee Belcher,” the oldest and chattiest friend in the women’s group.
“I’m a gossiper and have to know everything going on and then share everything,” the Lincolnton resident said of her character.
Dressed in red, sparkly shoes and a red blazer, Solberg embellishes a Southern accent and tackles a sassy script for her role.
Theatre Guild charter member Jill Heafner also delivers some of the scripts more amusing lines.
After a long break from acting, she said she is glad to return to the stage.
Heafner called her character “Ouiser Boudreaux” an “irascible, short-tempered” neighbor of the women who “loves everybody else, and everybody loves.”
Sheena Forbes, also of Lincolnton, considers the show a true portrayal of real-life situations.
“It’s something people will relate to,” she said, “and will pull at a person’s heartstrings.”
Forbes takes on the complex character of “M’Lynn Eatenton” mother to “Shelby Eatenton.”
She described the fictional woman as protective and worrisome, wanting her daughter to be independent yet still under her influence.
While “M’Lynn” works at a counseling center called Mental Guidance Center, she, too has her own personal problems throughout the play, Forbes said.
Huntersville resident Lesi Jonap fills the role of “Truvy Jones,” owner of “Truvy’s Beauty Shop.”
Jonap pointed out that both she and audience members probably don’t have to think too hard about the close friends the show’s characters evoke in their minds.
“Every woman has a group of steel magnolias they’ve grown up with,” she said.
The sixth and final cast member, North Lincoln student Hailey Kinsland, plays recent beauty school graduate “Annelle Dupuy.”
While directing is one of Kerley’s talents and interests, he said his passion lies with acting, taking part in over 40 shows in 35 years.
“I enjoy being able to not be yourself,” he said of taking the stage.
His roles over the decades have included a homicidal maniac, a psychiatrist, a family man, a drunk attorney and various Shakespearean characters, he said.
In addition to his hobbies with theatre, Kerley is a United States Navy veteran who worked many years as a social worker after leaving the service.
He took a 15-year break from directing to adopt two teen boys, he said.
“Steel Magnolias” is his first Lincoln Theatre Guild show, previously participating in productions in Newton and Hudson.
He said the story particularly stole his interest after identifying with one of the character’s life-long battle with diabetes.
Kerley’s father, before he died, struggled with the disease, he said, which still impairs his mother. He, too, was recently diagnosed.
He praised his cast for being able to pull together a show in just five weeks, two weeks less than a play’s typical rehearsal time.
Since early July, cast members have practiced lines and scenes five days a week.
Kerley called the play a “women’s show” but noted it deals with hardships that everyone in life faces.
“We’re going to get the audience’s attention in Act 1,” he said, “and in Act 2, we’re going to grab them by the heart and squeeze it for everything it’s worth.”
Performances will be 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Lincoln Cultural Center in Lincolnton. Additional show times will be Aug. 23-25.
For more information on the show or ticket prices, stop by the Cultural Center, call the facility at (704) 732-9055 or visit lincolntheatreguild.com.
Individuals may also call (704) 452-7830 or email president@lincolntheatreguild.com.

Image courtesy of Jaclyn Anthony / Special to LTN

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