Like the characters that they play, the six women who were cast in the Lincoln Theatre Guild production of “Steel Magnolias” have bonded. It’s been three decades since screenwriter Robert Harling wrote the original play and film script, just months after his sister died of diabetic complications after giving birth in the 1980s.
The play, which is directed by Joanna Underwood, is set entirely in Truvy’s beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana. It is this salon where ladies who are “anybody” come to have their hair done. This is a safe, man-free environment where the women gather to laugh, gossip, cry, rant and become friends.
Underwood could have cast this play three or four times over with the people that auditioned for these six parts. Several of the women she chose are new to the Lincoln Theatre Guild stage like Callie Cope, who is a theater major at Lenoir-Rhyne University, who plays Annelle.
“My mother thought I should audition for the play,” she said. “I didn’t know it at all. I’m glad I did, I love it. I have a thing for southern plays and I love doing them in the south because everybody knows a Truvy’s and a Clairee.”
In the beginning of the play, Annelle is about 19 years old, awkward and new in town after her husband left her.
“She got a job at Truvy’s and it’s all these women who have known each other for years,” said Cope as she adjusted her pink cat eye glasses. “She tries to find her way in life.”
Cast as Shelby is Macy Emory, who has lived in Lincolnton her entire life. She was in two plays while at Lincolnton High School but that’s it until this production of “Steel Magnolias.”
“I’d never seen ‘Steel Magnolias’ before,” she said. “I was back home from college and I wanted to audition for something. I watched the movie and fell in love with Shelby.”
What really drew Emory to the character is her rebellious streak which is offset by a nurturing nature. Shelby’s relationship with her mother reminds Emery of the relationship she has with her own mother. The frail Shelby, who is a diabetic, gets pregnant against the advice of her doctor.
“When you get to understand the relationship the characters have with each other, it comes out when you’re acting on stage,” Emory said. “They’re all different women, with different backgrounds, but they have the same connection with each other.”
Maria Childers, a newcomer to the stage who admits to having a love for make-up and hair, plays Truvy. She watched “Steel Magnolias” with her mother more times than she can count.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Childers as she styled her hair getting ready for rehearsal. “I stepped outside my comfort zone but I’m having a really good time. I love that Truvy is very outspoken and funny but has a big heart for everybody in her life.”
Playing the grumpy Ouiser is Marsha Millsaps.
“’Steel Magnolias’ is such a classic,” she said. “Ouiser is a rich southern woman who complains about everything. Eventually some positive emotion comes out at the end. I hope the people come out to see it because it’s a really good play. Joanna (Underwood) is a great director. I’m glad to be here.”
Jill Heafner is returning to the stage, cast this time as Clairee. She acted in a 2013 production of “Steel Magnolias” as Ouiser.
“There’s parts for two older cast members, Ouiser and Clairee,” she said. “I’m really enjoying playing Clairee. She’s the former mayor’s wife and the socialite of this community. She’s trying to fill up her life after her husband died. It’s a fabulous play and I knew I would enjoy it again.”
Finally, cast as Shelby’s mother M’Lynn, is Jennifer Carroll.
“I’ve always loved the play and I really identify with M’Lynn,” she said. “She’s a mother and her children are her world.”
Underwood has spent a lot of time at Goodwill and other thrift stores searching for 1980s props for the set.
“I love the story,” Underwood said. “I wanted to do a more intimate, small cast show that’s not a musical. It’s been fun to watch how close the women have become during rehearsals.”
“Steel Magnolias” opens tonight at the Lincoln Cultural Center at 7 p.m. Additional show dates are Sept. 28, Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 at 7p.m. and Sept. 29 and Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 and $15, and may be purchased online at www.lincolntheatreguild.net, or at the Lincoln Cultural Center which is located at 403 East Main Street in Lincolnton.