The 100 Mile Performing Arts Society’s performance of Steel Magnolias opens March 30 at Martin Exeter Hall.
The play follows a group of women who gather regularly in their local beauty parlour. Over the course of three years, the women deal with life, love and personal tragedy with grace, humour and strength.
Robert Harling, the author, based the play on the real life story of his sister, Susan Harling Robinson, who died from Type 1 diabetes.
The author and the actresses take the audience on an emotional journey through the play, honouring the closeness of women’s friendships and how important they are to their lives.
“It makes you cry and laugh,” says Barbara Hooper, who plays Clairee.
Often the women in the beauty parlour use humour to cope with the seriousness of illness, showing characters who are, as the title suggests, “as delicate as magnolias, but as tough as steel,” but the actresses don’t shy away from drawing from a whole range of emotion onstage.
Offstage, the women of the play echo the relationships shared by the women onstage.
Myra Newstead, who plays M’Lynn, is acting with her daugther, Sara Newstead, who plays Annelle, a newcomer to town.
“You can bring a group of people who wouldn’t ordinarily come together as a group, strong personalities, wonderful women who might not ever have the chance to connect and they build a friendship through the process of learning about a friendship in a play,” says Myra.
Hooper says she enjoys working with women of all ages in the play.
“I represent the older woman and what’s lovely is that this play represents that an older woman still can have her concerns about getting older … but also that she can be included in a group of women that are all different ages. I think it’s important that we spend time with women of other ages, not just with our own age group because you learn so much,” she says.
Lacey Venner, who plays Shelby, a young woman suffering from diabetes, says the cast supported her when she had her own health issues in real life.
“I hurt my back half way through and all of these ladies, nobody got mad or upset or frustrated and they made me feel super comfortable so I could still go on and do the play.”
The play offers a glimpse into the real lives of women, and Nicole Weir, the director, encourages everyone of all genders to come see the play.
“It’s been really special. Everybody here, I either know personally in some way or form, so to see them come together and build this beautiful bond in the show has been really quite cool,” says Weir. “To see it come into this beautiful end production that is everything that you thought and hoped it was going to be is pretty amazing.”
Steel Magnolias will open with a gala on March 30 and will run Thursday through Saturday, with Saturday matinees, from March 30 to April 8. Tickets are $15 and are available at Didi’s Boutique and Donex Pharmacy.