Throw Back Thursday – Steel Magnolias (1998)

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Sometimes it isn’t as much the pictures as it is the stories. MVLCT’s 1998 production of Steel Magnolias didn’t capture a lot of photos, but most know the story. What we don’t know are the stories of these six women behind the scenes. That is what we are sharing today.


FROM WENDY McCLAIN (SHELBY)

Steel Magnolias was the final show after being involved in two productions a year for a decade, that I was involved in before taking a 15 year break.

This was because in the middle of production, I received the
call that I would be leaving 2 days after close to bring my daughter home from Russia.

This obviously made this a special show for me. However, this is not the only reason that Steel Magnolias is dear to my heart.

The show is centered around six very different, yet very strong women. The women playing these parts were also strong, diverse people, quirky as the characters they played.

It was not the first time I had worked with some and others I was meeting for the first time, but would remain friends until today.

Shelby, the character I played, was diabetic and willing to risk her life to be a mother. I related to this as I was struggling with wanting to be a mother, willing to put this desire before many aspects of my life in order to make it happen.

Shelby died at the end of the second act. One of my fondest memories is spending the third act in the bar of Gwen’s having a drink with Jay Gunn, while listening to the rest of the cast in the final act, KILLING IT.

I am not sure if Rick, who was directing, knew this was happening or not, but Jay was never one for following the rules or turning away from fun.

To this day, when I think of this show, I picture Jackie Lock sitting on the couch wearing bibs and a ridiculous hat, Emory acting as my mother even as we are only 3 years apart in age, a Christmas sweater lighting up and Amy White with a distinctive southern drawl.


FROM AMY WHITE (ANNELLE)

Steel Magnolias was my first MVLCT show.  I had not done any theatre for over twenty years, since high school–but I figured I’d bring out my authentic Virginia-bred southern accent and go to auditions. 

I ended up working with a wonderful director–Rick Anderson–and five very funny and talented women as we rehearsed in the basement of the Presbyterian Church. 

My memory is that we didn’t get in to rehearse at Gwen’s until the very last minute, and our set was a few beauty parlor chairs on a platform surrounded by tables where people ate dinner before the show. 

I had a few moments of stage fright as the lights (they had brought in some theatre lighting on poles) went up and I realized the audience was RIGHT THERE–but then the play just took over with its terrific script and the actors became women I worked with every day and the people in the seats were laughing and crying and I was hooked.  

That was over twenty years ago, and I always tell people who worry that they haven’t done theatre since high school:  try it!  It’s even more fun as an adult.  



FROM RICK ANDERSON (DIRECTOR)

Something I remember quite well was that we had child care provided at my house each evening we had rehearsal.

This was a very talented cast and I found myself just stepping back and letting the magic happen.


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