Thank you for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about this production of Steel Magnolias and how does it translate from screen to stage?
Steel Magnolias is an uplifting, and touching play about six women, and what they go through as mothers, wives and daughters. It’s a beautiful portrayal of female friendship, and it is a testament to the strength of women, as you see how women support each other through the lows and highs of life, whilst maintaining a humorous spirit.
Robert Harling wrote both the play and the screenplay, and whilst they are similar, there are differences. Whilst men play important roles in these women’s lives, the men do not appear on stage, yet they appear in the film. Also, in the play, everything takes place in Truvy’s Salon, which we have decided is like a women’s sanctuary, and so the men would rarely enter it anyway. One thing that must be said, is that Steel Magnolias is a masterfully written play, with a very strong rhythm. A lot of clues about the characters can be found in the text. The play was the original format, and I think it has its own heartbeat.
How familiar were you with the production?
The text was very familiar to me as I had performed in a school production of Steel Magnolias. The writing had instantly grabbed me. The visceral nature of the text makes you connect quite quickly to it, and once you know the play, it’s not easy to forget it.
I had played the role of Annelle back then, so it’s been very interesting to explore the world of the play through Shelby’s eyes this time. It’s also been such a joy to watch Ariel Harrison, do a fantastic job of bringing Annelle to life with all the quirks and changes that the play demands.
Tell me about the character you play and how you felt they should be played when you first saw the script.
As Robert Harling did such a good job of creating distinctly different characters, that share both similar and opposing traits, you get an instinct about characters quite quickly, and I think my initial thoughts were right. I play Shelby Eatenton, who is fiery, and determined, but also wears rose-tinted glasses. Shelby has diabetes but will not allow her condition to stand in the way of her womanhood. She constantly fights against the idea that her diabetes defines her. Shelby pushes boundaries in order to feel alive, and wants to be perceived as capable of achieving anything and being ‘normal’. Shelby is also very emotionally intelligent, and adept at controlling her environment and fulfilling her needs. At the same time, she is very nurturing and caring. She’s not selfish.
What do you think the audience will take away from the piece?
That life is unpredictable and that we should be thankful for good friends.
Have you a favourite scene or line?
My favourite scene is between Shelby and her mother, M’lynn, when Shelby visits before Christmas to reveal a secret. The conversation is difficult but the scene is written so well that the emotion flows.
My favourite line of Shelby’s is: ‘My dream is to get old and sit on the back porch, covered with grandchildren and say, “No!” and ‘Stop that!'”.
Finally, sell the show to me, why should people come and see it
Not only is the set design gorgeous, but the direction is inspired and the play will make you laugh and cry, occasionally at the same time.