Spotlight On…Steel Magnolias Star, Ariel Harrison

Steel Magnolias is staying at the Hope Theatre from 9 August – 3 September 2016 and all details for booking can be found by visiting the link below:

http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/steel-magnolias/

Ariel takes the role of Annelle in this fantastic production of Steel Magnolias and I caught up with her to find out all about the show.

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Thank you so much for talking to Break A Leg, tell me about your character in Steel Magnolias and how familiar were you with the film versus the stage version?

I play Annelle in the show. She’s a new comer at the beginning of the play. While the rest of the character’s have known each other for decades and have lived next door to each other for at least that long, Annelle is the newbie, just hired at the beginning of the show, anxiously starting her first day. As a character she’s incredibly interesting as she has the most drastic arc in the show. She’s very young and hasn’t really figured out who she is yet, so in each scene she’s vastly different. It’s very fun to play her changes. I’d actually only seen the film once, quite a long time ago, and I’d never seen the stage version before this. When I was cast I decided not to watch it again until after I’d read the script and made some choices already. So really, not very familiar with it at all except as a name!

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

The Hope is an incredible space to work at. I’ve done a few shows here, as an actor and as a stage manager, and it is such a versatile theatre. You can do so much with what looks like a tiny room above a pub. But the configuration and design specifically for this show is fantastic. It’s in traverse, and it makes the space so much more intimate, like the audience are actually just other clients at the salon. It creates a very inviting space, and I think is much more interesting than watching the play end on. Rather than having a fourth wall separating us, everyone is a part of the show.

What was your first impression of the script?

I love the script. It’s an absolute gift for an actor and especially for 6 women. I personally think the script is very Chekhovian. We all have tons of subtext that we don’t play, and most of the action takes place off stage. Some people find that to be a fault with the play, but I completely disagree. I think not seeing the main action of the play in front of you, but rather hearing about it, and watching reactions to it, allows each audience member to visualize their own scene. They can connect to the emotion more, because they can relate it to their own lives as opposed to being given an image. I think that’s the main fault with the film. For example, everyone can connect to death. We’ve all experienced it in someway. Hearing the characters explain their connection to it, their feelings and pain allows each audience member to remember their own experiences. It’s cathartic because it’s beautifully expressed, which most people have a hard time articulating grief for themselves. The film shows you those scenes. It’s still moving, but you aren’t necessarily connecting it to your own life. I personally think that’s the point of theatre in general and this play specifically: catharsis. But yes, it’s a gift to play.

Ariel
Ariel as Annelle – Photo Credit: LH Photoshots

What have audience reaction been like so far? 

Incredible. I feel so proud of this show, and I’m insanely happy that people are loving it.

What do you hope that audience members take away from the piece?

Hopefully a little bit of catharsis. Hopefully people are able to connect to each of the women in a different way, and feel like they are a part of this little world with us.

If you could play any other character in the play, who would it be and why?

I’d love to play Ouiser one day. What a fascinating woman and brilliant physical part to play. Maggie Robson is hilarious and inspiring to watch. But god I’d love to play that part one day!

Finally, sell the show to me, why should people come and see it?

What I tell people is: if you like the movie, you’ll love the play. If you hate the movie, you’ll love the play. It speaks to everyone. It’s a joyful, wonderful, emotional, fun show, full of laughter and tears and I haven’t come across a single person after the show who hasn’t loved it. And seriously. it’s not just for women. It’s for everyone. I promise.

I’d like to extend my thanks to Ariel for taking the time to do this, what a pleasure!

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