Humor and heart collide in this weekend’s Triumvirate Theatre production of “Steel Magnolias,” brought to life by a small cast of Kenai Peninsula women.
Written by Robert Harling and directed by Triumvirate’s Shannon Tappana, “Steel Magnolias” is the dramatic and comedic tale of six women in a Louisiana town whose strong bonds of friendship are showcased throughout several life changes. It opened at the theater north of Kenai last Friday and continues at 7 p.m. this Friday and Saturday.
The crux of the play is the decline in health and eventual death of the character Shelby, played by AnnMarie Rudstrom. Based Harling’s own experience with the death of his sister, the play covers the span of three years up until Shelby’s death, all taking place in a local hair salon.
“It’s funny, it’s clever, and it’s also just very, very poignant,” Tappana said of the show.
While the 1989 film version of the play is quite popular, Tappana said people who have only seen the movie would be remiss if they didn’t come out to experience the stage version, too, asserting that “the heart and soul of the movie originated from the play.”
“Everything that makes the movie lovable came from the play,” she said.
Tappana, whose own mother died last November, said “Steel Magnolias” is her debut back into drama since then. She last directed a play for Triumvirate in 2012, and has been active in the organization since childhood.
She said major reasons for choosing the play were that it fits with what she has been going through in the last year and that it has a small cast of only six women. No one person ends up being the star, Tappana said, the entire experience is “pretty intimate.”
Some of the cast members have prior ties to “Steel Magnolias” and were approached or came to Tappana because they have been eager to be part of it. Others have been good collaborators in Triumvirate shows, and some Tappana had never met before, she said.
“When you do something like this over a period of time, you start to connect and start to go, ‘Wow, these are amazing people. How did I not know you existed?’” she said of the cast.
The casting process was collaborative and somewhat surprising, Tappana said. The women got together as a group to discuss who they envisioned taking which roles. Some, like her sister, Yvette Tappana, who plays Shelby’s mother, M’Lynn, ended up in parts they might not have picked for themselves but have stepped up to, she said. Kaci Tauriainen, for example, is playing the oldest character, Ouiser, while not the eldest woman in the show herself, Shannon Tappana said.
The cast is rounded out with Terri Burdick in the role of Claire, Cheri Johnson as Truvy and Sadie Rayne Averill as Annelle. The actors have grown closer throughout the rehearsal process, Shannon Tappana said, just as their characters do.
“They’ve been making me and each other laugh and cry since its inception,” she said.
The show’s stage manager, Auree Sorensen, has also been instrumental in Shannon Tappana being able to do her job as director, she said.
She encouraged residents to take a chance on the show in its second weekend, adding that “they might want to bring their hankies or Kleenex.”
Tickets for “Steel Magnolias” are available at triumviratetheatre.ticketleap.org.