Audrey French has always had a soft spot for the “Steel Magnolias” story.
However, she’s had never had the chance to direct the production in her 12 years of involvement with the Milaca Schools Fall Play, until now.
French saw the opportunity early this fall to direct this production, and the cast of six Milaca High School girls will perform the classic tale four times for the public.
Opening night is Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Milaca High School Theater.
There will be a 2 p.m. performance on Sunday, Oct. 27,and the show concludes with 7:30 p.m. performances on Nov. 1-2.
Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students.
Milaca Public Schools staff and students are free with ID.
“Steel Magnolias has had a special place in my heart, and this year provided the opportunity to direct this show,” said French, who has taught in English in Milaca for 22 years. “This is the smallest cast I have worked with, but we have an amazing crew to help create stage magic.
“This is a classic story of time-tested relationships that expand over social expectations and three generations.
The women bond over each other’s quirks and strengths to get through the joys and sorrows of small-town life where everyone knows everything, yet they love each other that much more knowing no one is perfect.
The women have developed a cherished need for time in Truvy’s shop to encourage personal growth.”
The play was written by Robert Harling to honor the death of his sister and the women who will carry on her memory. Unlike the movie that gained such popularity in the 1980s, the whole play takes place in the beauty shop with only the six women.
The production focuses on the women conversing about life in the hair salon of Truvy Jones, played by Lainey Truebenbach.
Senior Mallory Shoemaker plays Shelby, who is looking forward to her upcoming wedding. Her mother, M’Lynn, is played by Fallon Mastin.
The cast is rounded out by Madi Ferguson (Annelle), Morgan Pipkin (Clairee) and senior Hailey Peel, who plays the sassy role of Ouiser.
The production also includes six understudies and a crew of 12 Milaca High School students, who designed, built and painted the set, run the lighting, and also were involved with making the costumes.
The group has been putting in more than 15 hours of rehearsal time each week since school began.
Small cast bonding
Peel was involved in theatre while attending the Community Christian School in Grades 5-8. She was not involved as a freshman at Milaca High School, then decided to give it another try because her friends were doing the same.
A self-described happy person, she is embracing playing the role of Ouiser.
“I really like playing crabby people because they’re a lot easier to play,” Peel said. “This production is fun because it’s a small cast so you can build a relationship with them. I’m not crabby, that’s why it’s so much fun. I’ve enjoyed being involved and I’ve started getting bigger roles, so there’s a lot more potential for me.”
Shoemaker has been involved in Milaca’s Fall Play since her freshman year, playing parts in “The Matchmaker,” “The Laramie Project,” and “Arsenic and Old Lace,” to name a few. Her interest in acting stemmed from her parents, whom she said met while involved in theatre.
“Being involved is fun because everyone gets to interact with people they might not see otherwise,” Shoemaker said. “I’ve definitely grown from the experience of being on stage. The hair part of this production is really fun, and my character has a lot of conviction and that’s a lot of fun to play.”
French said she cherishes the chance to work with Milaca students on these productions.
“We have theater options for students starting in seventh grade, and I am able to see the talent grow and flourish as the students move up through the grades,” French said. “I often have shows picked out depending on the strengths of the students involved. I always tell the students ‘You are always auditioning.’ The students at Milaca know the crew backstage is just as important as the one on stage. They work together to create an amazing theatre family of support. They are charming, delightful, adventurous, and often rambunctious. They make me laugh every day.”
The cast and crew will again be heading out to the streets of Milaca to trick and treat for the Milaca Food Pantry.
They will be dressed up and out and about from 5 to 6 p.m. on Halloween to collect nonperishable food items.