Steel Magnolias

. February 1, 2015.
carter_PRTC_magnolias_2015_0165

Robert Harling wrote Steel Magnolias in 1987, based on events in his own life, after his sister died of complications with diabetes. In 1989, Hollywood producers made the play into a hugely popular movie. We caught up with Purple Rose’s Artistic Director, Guy Sanville, and actors, Laural Merlington, who plays Ouiser, and who played another role in the play twenty-five years ago, and Rachel Hull, who is making her professional debut as Shelby. We talked about the characters and how the play differs from the movie.

Sanville: It’s a great script. You can tell that they took a lot of time and care in getting it right. The way it uses pain to set up laughs is killer. It uses humor as a window into the human heart like few I’ve been acquainted with. I heard somebody say, “It’s about a young woman, Shelby, who would rather have a half hour of wonderful than a whole life of nothing special.”

Hull: You can look at her and think she’s stereotypical, that we all know this girl. But we don’t. She’s living and giving for this son that she doesn’t even know that she’ll have. She’s so selfless, and I really didn’t realize that until I dove into the play.

Sanville: That’s what I didn’t realize either—and I’d read it a million times. Shelby is really tough. Her body just is not nearly as strong as her heart and her will.

Merlington: It’s not called Steel Magnolias for no reason. Each of these women has had some pretty tough times, they’ve all had a journey and they’re all tough.

Sanville: And the way they support each other and the way they’re so open with each other, even fight with each other, it’s just really great.

Current: Unlike the movie, the play has an all female cast.

Merlington: Not meeting the men is more interesting, I think.

Sanville: Not one woman in this play defines herself by the man that she’s with.

And then there is Ouiser.

Merlington: She’s been in a very bad mood for forty years. (Laughter) Ouiser is reality. She’s quick to point out the dark side of everything.

Sanville: Somebody says, “It couldn’t get any worse.”

Merlington: And Ouiser says, “Of course it can!” (Laughter) When Ouiser comes in, we’ve already met Annelle. The other women are trying to carefully dance around and find out where she’s from and figure out the mystery around her. Ouiser doesn’t pull any punches. “Who the hell are you? And what are you doing here?”

Sanville: “Married or not?”

Merlington: “These are not difficult questions.” (Laughter)

A lot of people saw the movie. Does that pose a challenge?

Sanville: We do a lot of new plays here, and one of the things we work against there is that nobody’s ever heard of them. Everybody’s heard of this play and that helps. But what theater offers is that you’re actually in the room and you’re breathing the same air. When we do it right you’re not just an audience person, you’re living through the play with the actors. This is an American classic, it’s been around for more than twenty-five years, and twenty-five years from now people will still be doing this play. We’re offering people a chance to experience it in a way that they haven’t before.

Steel Magnolias, runs through March 14. Purple Rose Theater, 137 Park Street, Chelsea, MI 48118,
(734) 433-7673, purplerosetheatre.org.

Trending

Domino’s Farms Aids Ann Arbor’s Need for Office Space

Domino’s Pizza and Arbor Research are both launching new office building projects at Domino’s Farms. Domino’s Pizza is creating a 33,000-square-foot building on the north side of Domino’s Farms, expanding to their current space. Arbor Research is creating a new 49,500-square-foot headquarters building on the east side of Domino’s Farms. Both buildings should be completed

A Physician’s Perspective on Legalized Cannabis

On Tuesday, November 6th, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Ten years ago, we had become the 13th state to legalize Cannabis for medical use. I voted for the medical cannabis law years ago because, in my view, cannabis is not a dangerous product, and too many people were being imprisoned for its use. At that time, however, I did not subscribe to the argument that there were legitimate medical uses for cannabis. How things have changed.

Tiny Expo at Ann Arbor District Library—A Curated Holiday Gift Fair with Flair

The Tiny Expo is a gem of an indie arts and crafts fair for vendors with original and unexpected products that make wonderful gifts but may not be an obvious fit for Ann Arbor’s mainstream art fairs. Shoppers who crave artistic, high quality products with diverse price points will find a rich variety of unique, handmade products to choose from.

New Tenants in Downtown Ypsilanti

Formerly long-vacant buildings in Downtown Ypsilanti are experiencing revitalization as small businesses and nonprofits are rapidly filling up spaces. Michigan Advocacy Program (MAP), a nonprofit organization that, “provides access to the justice systems for those that need it most,” recently purchased the Smith Furniture building at 15 S Washington Street which became their headquarters. Decode