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Kelley Gillikin, as M'Lynn Eatenton, and Allison Good, as Annelle Depuy-Desoto, practice a scene from 'Steel Magnolias' in Hartselle.
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
Kelley Gillikin, as M'Lynn Eatenton, and Allison Good, as Annelle Depuy-Desoto, practice a scene from "Steel Magnolias" in Hartselle.

'Magnolias' bloom
Hartselle's College Street Players to perform play based on '80s movie

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

Mix six strong Southern women, a renowned script and a fledgling theater group.

Add beauty shop chairs, shampoo bottles and a remodeled auditorium in a historic school building.

The result is the College Street Players production of “Steel Magnolias,” which opens Friday night for a two-weekend run in the Hartselle Fine Arts Center.

All the action in this well-known Robert Harling play revolves around Truvy’s Beauty Shop in Chinquapin, La., and the lives of the women coming in and out and sharing joys and sorrows.

You will laugh at the characters and the pink curlers adorning the shop Christmas tree. Then you’ll tear up when their lives take serious turns.

Laura Phillips of Decatur is playing the role of Truvy Jones for the second time in her theatrical career.

“This entire story is about the bonds of friendship and the value of relationships between these women in good times and bad,” she said.

“They continually support each other, and it tells the story of the resiliency of Southern women,” Phillips said. They go through a lot together, from the happy occasion of a daughter’s wedding to the tragic loss of a child.

The plight of her new beauty-shop assistant, Annelle Depuy-Desoto, played by Allison Good of Hartselle, is typical. She needed a job when her husband left with their money and car.

“These women take me in and surround me with love,” said Good. “And Truvy treats me like a daughter.”

Ann Hill of Hartselle, in her first acting role, portrays Clairee Belcher, the town’s grand dame and mayor’s widow.

“The scary thing is that I’m so much like Clairee that I don’t really have to act the part — I am Clairee,” she said. “And I like her. She’s spunky and can say what she wants and get away with it.”

The wealthy and acerbic but loveable Ouiser Boudreaux is brought to life by Jane Burrell of Decatur.

“I didn’t start doing plays until I was 40, because I was very shy,” she said. “The nice thing about it is that when you are on stage and in character, you feel you can do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.

“Ouiser is like that — a bitter woman who’s had bad experiences with men but has a good heart. And she will tell it like it is,” Burrell said. “I’m not brave enough to be Ouiser in real life, but I have her dry wit and sarcasm.”

Her favorite line is “I’m not crazy; I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years.”

Playing the mother-daughter duo of M’Lynn Eatenton and Shelby Eatenton are Kelley Gillikin of Decatur and Dena Nagel of Hartselle.

Shelby has had diabetes since childhood but is planning her wedding and involved in the “classic conflicts between mother and daughter,” she said. “And I really upset my mother later when I tell her I’m pregnant, because she knows how hard that will be on my health.”

Nagel’s favorite line is, “I’d rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

As the beauty-shop talk unfolds the story, you learn that when the baby is a year old, her mother donates a kidney to her daughter, but the transplanted organ is rejected.

Gillikin said she plays an overly protective mother “who tries to direct Shelby’s life, whether it’s how she wears her hair or the color scheme for her wedding.”

“And this play is an emotional one for me, because it has mimicked my real-life process of letting my son go off to college and take charge of his own life,” said Gillikin.

The women chose their own 1980s clothes at area thrift stores and helped provide beauty-shop props.

Director Ed Balch said he couldn’t have pulled it together without so many experienced actresses to help coach the new ones. The improved auditorium helps, too.

“The balcony renovations are complete, and it will be used for the first time during this play,” Balch said.

The Hartselle Fine Arts Center and Historical Society have been working together to improve the old Burleson School building on College Street for theater performances, as well as art and dance classes and other events. This play will help raise funds for the facility.

“As we continue to make renovations and improve the overall appearance of this facility, we believe this will add to the number of productions we will be able to do,” said Balch, and the number watching productions. He is expecting 1,100 students to see “Steel Magnolias” during daytime performances.

“The theater is in the process of being transformed into a showcase,” he said, with Phase I completed and Phase II about to begin.

The College Street Players, is planning the family production, “A Christmas Carving,” in December.

If you go

What: The play “Steel Magnolias”

When: 7 p.m. on Nov. 9, 10, 16 and 17

Where: Hartselle Fine Arts Center, College Street (old Burleson School building)

Tickets: $10 adults, $6 seniors and $5 for groups of 10 or more; available at the door, or call 355-5994 and leave name and number of tickets to hold for payment at door.

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