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Steel Magnolias Actresses identify with characters

Don’t let the soft-spoken drawl, bouffant hair, pageant-trained walk and smile of a Southern gal fool you. She may appear demure and fragile, but as every Southern man knows, she is a force to be reckoned with.

These gals who have grown up killing snakes and shooting armadillos at night have developed coping skills for when life gets tough, and they know how to support one another through the bad times.

That is the message delivered in Robert Harling’s play, “Steel Magnolias.” Inspired by the life, illness and death of his youngest sister, Harling’s comedy/drama first appeared on stage in 1987. It was made into a move in 1989, starring Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLane, Sally Field, Julia Roberts and Daryl Hannah.

The six women relate the life of Shelby, a head-strong young woman with Type I diabetes and her mother, M’Lynn. Most of the action takes place in Truvy’s beauty shop, located in a fictional Louisiana small town where the women meet to talk over the affairs of their lives. Despite the seriousness of the theme, the dialogue is full of humor and fun.

In the BLT production, Shelby is played by Emily Hiers, a senior at Grace Christian Academy who also attends Bainbridge College. She has appeared with BLT in four previous shows. Hiers said she tried out for this play because she loved the movie.

“It is about Southern women and emphasizes our strong points. I relate to my character because she is very energetic and loves people. So do I. Shelby will fight for what she wants,” she added.

Shelby’s mother, M’Lynn, is being portrayed by BLT veteran actress Amy Wells, who says she identifies with her character because she, like M’Lynn, is a professional woman and has a daughter about the same age as Shelby. What she admires most about M’Lynn is the bond between the mother and daughter, saying “It is unconditional.”

Truvy is played by Amy Thomas, a sixth-grade math teacher in Bainbridge. Although this is her first time on the BLT stage, she has appeared in Swamp Gravy productions.

“I had friends who talked me into trying out for this part. Truvy is over the top. She has a big heart and demands to be the center of attention.”

Thomas said she relates to that character because she loves to talk and make her friends laugh.

Martha Mobley, who appeared in the first BLT production of Steel Magnolias 20 years ago as M’Lynn, returns to the stage this production as Clairee, the mayor’s wife. She says she loves this play because it is Southern and puts Southern women in a good light the way they support each other through hard times.

“They are survivors.”

Ouiser, the rather crotchety role movie-goers will remember as played by Shirley MacLane, is portrayed by newcomer to the BLT stage, Carol Sinclair.

Sinclair, an associate professor of English at Bainbridge College, has had plenty of experience both teaching and performing drama. She said she came forward because she loves the play.

“It is one of my favorites. Ask any woman on the street and they’ll say they love Steel Magnolias. I saw it had roles for two old broads, so I tried out. It’s a lot of fun,” she adds.

Cairo native Sara Kimmel dives into the role of Annelle, the new girl in town who gets acquainted in the beauty shop and experiences a personality transformation. Beginning as a shy, solitary gal, she passes through a stage of being a wild child before becoming a Bible-beating Southern girl. Kimmel said it has been a challenging role for her.

“I love the versatility of Annelle. I have to prepare three personalities.”

Although this is Kimmel’s first time on the BLT stage, she brings experience from the Syrup City Players of Cairo and from Thomasville theater productions.

This BLT performance is directed by Thaddeus Nifong, who said he had many talented people try out. He predicts a terrific show. “I have a great cast with a wide range of very talented people.”

Curtain time at the Bainbridge Little Theatre on Troupe Street is 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10-12, with a 2:30 Sunday matinee on the 13th.

For reservations call 246-8345 Monday through Friday, 1 to 6 p.m. or e-mail: bainbridgelittletheatre@gmail.com.