by Robert Harling
directed by Heather N. Powell
November 5 – 29, 2015
Many things beside hair get done at Truvy’s hair salon, and that’s why it is the place to go in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana. Gossip, revelations and witty Southern banter flow like refreshing sweet tea on a hot summer day. The opinionated Truvy and her new assistant, Annelle, play host to unlikely friends Ouiser and Clairee, the respectable and sociable M’Lynn and her beautiful daughter, Shelby. As the women come face to face with difficult times, they are brought together through strength and love.by Tennessee Williams
directed by Greg Hellems
Marion’s PIAZZA | Square One Salons | One Call Now | Patricia Giering | Larry S. Glickler-Glickler Funeral Home
What is it about Steel Magnolias that excites you?
At the core, I found the opportunity to work on Steel Magnolias appealing because of how beautifully it is written. I could hardly believe a piece so full of foreshadowing, subtle relationship interactions, and such well rounded characters was written in only ten days! It’s such an exciting piece not only because of the story it tells of six women in 1987-89, but because this same story (with different historical references) could happen today in 2015. This story, written as a way for Robert Harling to process grief, is truly timeless.
How did you approach the play as a director?
It will surprise a lot of people that neither I or the scenic designer, Eric Moore, have never seen the film versions (1989 or 2012 TV movie) or a staged production of the play. When we realized this, we made a pact to not see the movies and to attempt to avoid exposure to it on the internet. I am approaching the play by staying true to Robert Harling’s words and the characters he gave me to play with. His words are my only guide; so what audiences will see on stage is what Eric and I saw in our minds and through the development of our working together with solely the script for reference.
What can audiences expect with this production?
On an emotional level, the audience can expect to see and feel life. Each of the six female characters in this show will remind people of someone they know and/or even parts of themselves. They’ll be laughing and crying, sometimes at the same time, because they will be in Truvy’s Beauty Shop right there with the woman on stage. And by the end of the show, audiences will know—really know—these characters.
On the production side, the actresses can’t fake the hair activity in this show, there are no theatre tricks. The ladies will be styling—or styled into—full hair live on stage in late 80s fashion. The ensemble attended a special 1980s hair school as part of their rehearsal to master the tricks of the trade. If it doesn’t look like real salon activities are happening, it can take the audience out of the moment. But these women have risen to the challenge!
What drew you to these particular actresses?
I have always loved ensemble pieces. This is my first time working with a fully female ensemble cast and it has been amazing. Each of these women are perfect for their role. We had so many talented actresses who auditioned for this production, but there was just something special about each of these ladies. It became especially clear when they each read snippets of the show for their callbacks. I immediately saw them in full 80s hair and outfits, bringing their character to life. The script calls for a wide spectrum of ages, so the youthful experience mixing with the more expansive experience in the cast has been exciting to see in our ensemble of Human Race “veterans” (Christine Brunner, Caitlin Larsen and Patricia Linhart) and “rookies,” actresses new to our audiences, but definitely not to being on the stage (Julia Geisler, Carolyn Popp and Maretta Zilic).
Describe the production aspects of creating Truvy’s salon, which serves as the play’s location and set.
Scenic Designer Eric Moore and I wanted to create Truvy’s Beauty Shop as realistically as possible. We began with the description of what the shop space used to be—a carport. So the dimensions Eric started with were those of a double carport. He then decided to gain more space to see it as a free standing carport with a bit of space between it and the house. Then he used that to gain a little width to Truvy’s. This decision also allowed the brick facade of the house to form one wall of the shop. The next step was filling the space with vintage items. Being a smaller shop, Eric and I agreed the items in Truvy’s should go together, but not necessarily be a perfect matching set. They are pieces Truvy has bought here and there since the shop was added on to the house in 1972. Some items might be updated, the decor is more 80s to keep up with the times, but the hair dryers and salon chairs are much older and something Truvy probably bought used. The telephone cord runs out from the kitchen’s back window, which used to look into the side yard/carport and now looks into the shop, because Truvy got tired of going into the house to answer the phone every time it rang. Eric and I talked through these details and more, constantly asking ourselves, “What would Truvy do?” or “How would Truvy solve this problem?” And that’s how we got the set you see onstage.
Robert Harling (Playwright) made his directorial debut with The Evening Star for Paramount, which he also wrote for the screen based on Larry McMurty’s novel. The Evening Star reunited Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson and co-stars Juliette Lewis, Bill Paxton, Scott Wolf, Miranda Richardson, and Marion Ross. The Evening Star is the continuation of one of the most beloved and acclaimed movies of our time, Terms of Endearment. Before launching a successful stage and screenwriting career, Robert graduated from Tulane University School of Law, but instead of taking the bar exam, he opted to become an actor in New York. After years of productive work as an actor in voiceovers and commercials, Harling was inspired to write the highly acclaimed stage play Steel Magnolias, which was based on events from his personal life. Steel Magnolias continues to thrive in theatrical productions throughout the world. Immediately bridging a career from stage to screen, Harling adapted his original play into the popular film of the same title, which starred Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, and Daryl Hannah. Over the years, Mr. Harling has become a much sought-after screenwriter: other credits, to name a few, include Soapdish, which was based on Harling’s acting experience and starred Sally Field, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robert Downey Jr., and First Wives Club for Paramount, starring Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton.
Heather N. Powell (Director) is excited to be making her Loft directing debut! Especially, with this incredible cast of women! She previously directed the HRTC in school tours, Change and A Dickens of Time. Heather is in her seventh season at HRTC as the resident Prop Master. Heather has a Bachelor of Arts in theatre and a Bachelor of Science in business management from Ohio Northern University. She would like to thank her supportive family and husband for encouraging her to follow her dream of working in the arts!
Eric Moore (Scenic Designer) graduated from Wright State University’s Department of Theatre, Dance, and Motion Pictures with a degree in Design/Technology focused on Scenic Design and Scene Painting. Professional credits include Scenic Design for The Human Race’s Miracle on South Division Street and Footloose, The Wizard of Oz, and The Music Man with the Springfield Arts Council’s Summer Arts Festival. He is currently the Head Carpenter and Charge Artist for HRTC. Educational experience includes Rent and Picnic with Wright State University.
Janet G. Powell (Costume Designer) Costuming credits for The Human Race Theatre Company include two In-School Tours: A Dickens of a Time and Belch, Bottom and the Boys, and main stage productions of The Full Monty: The Broadway Musical, Family Shots (world premiere), Taking Shakespeare (Midwest premiere), Other Desert Cities, Torch Song Trilogy, Avenue Q, Band Geeks!, 8 Track, Permanent Collection and The 39 Steps. She costumed Boeing, Boeing and Parade, both joint productions of CCM and The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center. She is a retired Norwood City Schools artistic director/teacher where she directed, designed, and costumed over 150 shows. She is thankful to her husband and children for putting up with many years of theatrical insanity.
John Rensel (Lighting Designer) is the long-term Resident Lighting Designer for The Human Race Theatre Company, Muse Machine, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Pops series and Dayton Opera Association. He also serves as the long-time Technical Director for the Fraze Pavilion and has provided technical advance production coordination, lighting designs, automation programming and performance operation services for many artists and productions that have visited that venue. John also has a diverse dance lighting background, having provided lighting designs and technical production services for many years to The Dayton Ballet and Dayton Contemporary Dance Co. John’s national credits included a lighting design package for a National Touring Production of the Elton John/Tim Rice collaboration Aida. Some of his most recent local credits include all the designs for the 2014-15 Human Race Theatre Company’s season at The Loft Theatre; Muse Machine’s productions at the Victoria Theatre and the Dayton Opera Association’s 2014-15 season at the Schuster Center. John freely admits that he often loses his copies of the shows’ script.
Brian Retterer (Sound Designer) is a graduate of Ohio Northern University’s Communication Arts in International Theatre Production. Previous HRTC shows include: Oliver!, Next to Normal, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Play It by Heart and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. While at ONU Brian was the Head Sound Engineer/Designer at the Freed Center for the Performing Arts for five years. Some of his favorite shows he worked on while at ONU are: Waiting for the Parade, Little Women, Magic Flute and All My Sons. Since school, Brian has worked with students at Loveland High School, Norwood High School, and Centerville High School in various areas of technical theatre. Brian is currently a PHP Developer Evangelist for Stormpath and loves the opportunities Human Race Theatre gives him to keep in the theatre world.
Kay Carver (Production Stage Manager) graduated from Wright State University’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures with a degree in Design/Technology and Stage Management. Her professional credits for The Human Race Theatre Company include Production Stage Manager for 16 productions on the past three Loft seasons, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Victoria Theatre, the 2013 Festival of New Musicals, MTW Dani Girl, Assistant Stage Manager for The Drowsy Chaperone and Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical and Production Assistant for Twelfth Night, The 39 Steps and Ordinary Days. She also served as the Production Stage Manager for the Wright State University/Dayton Philharmonic collaborative production of Bernstein’s Mass at the Schuster Center.
Christine Brunner (Truvy) returns to HRTC after appearing in Play It by Heart (Debbie Dean), Permanent Collection (Gillian), A Christmas Carol (Mrs. Cratchitt, various), the workshops of My von Trapp Life (Maria von Trapp, Mary Martin, Various) with Elisabeth von Trapp and Play It by Heart,the Adventures In Time live Radio Drama series, produced by HRTC at Dayton Art Institute, and Romeo and Juliet (tour). Other roles: Narrator in Joseph…Dreamcoat, Honey in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Cinci Entertainment Award Nominee.) She teaches in the Theatre Arts Department at Wright State and is a MAPP acting coach/director. Master’s in Theatre from Miami University, where she taught for over 10 years. When not working on camera as a hand model or recording voice-overs for national/international clients like McGraw-Hill, UD, Campbell’s Soup, Macy’s, McDonald’s, IAMS, Febreze, Marriott, Dawn and many others, she works in the recording studio she runs with her husband, local recording artist/composer/sound engineer Jay Brunner, and is mom to elementary school superstar Zoe. For MC and my family.
Julia Geisler (Shelby) is thrilled to be performing with The Human Race Theatre for the first time. She is an actress based out of Pittsburgh and has worked with various companies there, including the Pittsburgh CLO in A Musical Christmas Carol and in their recent production of Boeing, Boeing. Some of her favorite roles include Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Elmire in Tartuffe and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. Ms. Geisler has a BFA in Vocal Performance from Carnegie Mellon University and an MM in Opera Performance from the University of Kansas where she taught Acting I and gave voice lessons for Musical Theatre students. Please visit www.juliageisler.com for more information.
Caitlin Larsen (Ouiser) joyfully returns to The Human Race stage where she has appeared in Fiddler on the Roof (Yente), Moonlight and Magnolias (Miss Poppenguhl), Lend Me a Tenor (Maria) and Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Germaine). She recently represented The Human Race in American Mosaic at the Schuster Center. In a former life, she performed in the Broadway revival of Cabaret (with Joel Grey), national tours of La Cage aux Folles and The American Dance Machine. Love & gratitude to Leo & Joe.
Patricia Linhart (Clariee) is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and an even prouder member of The Human Race resident company. This summer Pat appeared in the Festival of New Works in Robb Willoughby’s hysterical play Have You Ever Played, Dayton? Her last appearances on The Loft stage were in Torch Song Trilogy and Becky’s New Car. That same year she was seen on the stage of Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati in Rapture, Blister, Burn. Her most recent performance was with the Cincinnati POPS Orchestra in their semi-staged production of The Music Man at Music Hall. She has had the pleasure of appearing on the Schuster Stage with Maestro Neal Gittleman in The Best of Broadway as well as Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. Pat continues as Musical Theatre Voice Specialist at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she received the Ernest N. Glover Outstanding Teacher Award.
Carolyn Popp (M’Lynn) is thrilled to make her debut at The Human Race Theatre in Steel Magnolias – a show near and dear to her heart. She grew up in the South and loves re-visiting her roots onstage. Carolyn now lives in the NYC area with her actor/husband David Sitler, who has worked at The Human Race in previous seasons. Most recently, Carolyn performed Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, Miss Maudie in To Kill a Mockingbird, and Sonia in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. NYC credits include: The Hired Man, Escape from Happiness, Fifth of July, Natural Affection, and Cymbeline. Regional credits include: The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Stand by Your Man, The Clean House, Harvey, Footloose, I Do! I Do!, 110 in the Shade, Our Town, Dancing at Lughnasa, The Miracle Worker, Defiance, Gigi, An Inspector Calls, and Carousel. You may also recall Carolyn as Stephen Colbert’s unsuspecting wife, Claire Noblet, in Comedy Central’s Strangers with Candy. Carolyn and David recently shot the second season of the award-winning web series Plant, going online this November. Thank you to a great cast, creative team and to you – our audience.
Maretta Zilic (Annelle) is ecstatic to be making her debut at The Human Race Theater Company! She received her BA in Theater from The University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, MN. She now lives in Richmond, IN, where she was last seen as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Richmond Shakespeare Festival. She would like to thank her husband, Kyle, for all his love and support.