Ti-Ahwaga Community Players brings 'Steel Magnolias' to life
OWEGO, N.Y. (WENY) -- The Ti-Ahwaga Community Players are preparing for their final performances of Robert Harling’s "Steel Magnolias."
Partially based on the life of Harling's sister, Susan Harling Robinson, and her struggles with Type 1 diabetes, "Steel Magnolias" tells the story of a group of Southern women in northwest Louisiana who gather together at a beauty salon and share their "dreams, goals and sorrows."
"Some of the characters in the play are old friends, so they know a lot about each other," said Amy Gilbert, who plays Ousier in Ti-Ahwaga's production. "It's really a play about friendship and support."
One unique aspect of the show? It features an all-female cast, highlighting certain topics and situations from a woman's point of view.
"There [are] no men on stage, but men play a very important role in all of these women's lives; as husbands, as fathers [and] as sons," said Gilbert. "A lot of what happens on stage is because of what's happening with these other outside relationships that we don't see, but we hear about through the lines of the women."
In fact, the title "Steel Magnolias" suggests the strength that each of the female characters has in the situations they face, despite being as delicate as the magnolia tree they discuss at the beginning of the show.
With March being Women's History Month, Gilbert expressed how this weekend was the perfect time to wrap the show.
"It's a wonderful time to be doing this [show]," she said. "The relationships of the women show how important that bond can be between people and how important it is to lift each other up throughout all of one's life."
After "Steel Magnolias" debuted Off-Broadway in 1987, its powerful characters were eventually preserved for eternity when Harling brought its story to the big screen. The 1989 film of the same name featured a star-studded cast that included the names of Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah and Olympia Dukakis.
The film garnered much success in the more than three decades since it was released, growing a large fan base due to its message and characters. So, stepping into the shoes of these powerful women, once portrayed by an A-list cast, was certainly daunting for the girls at Ti-Ahwaga.
However, Gilbert said the challenge was worth it.
"I think we do it justice," she said. "The play was written by the same person [Harling] who wrote the screenplay. So what people have seen in the movie is very well represented in the play. The characters will be familiar, a lot of the lines are familiar and people [will] just love it."
Whether they are longtime fans of the story or first-time viewers, Gilbert has just one warning for audience members:
"Be forewarned if you come out," she said. "[You] may shed a tear or two as well."
The Ti-Ahwaga Community Players will present their final three performances of "Steel Magnolias" this weekend at the Ti-Ahwaga Community Players Theater in Owego. Friday and Saturday's performances will begin at 8 p.m., while Sunday's performance will start at 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $10 to $25 and can be purchased online at tiahwaga.thundertix.com.