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Steel Magnolias

May 31 – Aug 11
Gilliam Stage at Barter Theatre

By Robert Harling

A heart-warming portrait of friendship and love is the basis for this much-loved show. There isn’t a bond quite like the one between southern women in a beauty shop. In a small southern town, six women gather in Truvy’s Beauty Salon to share gossip, laughter, recipes and beauty secrets, but they end up sharing so much more. Humor and heartbreak shine through this performance as the women experience some of the most significant days of their lives together. The true power of friendship shows through the women's underlying strength, which makes these characters genuinely touching, funny, and marvelously amiable company in the good times and bad.

Director's Notes


This is the original, folks. This is the play that so many other plays try to emulate, but none can duplicate. This little-play-that-could was written by Robert Harling to help his nephew understand what had gone on in their family surrounding his birth. It’s based on real people and real circumstances from Harling’s real

hometown, and it shows. Every moment feels true. When Harling submitted it to literary agents more than thirty years ago, he says it was largely dismissed at first. He remembers that the agents said, “It’s not commercial because it’s a bunch of women, and it takes place in a beauty parlor.” More than once, he nearly shelved it completely. But a funny thing happened as we, the audience, began to meet these characters onstage: we were disarmed. These women seemed so familiar and so true. We know these women, and we come back again and again to gather in their warmth and humor.

In interviews, Robert Harling talks about what he noticed in the women that raised him. He noticed they held together when the men around them broke down. He noticed they were different when they were just with each other. He said, “When I was a kid, the mystique of the beauty parlor was that guys were never allowed. You didn’t know what went on in there, and they all came back different

somehow.” He sensed that important changes were taking place in their private spaces together that helped them be strong.

That’s the way it is with steel, I’m learning. Turning iron into steel involves

extreme heat to alloy the iron with carbon or other elements. Once it combines with small amounts of other element(s), it becomes stronger and is prized for its ductility- its ability to bend without breaking. The quality that allows buildings and bridges to bend in the wind and stay upright. One of the underpinnings of

modern life as we know it, is caused by this combining of elements. In other words, something that starts strong becomes so much stronger and more flexible when it opens its molecular structure to others. The fire these women walk through and their willingness to open their hearts and let others in is key to their strength and flexibility, too. It’s something that Robert Harling knew about the women in his family and their friends. It’s something that is true in so many of the strong women I know. Steel, as it turns out, is more about us together than us standing alone.

Cast & Credits


Truvy Jones: Kim Morgan Dean

Annelle Dupuy-Desoto: Sarah Laughland

Clairee Belcher: Tricia Matthews

Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie: Zoë Velling

M’Lynn Eatenton: Carrie Smith Lewis

Ouiser Bourdeaux: Mary Lucy Bivins

Voice of DJ: Rick McVey

Rehearsal Assistant Stage Manager: Victoria L. Sutton


Director: Katy Brown

Set Designer: Hana Lee

Sound Designer: Tony Angelini

Costume Designer: Lee Martin

Dialect Coach: Zacchaeus Kimbrell

Stage Manager: Sara Douglas

Lighting Designer: Andrew Morehouse

Wig & Makeup Designer: Whitney Kaibel

Corporate Sponsor:

Highlands Union Bank

Media Sponsor:

Voice Magazine for Women