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'Steel Magnolias' Tackles Friendships, Emotions and Life

Encore Theatre will present "Steel Magnolias" Jan. 17-19.

The cast of Encore Theatre's "Steel Magnolias" rehearses a scene. Photo credit: Korrina Grom
The cast of Encore Theatre's "Steel Magnolias" rehearses a scene. Photo credit: Korrina Grom
The cast of Encore Theatre's "Steel Magnolias" sat around a table at the Libertyville Civic Center, chatting, laughing and joking like a group of long-time friends. 

Cast member Dianne Hosken described the group of women as "just incredible" and said she was shocked that the group clicked so fast.

In fact, the cast had formed that close relationship by the end of the read-through, said Director Less Boyd.

It's that camaraderie that the women take on stage with them during a play that, at its core, is about a group of women and their friendships as they deal with medical issues, family drama and life in general. There's a lot of emotion, whether it be laughter or tears. It's all set in a beauty shop.

"I think it's quite a challenge to try and do these characters," said Vernon Hills resident Deb Smith. 

She plays M'Lynn. Her character's daughter, Shelby, battles medical issues and wants to have a baby.

"She's a tough woman, and she has a strong-minded, strong-willed daughter," said Smith. 

Janice Zimmerman of Grayslake, who plays that daughter, said she feels like M'Lynn is a tough character to play.

"She's the most transparent and the least transparent. She keeps her cards close to her chest, but when she has to deal with her own feelings, she's at a loss," said Zimmerman. "She's feeling confused, her fear of what would happen. 'What if I let Shelby make the decisions?'"

Zimmerman said she finds it difficult, at times, to play her own character, Shelby. While she has a friendship dynamic with her fellow cast members, her character is treated like a child on stage.

"I imagine Shelby's back story as she grew up in the shop and now she wants to be one of them," said Zimmerman. "We breeze by her being a nurse in the neonatal unit. She's like her mom in wanting to take care of others. I want the audience to see her determination and her sacrifice."

Comic Relief

Ousier, played by Betty Slack of Grayslake, provides some comic relief with her grumpy personality.

"She's pretty crabby," said Slack. 

In trying to get to know her character and flesh her out a bit, Slack created a backstory for Ousier. 

"She has more money than God. She's been married to two deadbeats. Her kids moved away, but she's close to her grandchildren. She tries to put on an armor of steel, but there's pretty much cotton underneath," said Slack. 

Even more comic relief comes from Clairee, played by Hosken, a Lindenhurst resident. Hosken admitted to being surprised about getting the role, given that she's tried out for the part "a million times" but hasn't gotten it until now. 

"I'm just flat-out nasty," Hosken said of Clairee. 

"But it's got more of a polished air about it," noted Zimmerman. 

Clairee, Hosken said, "is everything I'm not. It's a lot of fun."

Linda Klepac of Libertyville plays Truvy, owner of the beauty shop. 

"She has an awesome personality. She's bold and witty and genuine," said Klepac. "Everybody's been coming there for so long … I've tried to decide if Truvy even charges them anymore."

Klepac added that there's an unwritten rule at Truvy's beauty shop.

"Everybody comes and talks about anything—about their week, their fears," said Klepac. "They'll live there forever."

Beauty Shop Talk

Those fears—and the various issues that the characters deal with—stir up true human emotions, said Slack.

"It brings authenticity to struggle, whether you have to face life and death, marital struggles or loneliness," said Zimmerman.

Added Klepac: "It speaks to relationships with women, and you can see yourself in your relationships with other people."

Encore Theatre will present "Steel Magnolias" Jan. 17-19 at the Libertyville Civic Center. All performances will be held at 7 p.m. For tickets and more information, call (847) 708-8880 or email encoretheatrelibertyville@gmail.com.
Libertyville Civic Center January 14, 2014 at 12:19 PM
Proceeds from these performances will be donated to the Libertyville Civic Center Foundation. The Civic Center has worked with Encore Theatre since 2005 to bring live theatre to our community and is grateful for their contributions. The Libertyville Civic Center, originally built in 1935 as a post office, is today a diverse two-story community event building located in the heart of downtown Libertyville. The six gathering rooms offer a comfortable setting for groups of all sizes, including a 200-person banquet hall. The gathering rooms can be rented for meetings, seminars, private parties and other special events. Please contact the building’s Executive Director at 847-918-8880 or visit the web site at LibCivicCenter.org for rental information. Discounts given to Civic & Charitable Organizations Plus 20% Discount On Friday Rentals

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