"Steel Magnolias," the popular 1987 play by Robert Harling that was turned into a blockbuster comedy-drama film starring Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Dolly Parton and more well-known actresses, is coming to Charleston Stage. The story focuses on the bond that a group of women share in a tight-knit, small-town Southern community and how they cope with loss and grief.
Leading up to the performance, which will run from March 6-24 at the Dock Street Theatre, 125 Church St., The Post and Courier conducted a Q&A with director Jesse Siak.
For more information on "Steel Magnolias" and to purchase tickets, which run $28.75-$66.75, call 843-577-7183 or visit charlestonstage.com.
Q: Why “Steel Magnolias”? Do you think the Southern saga will resonate here in Charleston?
A: "Steel Magnolias" is a Southern story, but it goes much deeper than that. When you read the script (or see the play), you see the wonderful balance of humor and sentimentality that we can all identify with. We know these women. They're our sister, our mom, our grandmother, our crazy aunt and we love them dearly. They pick at each other like all families do, but they'd give their kidneys to save each other's lives in a heartbeat.
You truly do laugh through the tears with this play, and very few plays can accomplish that in such a seamless way. It's also a crowd favorite and has a terrific following because of the movie. We think audiences will be tickled pink when they see the show.
Q: Have you ever directed “Steel Magnolias” before? What was the direction like for this play specifically?
A: I have never directed "Steel Magnolias" before, and on the surface, it seems like a fairly easy task. The script is wonderful and the dialogue is so fresh that it flows so well. The challenge is finding movement other than just styling hair.
When do they have to get a little closer to hear that juicy gossip? When have they gotten bored with a magazine? ... It would be very easy to just let the actors sit and talk, but that is a disservice to such an active script with such dynamic characters.
You have to direct it in this constricted world but make sure the movement flows, is motivated and justified, and only adds to (and doesn't detract from) this wonderful script.
Q: What do you think the audience will enjoy most? And how does this production differ from the movie?
A: The play and the movie do have many similarities, and much of the dialogue was copied directly into the movie. That said, since there are no men in the cast and the location doesn't change, we really have an opportunity to delve deeper into the relationships of these six extraordinary women and really see what makes them tick. I think our audience will find many times to belly laugh and get swept up into the story. Bring the tissues, and be prepared to laugh till you cry and vice versa.
Q: We know Julia Roberts, Sally Field and crew won’t be on stage, but how do you think the Charleston Stage actors have taken on some of those iconic roles?
A: You won't find Julia Roberts or Sally Field in this production, and that's fine by me. All of our actors are brilliant and have taken to the iconic roles, adding their own flair and interpretations to these wonderful characters. They are not carbon copies of the on-screen "Steel Magnolias" clan.
Similarities are inherent, but they all have created wonderful, three-dimensional performances apart from the movie. "Steel Magnolias" can lend itself to being over-the-top and melodramatic, where the actors become caricatures, but that's not what this play is about. All of our brilliant actors have grounded themselves in reality (heightened reality, but reality, nonetheless), and really are those people you see everyday. They are all sharp, funny, and absolutely extraordinary to watch.