OTA revisits hit production: ‘Steel Magnolias’

‘Steel Magnolias’ presented by Olympic Theatre Arts April 3-19, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

The cast of Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias

The cast of Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias

‘Steel Magnolias’

Presented by Olympic Theatre Arts

When: April 3-19, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: OTA Theatre, 414 N. Sequim Ave.

Info and tickets: olympictheatrearts.org or call 683-7326


For his second time, Larry Harwood with Olympic Theatre Arts is directing the stage production of Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias.”

Harwood successfully directed “Steel Magnolias” more than two decades ago in 1991; thus when asked if he would direct the play again, his answer was simple – “Absolutely.”

“The writing is brilliant,” Harwood said. “If you think you’re going to see the movie, it would be a mistake … the play is better.”

Harling wrote the play in reaction to the death of his diabetic sister. Before becoming a movie in 1989, the play was first performed on Broadway. Through comical and lighthearted conversations between friends and family, Harling copes with the seriousness of tragedy, like the loss of his sister.

The Olympic Theatre Arts’ cast for “Steel Magnolias” embodies the personalities of six Southern women in a Louisiana beauty salon owned by Truvy Jones. Together the actresses highlight the strong, yet fragile and layered relationships shared between the women in the face of death.

For Harwood, the most challenging aspect of directing is the casting process because of the depth a director must know the characters. However, from the 28 women that auditioned for “Steel Magnolias,” Harwood said he was able to assemble a “great cast,” minimizing many challenges associated as director.

“You can’t hear or see yourself on stage, so the job of the director is to be the ears and eyes of the audience,” Harwood said.

Harwood has done just that for the past six weeks, three times a week. During rehearsals, he works to help the actresses through line interpretation, what emotions to deliver when and how to move about the stage. The relationships between the characters, however, are something that developments naturally, he said.

With the guidance of Harwood, Jennifer Horton as Truvy, Darlene Clemens as Ouiser, Lauren Denton as Shelby, Angela Poynter-Lemaster as M’Lynn, Lily Carignan as Annelle and Oliva Shea as Clairee, bring the personalities of Harling’s script to life.

“It is fun being a part of this production again,” Shea said. “It’s a whole different cast so everything changes, yet stays the same since the writing hasn’t changed.”

Shea was cast in Olympic Theatre Arts’s 1991 production of “Steel Magnolias,” as M’Lynn.

“She’s (Clairee) is always shooting off one-liners, whereas M’Lynn was a more serious role,” she said.

Until recently, Denton hadn’t had the opportunity to pursue community theater. Although balancing her personal life as a mother and wife is challenging, she said, as a newcomer to Sequim she’s enjoying getting involved with her community.

“This is an awesome group of women to work with,” Denton said. “I love all the strong relationships between the characters. It’s a beautiful part of the play beneath the great writing.”

Harwood has both acted and directed for year, but has found the the thing he enjoys most when directing is the opportunity to witness the improvements that take place from the beginning to finish of a production and the character development, he said.

Beyond his passion for directing, it was the audience that really drew Harwood to “Steel Magnolias” before and now once again.

“This play is both tremendously funny and touching,” Harwood said. “We all love to laugh and you’ll be sure to laugh when watching this play.”

The writing and the experiences projected from the stage appeal to everyone, he said.

“The climactic last scene will have you crying one moment and falling out of your seat with laughter the next,” George McCormick wrote in a review of the 1991 production for the Sequim Gazette. “If you’ve ever wanted to eavesdrop on beauty shop gossip and chatter, this is your opportunity because the audience is the shop’s mirror, and you’re part of the illusion of watching the action through one-way glass.”

Like the past production of “Steel Magnolias,” the stage is set so the audience is looking face-to-face with the characters and right into Truvy’s beauty shop where the actresses actually wash and dry hair on stage as the story unfolds.

The play runs April 3-19 with a preview night on April 2 and pay what you will night on April 9. No show will be held Easter Sunday, April 5. Reserved seating tickets for all regular performances are now on sale through the OTA box office.


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