CUBA, N.Y. — Over the past 30 years, audiences at large and small theaters across the country have laughed and cried with a group of six Southern women who helped each other through the humorous and hard times of life.
Local audiences will get to share in the adventure of the “Steel Magnolias” women when the play is staged at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19, and 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Palmer Opera House at 12 W. Main St. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and $5 for children in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Directed by Eric Van Druff and produced by Michele Conklin, the Robert Harling comedy/drama will take audiences to a beauty shop in the South, which serves as the single set for the play staged at the opera house. Van Druff said the opera house decided to present the play in honor of the 30th anniversary of the “Steel Magnolias” movie made from the stage production.
“It’s more intimate (than the movie version), they don’t have the men, they don’t have Jackson, they don’t have Drum, it’s just the six women in it,” Van Druff explained. “That’s kind of the thrust of where I’ve gone with this. I feel the entire play is based on the personal relationships of the five best friends and the (younger) star, Shelby.”
With that in mind, the director spent a lot of time working on the relationships between the characters on stage.
“We did a lot of time delving into thinking through the past and thinking through what their characters had gone through,” he explained. “We did a lot of background studies making sure they understood the true Southern woman.”
Van Druff said the single set is the product of borrowing a number of items from the community, including salon chairs and other items.
“We’re borrowing from anywhere and everywhere we can,” he said with a laugh. “Cuba hospital has donated a couple of small swivel chairs to us, the Palmer has a lot of stuff and my cast has brought in a lot of things. I’m contacting beauty shops to find posters and hair pictures.
“It’s kind of like typical community theater — beg, borrow or steal to keep your costs down,” he joked.
Van Druff has also focused on directing his cast to personalize their roles.
“I said,‘Take pieces, take memories, take visions of your own life and intersperse those (into the role) because it will mean more to you and you’ll be better in your delivery if you can relate it to something in your own life.”
Van Druff said his work has been made easier as he has “great actresses across the board.”
The cast members are M’Lynn Eatenton played by Marcia Wymer of Olean; Shelby Eatenton Latcherie, played by Tanaka Losey of Hinsdale; Truvy Jones, performed by Karen Layman-Wooston of Olean; Annelle Dupuy performed by Alicia Bockmier of Allegany; Clairee Belcher performed by Nicole Missel of Allegany; and Ouiser Boudreaux performed by Kristin Asinger of Bradford, Pa.
Van Druff said the play will also be staged at Togi’s Playhouse at 18 Welch Ave., Bradford, which serves as the home of Bradford Little Theatre. The play will be staged in Bradford at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 and 2 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 3.