On December 2, Azusa Pacific Theater opens its latest production, Steel Magnolias, based on the book by Robert Harling. Jill Lincoln, M.A., directs, and has a deep connection with the play.
“I was in one of the first Regional Professional Theatre productions of Steel Magnolias and I met Robert Harling,” said Lincoln. “I was young and blessed to be on stage with professionals from New York. It’s very different being a director than playing Shelby. I notice how rich all the characters are.”
The play takes place at Truvy’s, a Louisiana beauty salon where six very different women come together to share their secrets, fears, and love for one another while engaging in neighborly gossip. Taking place in the South, the play presents some challenges for the actors.
“I am from the South. Most actors fall into the trap of playing a soft, lilty accent that comes off ‘effected,’” said Lincoln. “The stage version of Steel Magnolias is a comedy for three scenes and a drama for one. This means the accents have to be strong and support the comedy. Also, most people who have seen the play think it’s a drama. It’s not. Robert Harling is a great comedy writer. That is why the play rocked on Broadway and Regional Theatre.”
Lincoln believes that this play will have a big impact on the audience as this is a production she sincerely appreciates.
“Steel Magnolias is a play that connects people with the power of theater,” said Lincoln. “I like that the show is so funny and moving at the same time. I love that it is based on a true story and has such an authentic southern feel. The South is fun to explore, and offers very rich characters. However, I must appreciate the strong female characters in this show. Many female characters are depicted as victims that need to be saved. These Steel Magnolias are tough ladies filled with faith and courage.”
The play might be best described with a line from Shelby in Act II: “I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” That is something that resonates with Lincoln.
“I believe this is at the heart of what Robert Harling is saying to us with this play,” said Lincoln. “Live each moment to its fullest and remember to recognize the women in our lives who are heroes.”