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May 1, 2014

Steel Magnolias opens Friday night at Tift Theatre


One of the most beloved stories of all time – Steel Magnolias –  will be retold on the stage at the Tift Theatre for the Performing Arts beginning Friday night.

The original play was written by Robert Harling and was based on his family's experience when his own sister, Susan Harling Robinson, died from complications with diabetes in 1985. The play was made into a film and released in 1989, and starred Sally Fields, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley McLaine, Daryl Hannah and Julia Roberts.

Roberts plays Shelby, a young woman who has Type 1 diabetes, which ultimately takes her life. Shelby is surrounded by a group of strong, but fragile women, thus the title of the play and the film.

For this rendition, the characters are portrayed by local women: Dottie Freeman (Ouiser), Julie Smith (M'Lynn), Lisa Purser (Truvy), Elizabeth Powell (Shelby), Judy Thomas (Clairee) and Carlie Johnson (Annelle). The production is under the direction of theater Manager Robert Reid Goodson.

Freeman said she auditioned for the parts of Clairee and Ouiser, but "I had a feeling (Goodson) would cast me as Ouiser, as I am very loud-mouthed. I relate well to my character because she is a loud-mouth, opinionated and sometimes a mean, old southern woman – just like me!"

Purser didn't think she'd get a part after she saw all the other auditions, but was elated when she was cast as Truvy. She, like the rest of the cast, is a bit nervous about opening night.

"I'm used to singing in front of a big crowd, but acting is completely different. Plus, there will be reactions by the audience that will come into play. I am a little nervous, but the good kind of nervous," she said, comparing the feeling like that you get when you are about to ride a "really big, huge, scary roller coaster."

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