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North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre presents "Steel Magnolias"

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English: A Magnolia tree blossom. Fran├žais : F...

(Photo credit: James F. via Wikipedia)

The ladies of a southern town argue about a magnolia tree in the beginning of the play. Are they themselves as soft as a magnolia bloom or hard as steel?  

I think  it's a little of both and that's what the cast and director of Steel Magnolias hope you see too.

Directed by Timothy Locklear for the North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre it is a story of six very different women who often gather at the beauty shop and discuss the ups and downs they encounter in their daily lives.

Featuring Lori Ingle Taylor, Dee Penven-Crew, Robin Vaught Parrish, Mary Beth Hollman, Christine Rogers, and Lauren Knott in an ensemble cast.

Don't miss the chance to see this play if your haven't already and enjoy our conversation below with the director and cast where we learn more about the play and their roles.

Steel Magnolias
October 10th through October 26th
Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 PM
Sundays at 3:00 PM

7713-51 Lead Mine Road
Raleigh, North Carolina

Tickets are $15 for adults  and $12 for Students and Seniors.

Tickets can also be purchased by calling the theatre @ 919-866-0228

Tell me about Steel Magnolias and what North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre will be bringing to the production.

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Timothy Locklear:  Rehearsals began on August 11.  I have been working with the ladies on going inside the character's heads.  I want them to truly know who these ladies are.  Since I have done this show twice already, these characters are very special to me.  I am always learning new things about them each time I do this show.  Each lady is bringing a new dimension to these characters and I certainly appreciate that.  The process makes it more and more exciting.

Thanks Tim,  I'm sure your understanding of the characters along with what the actors bring to their portrayal will make for an exciting show.

Timothy Locklear  That is my goal.  I find that this play is all about the friendship and in depth relationships these characters have with each other.  I want the audience to leave believing each of the characters were real and the friendship that is portrayed is very real.

Who is doing the sets for this production?

Timothy Locklear  I have designed the set... however my Technical Director is Todd Houseknecht.

Who is putting together the costumes for Steel Magnolias?

Timothy Locklear  The costumes are a collaboration of myself, the cast, and a costumer.   We are trying to pull things from closets and goodwill.

Dee Penven-Crew  I love a good thrift store. (grin)

Lori, what is Shelby like?

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Lori Ingle Taylor  Playing Shelby is an adventure. In some ways we are a bit alike. Sassy is a word used often but there is also a softness about her and a genuine honesty about her. That we both have in common. I am still finding layers with her inside relationships with all the other ladies and the outside ones with her husband and her child. Things we don't see on stage. I am finding that when I do that, it makes my character more 3-dimentional and facinating to watch and understand onstage.

Dee Penven-Crew  M'Lynn is a complex character.  She is the 'every mother' role for me.

Tell me more about M'Lynn.

Dee Penven-Crew  When asked what her greatest fear would be her response would be, "Outliving my children."

She truly wants her children to be happy but believes she's the one with the best answers to get them there.  When Shelby makes a conscious decision to risk her life to have a child M'Lynn has to finally accept that she can no longer control this child of hers.    And as Shelby says, it drives her nuts.

But we also know the fear that comes with motherhood.  No one wants to see their child hurt or ill.  And none of us would survive and be sane without our friends to help us through the tough times.  These women live for each other.

Why do you think Steel Magnolias is so appealing to audiences after all this time?

Dee Penven-Crew  Steel Magnolias is timeless.  The themes of friendship and family that run throughout the play are as real and present today as they were the day the playwright sat down to capture this story. 

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Robin Vaught Parrish  Steel magnolias is timeless because it represents the friends and connections we long for.  Everyone wants that shoulder to cry on outside their family.  And it is a great play where women are lifting each other up.

Lori Ingle Taylor  This is an ageless story that everyone can connect with. The 4 scenes in which this story is set have 4 relatable themes. A wedding, a baby, a major surgery, and a death.

Anyone can relate because they have experienced or knows someone who has experienced these things. But it's how these friends help each other and live and support one another. It's a vital lesson in family and friendship!

Mary Beth Hollmann  I think Steel Magnolias is still popular because it deals with how life changes us and how we change with life (and death) and most important, how those changes do NOT occur in a vacuum, but with those we care about - which makes it all bearable and gives us hope.

Tim, were there any changes in the set in the set or the presentation in the 3 productions you've done of Steel Magnolias?  Is each production a learning process?

Timothy Locklear  Each production has been totally different.  Each set has been somewhat different.  There is a limit to how different it can be.  But they are different.  Each production has changed because of each cast.  Steel was the first show I ever directed.  That's one reason it is special to me.  However, each cast has helped me to grow each time as a director.

Robin, is this your first play?

Robin Vaught Parrish  I did a small production of Look Back to the Hill directed by Randy Jordan during this past Easter. Other than that I have only been in plays at my church. I do volunteer at a children's theater in town.

Are you nervous?  How has it been so far working with this group?

Robin Vaught Parrish  I am nervous. Even during the first read through I was acutely aware of the talent of the group of ladies that surrounds me.  I was telling Randy (a former director) a few days ago that I already knew I will be friends with these girls long after the show ends.

What drew you to performing?

Robin Vaught Parrish  The opportunity to be someone else for a little while and maybe make an impact at the same time.

Do you take acting lessons?

Robin Vaught Parrish  No. But Tim is great with his suggestions and advice to me.

That can make all the difference.

Robin Vaught Parrish  It really is amazing what I have learned in a short time!

Have any of you ever been on stage and had a situation where you couldn't remember something and another actor had to help you through a scene?

Timothy Locklear  Many, many times.  That's why it's important not only to know your lines, but know everyone else's.

Dee Penven-Crew  I've been on stage when folks have 'gone up' on a line.  It's a little frightening that this time around it might be me.  I've been away from performing for 14 years and I can't even remember how I used to get all the lines and blocking memorized.

And by the way, Robin has a natural ease on stage that will serve her well in the role of Truvy.  She needs to give herself some credit.  There were a lot of people reading for that role and she nailed it.

Stage fright anyone?  And, does it evaporate when you begin?

Dee Penven-Crew  Stage fright is something that begins when you begin wondering if you'll audition.  At least it does for me.  But being on the stage in front of an audience is calming for some reason.  What say you ladies?

Lori Ingle Taylor  Live theatre is awesome. Sometimes there are flubs and it's how you work as an ensemble to help the other person out on stage. which is why it's so important to not only know your lines but everyone else's around you. You are there not only to be in the spotlight but to help your fellow actors onstage shine too!

Robin Vaught Parrish  I am terrified if forgetting my first line!   But I am better once that is over.

Timothy Locklear  Honestly, they are being hard on themselves.  I have faith in all my Magnolias.  Robin showed her true talent in her audition.  I will be the one who is most nervous.

What about Annelle?

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Lauren Knott  Well, Annelle is a fantastic character to play, as an actor. She goes through very distinct phases, starting off very shy and timid and then really coming into her own by the end of the show. And her relationships to the other women in the show are essential to that transformation. At the beginning, she is a complete outsider, but throughout the show, you see her become more comfortable with the five other ladies and with herself. She is really just such a sweet character and a joy to explore. 

What is your background in acting Lauren?

Lauren Knott  I'm currently a freshman studying theatre at Meredith College. I've been onstage since I was 11, performing in various school and community theater productions. I normally do musicals; this is actually my first straight play in over four years, so that has been an interesting, albeit challenging, change. I've been blessed to find a home in NRACT (North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre). The people there are so supportive and wonderful and coming to rehearsal ends up always being the highlight of my day. 

What makes a great performance?  It's more than just gettying the choreogaphy and lines right isn't it?

Lori Ingle Taylor  I am usually super nervous before every performance but when you have a supportive group of women to work with, I know that I will be able to relax and drop in quickly as the show begins!

It's the feeling and emotion that shows through the lines and the blocking for me. As an actor and audience member, I can tell when it's feeling faked and when it feels right. Usually those moments are organic and change with each performance... Live theatre grows through each performance for me.

As an actor, for me I have to find different ways to keep those lines fresh and new each time I do it.

Dee Penven-Crew.jpg
Dee Penven-Crew  What makes a great performance?  The true-ness (is that a word?) of the performance.  If the actors are forcing the delivery it's gonna rip apart.  If the delivery is natural and organic it comes from the heart and is 'real'.

It is something like singing a song.  Many people sing the notes without really paying attention to the words and their meaning. My dear friend Haskell Fitz-Simons taught me to perform the words when singing.  I try to heed that advice whenever I'm in stage.  You have to believe the words and mean every one you speak.

What is you favorite part of performing, the anticipation and the beginning, or the conclusion and relief of knowing you did your best?

Robin Vaught Parrish  When I did A Christmas Carol at church, I was very sad when it was over. There is a relief of it being over but I was sad too.

Lori Ingle Taylor  I secrelty love it when I get stopped by someone either at the end of the play of out in public months after the play is over and them telling me how the show affected them.

I once was at dinner with a group of people and this girl was like " I know you from somewhere, have we met before" and I said "no" Then later that eve she was like "Oh my Gosh, I know you!!! You were Chris is Carrie!!!! I loved that show. I KNEW I knew you from somewhere!" (laughs)

Timothy Locklear  I love the entire process.  For me as a director, it's like watching a child grow up.  On opening night, I have to let go of it's hand and hope I did the right thing in the process of making it.  I am always proud and happy , but on closing, I Am a mess.  I get emotional and it's really hard for me to say goodbye to it.

In Steel Magnolias, do you feel like your character is similar to you, someone you know, or just the opposite of yourself?

Dee Penven-Crew  Personally I think I identify with this character more than any I've played.

Why is that Dee?

Dee Penven-Crew  She's a mom.  She loves her kids and wants the best for them.  Of course, she believes she knows what's best.  I think it comes as a shock to her when she realizes that her daughter knows full well the risk she's taking.  There is a moment in a parent's life when they say to themselves, "oh my.  my child is actually an adult."   The realization is not always an easy one to face."

The loss of Shelby is so devastating.  I don't know how I'd go on if I lost either of my children.  But I know I'd rely heavily on my friends to pull me through.

Do you ever create background for your character in your mind that neither the director nor script has provided?

Dee Penven-Crew  Absolutely.  In our 2nd meeting we talked about the unwritten aspects of our characters with each other.

That helps you how?

Dee Penven-Crew  Your character is a sum of their life's parts.  If you don't know those parts you can't hope to know the character.

I believe M'Lynn fears for Shelby because she's had a loss earlier in her life.  She doesn't believe she'll survive another.

I see.  Does this stay in your mind during the day as you go about your routine?

Dee Penven-Crew  It does.  Character development is an ongoing process.  You have to carry her with you and add the layers until she's real.

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Christine Rogers  Character development is an interesting process. It is what I enjoy so much about acting. Meryl Streep has a wonderful quote--"Acting is not about being someone different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there."

Mary Beth, can you tell us about your secret?

Mary Beth Hollmann  To what secret are you referring?

I was referring to Dee's comment.  "Mary Beth can you share your secret?"

Dee Penven-Crew  Character study discussion.

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Mary Beth Hollmann  OH!  Well, when I did Hamlet last year and a workshop on it this summer, the director asks the cast to have a secret that involves another cast member (their character).  As Gertrude, my secret was that I was trying to save Ophelia as she drowned (some secretly thought I helped in her demise).  It was deliciously fun.  As far as my secret for Steel Magnolias - wouldn't be a secret now would it?  I won't reveal it until the cast party.

Dee Penven-Crew (smiles)

Mary Beth Hollmann  As real people have secrets, I believe portraying a character as real as possible warrants having a secret as well.

I'll be.  So you never know what's going on in an actors mind do you?

Mary Beth Hollmann  Or in Ouiser's for that matter...and as far as she is concerned it's none of anyone's business!

Dee Penven-Crew  I love the idea. (big laughs)

Mary Beth Hollmann  I also think each of these characters evolves throughout the play - even to another plane (Shelby) - so as Ouiser it is very important to me that she not be over the top - but that there is something always under the surface she is trying to keep under wraps.

I guess that sums ujp Ouiser's attitude.  What do you find most interesting about her?

Mary Beth Hollmann  That through all her cynicism, false bravado and biting wit - she just wants to belong and know she's not alone - like everyone else.  Portraying that onstage is a challenge and great fun!

Christine, tell me about Clairee.

Christine Rogers  Clairee is regal--not stuffy or snobbish but grounded. She is also vulnerable. She lost her husband. Her friends are so dear to her. What I love is how she conquers her fears--fear of flying--takes a trip to Paris. Fear of dying--she embraces life and is willing to try new things.

What brought you to acting Mary Beth?  How did you first become involved?

Mary Beth Hollmann  My second oldest sister...she needed a little kid to ride a goat across the stage in Teahouse of the August Moon at Coronado High School in Arizona (not telling the date).  I got to have my hair dyed black and wear neat make up and of course ride a goat - I was hooked after that.  Since then I've done many roles, founded an arts organization in upstate New York, stage managed, directed and served on boards.  I'm addicted.  Now - I just have to get an annual Tony party going here and my life will be complete.

Robin Vaught Parrish  Love that story!

Dee Penven-Crew Ditto!