Steel Magnolias 1

The cast of “Steel Magnolias,” from left: Tina Edwards, Lily Formato, Hannah Mayo, Janice Pryor, Frances Moore, Holly Montgomery, and Wythe-Grayson Library Director Mary Thomas. Cast member JoBeth Hilton is not pictured.

A group of local actresses is ready to take you into Truvy’s Beauty Parlour, where love, laughter and gossip mingle amongst curlers, suds and hairspray.

“Steel Magnolias” is about a circle of strong Southern women who help each other navigate life’s joys and heartaches, including the death of one of their own. The story was a success on Broadway and was a blockbuster 1989 movie starring Julia Roberts and Sally Field.

In Wytheville, the production is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Wythe County Library. All of the money raised will be used for improvements and additions to the library.

Dale Hartley, president of the Friends of the Wythe County Library, said the group is always looking for new ways to raise money, including the play.

“For many years the Friends of the Wythe County Library have sold used books to purchase things the library needed but could not get funding. Recently book sales have been slacking off, mainly because more people are using electronic readers,” he said. “So, we are branching out, trying different methods of fundraising. This play is an experiment, but if it works out and makes money, we will probably try to do more things like it. I’ve been involved with the Friends of the Wythe County Library for many years, and the library has always been short of funds. But we have always been there to help, and I hope we can continue to do so.”

Frances Moore is directing the play and staring as salon customer Clairee. The time frame for the play is the mid-1980s, when shoulder pads, bit hair and perms ruled the runways.

“I just love it,” she said of the play. “It had such an effect on me. It’s the last movie that I remember staying in the theatre so I could watch it twice. You can’t do that anymore.”

Moore, who has worked as a substitute teacher and volunteered for the GWHS drama department, said that performing the play has always been at the back of her mind.

“Then, (local actress and recent GWHS graduate) JoBeth Hilton wanted to do it, too,” Moore said. “With her going off to Lees McRae in the fall, I wanted to do it before she left.”

Hilton plays Shelby, a young woman with type 1 diabetes who marries and has a child during the course of the play. Other characters are Truvy, played by Holly Montgomery; Annelle, played by Lily Formato and Hannah Mayo, who share the role; M’Lynn, played by Tina Edwards; and Ouiser, played by Wytheville Community College drama teacher/director Janice Pryor.

“I think the audience will like it because it’s a personal experience, and they are going to recognize the relationships they see on stage: strong women who care deeply for each other and their community. They are going to laugh and cry. These women go through life together: the death of a spouse, the wedding of a child, the birth of children, health issues with children and empty nest. It’s a cycle of what a woman goes through.”

The play will be Aug. 1-3 at 7 each night on the stage at St. Paul United Methodist Church, which has a backstage area, along with lighting and a sound booth. Coyote Edwards will run the lights. She is only 18 years old, but already has experience lighting at WCC, the Wohlfahrt Dinner Theatre and the Lincoln Theatre in Marion.

Edwards’ mom, Tina Edwards, plays M’Lynn, Shelby’s mother. An experienced actress, who has performed at WCC and with the Royal Oak Players in Marion, Edwards loves the process of putting a show together, from auditions to the final curtain call.

“I love acting,” she said. “I love the entire process of creating art from nothing, collaborating with other people until it becomes a work of art.”

Moore said she could not have tackled the task of directing and acting in the play without Edwards’ help.

“She not only plays M’Lynn but has worked tirelessly on this production in many aspects, and I am sure I will forget to mention all of them. She set our budget and goals and is a miracle worker in seeing it through,

Moore said. She has done all of the marketing and design of the flyers, website, business cards, and signs. She has set up the online ticket sales and advertising. She has designed the set and together we have put the set together with WCTC being responsible for providing most of what you will see on the stage.S

The entire play takes place at the beauty salon. The cast was able to transform the church stage thanks to Anthony Sykes, principal at the Wythe County Technology Center, who loaned two styling chairs and all sorts of equipment used during the school’s cosmetology courses. Teacher Danielle Skeens has served as the cosmetology consult for the play, going as far as to give Formato, Mayo and Montgomery tips on how to style hair.

Cheryl Hash at The Chopping Block salon also donated salon items.

Their generosity is only a small example of how the community is supporting the play, Moore said, adding that she has many thank-yous to include in the play’s program, also created by a volunteer, Sabrina Davidson.

“It has such a nice community feeling to it,” said Mary Thomas, director of the Wythe-Grayson Regional Library System. “The cast is doing it for the entertainment and the enjoyment of the audience, and I hope it comes through.”

“Steel Magnolias” will be presented at 7 p.m. on Aug. 1-3, at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 330 Church St. Tickets for “Steel Magnolias” are $10 for general admission and $8 for senior citizens. You can pay online with a credit card or with cash at the library and at the door. There are several ways to get a $2 discount on tickets, including coupons at the library or showing a receipt from a downtown business at the door. For information and tickets, visit online at www.playforthelibrary.com

To reach Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email mrothrock@wythenews.com.

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