Corbin H. Crable
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Gardner Community Theatre plans to take tragedy and turn it into a reason to smile again when it presents “Steel Magnolias” this weekend.
Playwright Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias” tells the story of how the patrons of a beauty salon band together when the health of one of their own is threatened. Faced with their own mortality, the women use humor and wisdom to help one another through a difficult time. In addition to the stage play version of the tale, audiences may be familiar with the 1989 film starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton and Shirley MacLaine.
Director Sandy Miller described producing the play as an act of catharsis for a community that has experienced its share of tragedy in the past year.
“Because Gardner’s had some tragedy in our town recently, it’s been cathartic in a way,” Miller said. “We are dedicating this production to Andrew (Hurd), Kade (Meyer), Hannah (Apperson) and Nathaniel (Stiles).”
All four area students died last fall – Andrew, Kade and Hannah in traffic accidents, and Nathaniel from a previous injury after collapsing during a football game.
In addition, Miller said, all proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to organizations promoting awareness of breast cancer and juvenile diabetes.
GCT will present the play at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12 and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13 at Pioneer Ridge Middle School. Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased at Price Chopper or at the door before each performance.
Miller said GCT officers decided to reschedule the production, which had been slated for last weekend but was delayed due to inclement weather.
“We made the decision when we found out there was no school that Thursday,” Miller said. “And we want to give everyone a quality show.
“I hated to cancel the show, but we’re going to come back strong,” she added. “And the school district has been gracious enough to let us use one of their facilities.”
Miller said audiences will note several differences between the film and stage productions – most notably, the setting of the story.
“(Our play) all takes place in the beauty shop, which didn’t happen in the film,” she said. “And the play is different from the movie because it shows us how the women all interact with one another and how their lives intertwine.
It’s a way to see how the community comes together, how art and life are alike.”
Miller said she’s already heard excitement surrounding this weekend’s performances, so she hopes attendance will be strong.
“The people involved in this show are very excited,” Miller said. “I’ve heard some good buzz about it.”
Miller said one of the most enjoyable aspects of the production will be not only the acting, but the characters themselves – as well as their ability to stir a range of emotions in audience members.
“It’s just funny. These women are phenomenal,” she said. “They will have you rolling in the aisles one moment, and then they’ll have you crying the next.
But once you’re crying, they’ll have you laughing again.”
For more information about “Steel Magnolias” and other GCT productions, visit the group’s Web site at www.gardnercommunitytheatre.org.