Director Describes “Steel Magnolias” as Authentic and Accessible

Bex Law, Student Reporter

Director Leah Turley predicts that audiences will enjoy the authenticity of the School of Theatre’s upcoming production, “Steel Magnolias” by Robert Harling. 

The show is about the life of M’Lynn, mother and bride-to-be, and her daughter Shelby, with the plot unfolding in their friend Truvy’s hair salon. Throughout the show, the actresses have their hair done in real time while also processing the highs and lows of life as women. 

“There are no mirrors while the actors are doing hair or getting their hair done,” Turley said, “so the audience has a secret door into what is happening on stage without constrictions. How a woman looks at herself in the mirror is now open to the audience. It’s a universal experience without barriers.”

The director went on to say these attributes will help the production reach audiences despite the show’s reputation as a “chick show.”

“All plays are about families, be it biological or created families,” Turley said. “And this show is important because it’s a pop culture icon. But it is also relevant because you see women you know in your life mirrored on the stage. It is a show that mirrors our community and centers around mother-daughter relationships.”

Turley described the show as a “practical play,” as it does not feature special effects but rather “real life experiences unfolding in real time.” 

She also expressed her pride in the cast saying, “It’s kind of a dream cast to be honest.” 

Turley went on to say that she chose to direct the show because she performed in it at Marshall in 2006. It was her first performance since her mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer, so the topic hit home for her.

“Steel Magnolias” will perform nightly at 7:30 p.m. from Feb. 15-18 and Feb. 22-25 in the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $20 at the door, $15 for seniors 60+ and employees and Marshall University students receive free admission with a valid student ID.