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Review: Theatre Department Performs ‘Steel Magnolias’

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  • Truvy Jones’ motto and sign that hangs in the salon.

  • M’lynn Eatenton (Emily Blankenship-Tucker, professor) cries while being comforted by the ladies of the salon.

  • Shelby (TJ Baker, junior) looks at herself in the mirror as Truvy (Rebecca Crocker, professor) fixes her hair for her wedding.

  • Shelby (TJ Baker, junior) embraces Annelle (Heather Jefferson) as each of the ladies await their turn.

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“There’s no such thing as natural beauty.”

That’s motto of Truvy Jones’ beauty salon in the small town of Chinquapin, Louisiana. Jones, played by Rebecca Crocker, says that this is how she brings in business because she helps women achieve that beauty.

Steel Magnolias is about five women who know each other and come to the salon to do their hair, but really, they go there to talk about town gossip and discuss their own lives. The play opens with Annelle Dupuy, played by Heather Jefferson, who is new to town, and they are preparing the shop for Shelby Eatenton’s wedding preparations.

Shelby, played by TJ Baker a senior and theatre major, is diabetic, and complications of this eventually lead to her death before the final scene of the play.

“Shelby is ‘the prettiest girl in town’, a young woman around 25 who starts the play on the day of her wedding. She’s symbolic of keeping on through adversity and accepting what life throws at her. She cares deeply not only about people, other friends, and family, but humanity as a whole, choosing to see the best in everyone,” said Baker.

The play consisted of two acts. Essentially, the audience goes through the different stages of each woman’s life, and what they learn from the play is that having the right people around, who support and love no matter what happens in life, is important.

“This is one of life’s occurrences. Live in it and move on,” says M’lynn Eatenton, mother of Shelby, played by Emily Blankenship-Tucker.

Though the play touched on important subjects like diabetes, motherhood, and grief, there was still some humor in the sadness.

Steel Magnolias really emphasizes the saying, ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ because even when the ladies were mad at each other, they talked about it and still found a way to make the situation humorous. The ending left the audience in disbelief and yearning for more.

“There has to be something else it can’t end like this,” Thabelo Nemulodi, junior, said after the production ended.

The cast had a short amount of time to prepare for the play, but still earned standing ovation.

“We spent just three weeks preparing for the play. Our first rehearsal was a week before school started, which is a very short amount of time to put together a whole play. The set was finished the day before we opened, which is very stressful,” Baker explained.

Baker is an international student from Australia and had to channel her inner Southern woman. As an audience member, it was impossible to tell that she only had less than a month to work on her accent.

“I would have spent longer working on my research of diabetes,” she said. “I did a little bit of research at the start, in order to understand the character. But my portrayal never felt true, and I didn’t really have time to spend the hours doing the research. It’s so important, if tasked to portray a life experience you don’t know of, to understand and present that life experience as truthfully as possible. And I just didn’t have the time to do that, and it’s my only regret with this show.”

In spite of this, neither Baker’s nor the other actors’ performances suffered.

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Refentse Maselwa
I am Refentse Maselwa but everyone calls me Ree. I am from Pretoria, South Africa. I am a sophomore majoring in Accounting and minoring in Journalism. I play field hockey. 
Bob Pohlad
Bob Pohlad, Photographer
Bob Pohlad is a Faculty Emeritus of Biology and Agriculture at Ferrum College; Senior Scientist with the Smith Mountain Lake Water Quality Project; President of the Board of Directors at Phoebe Needles Camp and Conference Center; Co-President of the Ferrum Lions Club; and Vice Chair of Ferrum Forward Community Development Group. He also volunteers his time in the community and on campus, providing service and support wherever needed. He is an irrepressible shutter bug, an honorary staff member of the Iron Blade, and provides the publication with many a photo.
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