By Greg Price
After a lengthy hiatus, Taber Players is making its return to the stage with a production of Robert Harling’s ‘Steel Magnolias’.
The play is based on actual events in Harling’s hometown of Natchitches, Louisiana. The play was originally produced at the W.P.A. Theater in New York City in 1987, and a movie quickly followed in 1989 and featured an all-star cast of Dolly Parton, Daryl Hanna, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, Sally Field and Shirley Maclaine.
But before Taber Players plans its theatre run starting on Feb. 28, 2020 at the Legion, it must first hold auditions.
“Our president of Taber Players, Jocelyn Steinborn, wanted to do something and she had this play in mind. In addition to that, her husband Ben had been talked to by the Legion and they wanted us to come back and do a show,” said Darrell Croft, who will serve as director. “It’s not the most cheerful show to start things off again (with Taber Players), but it’s a great play with some good moments in it that is very classic.”
Steel Magnolias is set up in a beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana and features a cast of six women.
All age ranges of girls/women will be asked to audition, as it features Truvy Jones (40ish), Anneslle Dupuy Desoto (late teens), Clairee Belcher (mid-60s), Shelby Eatenton (mid-20s), M’lynn Eatenton (50ish) and Ouiser Boudreaux (mid-60s).
Actors wishing to audition will be required to present a short monologue as well as selections from the play as requested by the director. Croft has some words of advice to those who are new to the process in giving community theatre a go.
“Choose a monologue that suits your personality, sex, age and racial background. It should be longer than a minute and not too much longer than three minutes,” said Croft. “It should be a piece that tells a short story and shows off different levels of your voice and emotional depth. Monologues can be found in libraries, bookstores and online. They can be words from songs, poems, even newspaper articles. The sky’s the limit, just enjoy it and make sure it paints a positive picture of you.”
Even having a song ready can help to go with some dance moves.
“Having a few dance steps available is also helpful to a director in seeing if an actor can move smoothly across the set,” said Croft. “But most importantly, have fun with your monologue and show off your positive attributes.”
With Taber Players on a hiatus, having an all-female cast increases the chances of more people coming out to audition, with the theatre company trying to regain momentum for people to come out and enjoy live theatre.
“What tends to happen is more women come out for productions and less men. Men tend to come out later, but in their 20s and 30s we don’t see as many men come out (to audition),” said Croft. “There’s a high calibre of female actors out there in the area. Jocelyn herself has been a two-time winner of the best actress award in the one-act festivals in Lethbridge, and I think has been involved in every production here. There’s a very good pool of actors here.”
A veteran thespian himself with several productions across southern Alberta, Croft hopes veterans and rookies alike come out to audition to give it a try.
“We have roles from 17 to 70. There’s opportunities, and opportunities to work with some very gifted actors,” said Croft, adding there are opportunities to help with the production behind the stage as well, apart from acting in it. “With any company in a small town, people take on multiple roles. There are people who are interested in hair and makeup and are very good at that.”
Croft admitted interest in auditioning for Taber Players’ plays and actual attendance had waned prior to the theatre company’s hiatus, but added he has seen an upswing lately in theatre in southern Alberta, with hopes Steel Magnolias will help capture some of that buzz.
“We’ve had some great followers who were always loyal to us, but it was numbers we were squeaking by with,” said Croft.
For Croft, the art of theatre is like revisiting your youth in playing make believe as an adult.
“As a director, it’s like I’m playing with dolls. When I’m on stage, I’m the doll. I get to do these things with different people. I don’t know how many times I’ve been married where my wife has met so many of my other (stage) wives,” said Croft with a chuckle. “You all make different relationships with your stage family. The people you work with, it’s this ability to go into a different world. I see kids at times backstage still looking at their devices (phones) and I think to myself ‘what are you doing?’, the magic is right here for entertainment on the stage. When kids get bitten by that theatre bug, they see it’s more fun than just staring at a device.”
Auditions for Steel Magnolias for the six female roles goes Sept. 10th, 11th and 12th from 7-9 p.m. in the White Room of the Taber Community Centre.
Steel Magnolias will be having a theatre run date of Feb. 28-29 2020 at 7:30 p.m. at the Legion. Also March 5-7 2020 at 7:30 p.m. at the Legion.