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Artists of Concordia Theatre Performs ‘Steel Magnolias’

Julian Perez
Anika Slayton, Evalynn Berg, Maddison Blodgett, and Ana Scheltens rehearse for the Artists of Concordia Theatre performance of ‘Steel Magnolias.’

A 1980s Louisiana beauty parlor is the setting for Steel Magnolias, the first play of the 2023-2024 season from the Artists of Concordia Theatre. Six Southern women with bold personalities celebrate with one another through the triumphs in life, and mourn over the inevitable tragedies that life brings.

Directed by recent CUC graduate Emil Clausing, the cast includes five undergraduates and one adjunct faculty member. 

“This play showcases many strong female characters from every walk of life,” said sophomore Evalynn Berg. She plays Clairee Belcher, the widow of the former mayor and a client at the beauty parlor. “In today’s day and age, they continue to be a perfect representation of women empowering women.” 

Steel Magnolias debuted off-Broadway in 1987. Playwright Robert Harling then adapted his stage production into a screenplay, which was released as a film starring Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, and Sally Field in 1989. Roberts’ performance as Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie earned her an Academy Award nomination.

The salon owner, Truvy Jones (played by Parton in the film) hires recent beauty school graduate Annelle Dupuy. The play revolves around the story of M’Lynn Eatenton and her daughter Shelby, who is having her hair styled for her wedding later that day.

Clausing chose this play because the themes of community and womanhood still resonate today. “Not too many things have changed since the ‘80s, or if they have, it is only that the situation is bolder and more dire,” said Clausing. “In a land where loneliness, separation, and disconnect is on the rise, it becomes necessary to celebrate the real spaces where human connection can be found, like Truvy’s beauty salon in this show.”

Steel Magnolias also speaks to the universal experiences of joy and sadness, said junior Anika Slayton, who plays Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie. “The most significant life events we encounter, be it celebratory or grief-ridden will almost always have a bittersweet undertone, like Shelby’s anticipated wedding day in Steel Magnolias,” Slayton said.

Following his graduation from CUC in 2022, Clausing remained on campus with a job in Academic Technologies. Clausing participated in shows while a student at CUC, beginning with Antigone during his freshman year. 

“I owe a lot to Professor Andy Pederson, who has taken over the theater department and has brought the Artists of Concordia Theatre back up to four shows per season,” said Clausing. 

The first showings of Steel Magnolias will be in CUC’s Bergmann Theatre on Friday, Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 8, at 2 p.m.

Three more shows will be held on Friday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m, Saturday, Oct. 14, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 15, at 2 p.m. 

“This production is the work of a dozen or so of Concordia’s own artists who have taken many hours from their days to listen, discuss, and put this story onto our stage,” said Clausing. “Come and see what we made for you.”

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About the Contributors
Anna Kuschel
Anna Kuschel, Editor-in-chief
Julian Perez, Photographer