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Village Arts brings ‘Steel Magnolias’ to local stage

By Sue Sitter - | May 8, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT The cast of “Steel Magnolias” shares some gossip at Truvy Jones’ salon. From left to right are: Diane Arnstein as Clairee Belcher, Karen Miller as Ouiser Boudeaux, Trista Busche as My’Lynn Eatenton, Annie Risovi as Annelle Dupuy-Desoto, Katelyn Duchscher as Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie and Amber Selensky as Truvy Jones.

An all-female cast invited theatergoers to step back in time to a 1980s hair salon in Natchitoches, Louisiana, for their production of “Steel Magnolias” performed at Rugby’s Village Arts Theater April 30-May 2.

The play takes place in Truvy Jones’ home-based beauty shop, circa 1985. Jones, played by Rugby High drama student Amber Selensky, has a bright red bouffant ‘do and an appetite for gossip, which all cast members except for newcomer Annelle Dupuy-Desoto readily supply.

Rugby High drama student Annie Risovi played Dupuy-Desoto. Another Rugby High student actor, Katelyn Duchscher, appeared as Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie, the focus of the cast members’ joy and sorrow.

Local actor Trista Busche played Shelby’s mother, M’Lynn Eatenton, while Karen Miller played Ouiser Boudeaux, an anxious neighbor and salon regular who finds support from her friends at Truvy’s. Clarice Belscher, former Natchitoches first lady, rounds out the cast, holding court in the salon as the queen of gossip and recipe swaps. Diane Arnstein played Belcher.

David Trottier, the lone male cast member, appeared only by voice offstage as an announcer on Natchitoches’ local radio station, KPPD.

Theatergoers enjoyed the show from seats at round tables, each set with a platter of cupcakes decorated with armadillo cutouts, a reference to cast members’ description of Shelby Eatenton’s fiance’s groom’s cake.

Director Chelsea McBeth, who introduced the play before the performance began, urged audience members to “please eat them. I baked them myself and I don’t want to take 400 cupcakes home with me.”

McBeth, who coaches high school drama students in Rugby and Towner, directed the play.

“Originally, this was going to be performed at the school as a replacement for their one-act play,” McBeth said of the ‘Steel Magnolias’ performance. “Those plans had fallen through. Then, Village Arts heard their plans had fallen through, so they said, ‘Why don’t we try to do that here?’ So, I made a couple of phone calls and brought it here.”

“Actually, some members of the cast from the high school are in this play. (Duchscher, Risovi and Selensky) are the original three who were in the high school production, so I asked if they wanted to continue with this, and they said, ‘Sure,'” McBeth added.

“I’m a stickler for sticking to the original play as much as I can, so I said, ‘We need some older people in here,’ and that’s where Trista (Busche), Dianne (Arnstein) and Karen (Miller) came in,” McBeth added.

“They’re fantastic to work with,” McBeth said. “It’s been really neat having an all-female cast.”

McBeth said of her experience as a drama coach, “I’m very used to having not just females in plays. So, it was interesting to have that (difference).”

“It’s almost like a mini-sisterhood onstage. It was awesome,” McBeth added. “They honestly flowed so nicely together and were super charismatic and they’re super energetic every time they came onstage. When they’re together, they’re awesome. They’re a fantastic group to work with. I would definitely work with this group again.”

A Towner resident, McBeth said she grew up in Canada and has always loved theater.

“I’ve been doing theater since I was six years old,” McBeth said. “This is something I’ve absolutely loved. I started with being onstage and now I’ve discovered that directing is a little more fun for me. Eventually, I’ll get back onstage but not right now. So, it’s been really fun.”

McBeth said she recently accepted a position on the Village Arts Board.

“I like how Rugby is so community-based when it comes to arts,” McBeth said. “When it comes to plays, they’re just like, ‘We’re doing it. You want a play? You’ve got it. We’re going to make it happen.’ So, that’s really been exciting for me.”

“A lot of that has to do with Bonnie. She’s terrific,” McBeth said of Bonnie Berginski, president of Village Arts.

Cast member Risovi, who stopped backstage briefly to put away her costume jewelry, agreed. “I love Bonnie,” Risovi said. “She’s awesome.”

Playwright Robert Harling based “Steel Magnolias” on the experiences of his sister, who died of Type 1 diabetes at age 33, leaving behind a husband, young son and family to mourn. Harling’s script was performed as a play before it was adapted to film in 1989.

CORRECTION: Local restaurant owner Julia Petrovich baked the cupcakes mentioned in a story about the play, “Steel Magnolias” in the May 8 edition of The Pierce County Tribune. The story incorrectly stated Chelsea McBeth, play director, baked them. The Tribune regrets the error.

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