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Audience members watching "Steel Magnolias" at the Majestic Theatre may feel like a fly on the wall of Truvy's Beauty Salon.

Director Leigh Matthews Bock says they will see six Louisiana women of different ages talk about friendship, family, hope, faith, new beginnings, letting go, dealing with loss, opening yourself up to love again, and figuring out who you want to be.

"These women deal with life's ups and downs with great humor and resiliency, which is in the name 'Steel Magnolias.' There's this soft beauty, but it has this great strength," Bock said.

"The thing that I love about this show," she added, "is pretty much anybody can come watch it and relate to something that's going on with at least one of the characters."

The drama-comedy, written by Robert Harling in 1987, will have seven performances over the next two weekends at the Majestic Theatre.

The play was adapted into a popular 1989 film starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis and Daryl Hannah.

Thirty-eight women auditioned for the six roles in this play. Three of the six women cast members — Natalie Doerfler, Laurie Dwire, and Billie Puyear — are performing in their first production at the Majestic Theatre, Bock said.

"You can imagine how special we all feel to be included in this (play)," said Dwire, who plays Clairee Belcher.

Dwire, who came from Napa, California, wanted to audition for personal reasons.

"I was really missing a girlfriend that I lost recently and I've made some friends since I moved to Corvallis, but I thought this would be a great way to meet other women with similar interests," she said.

The story is set in the fictional town of Chinquaupin, Louisiana during the mid to late 1980s. Truvy's Beauty Salon, owned and operated by the outspoken Truvy Jones (Puyear) is the local hotspot where a group of women — Clairee (Dwire), Quiser Boudreaux (Karen Emmons), M'Lynn Eatenon (Danita Hamel) and her daughter Shelby (Doerfler) get their hair done every Saturday.

"The shop is a place where these women, who are strong pillars of their families get to come and just be themselves, and quite literally, just let their hair down," Puyear said.

The play begins with a hectic day in the salon. It's Shelby's wedding day.

"It's a Southern wedding in the 1980s. Everything is big," Bock said.

But, she said, she purposefully toned down the big 80's hair and clothes to make them less of a focal point and to focus more attention on the play itself.

The story of that play covers four different scenes over three years in the lives of its characters.

Truvy needs another hairdresser and hires a quiet 18-year-old woman named Annelle Dupuy, played by Lauren Shaffner. She has no family, and Truvy becomes like her mother, Bock said.

Clairee is a recent widow who is trying to reinvent herself.

"Clairee's contribution is to add a little stability and certainly a lot of humor," Dwire said.

Ouiser, who says in the play, "I'm not crazy, I've just been in a bad mood for 40 years," opens herself up to the possibility of love again, Bock said.

M'Lynn's focus is on Shelby, who is getting married and going to have a baby.

Shelby is the youngest in the group, so whenever she comes into the salon, the others are very interested with what's happening in her life, Bock said.

The director and cast enjoy that the play's women characters, ages 18 to 70, are from different generations but share similar feelings about their experiences.

"I love that because I think that it allows the show to speak to a larger group of people and be relevant," Bock said.

The cast and crew have meshed well together in a play that is celebration of friendship, Bock said.

"We've had such a good time," she said.

Puyear agreed. "They're just all so warm and supportive. Just as witty as the characters they play," she said.


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