Arts on Main creates opportunities for adults with ‘Steel Magnolias’

Arts on Main creates opportunities for adults with ‘Steel Magnolias’

It only makes sense that a production of “Steel Magnolias” would be directed by a woman, produced by a woman and break ground for new theater in the River Valley.

Robert Harling’s dramedy about life and death as seen through the lens of a small town hair salon is only the second adult production created by Arts on Main.

“We are so excited to watch this program grow,” says Coralee Young, director of Development and Community Relations for AOM and the show’s producer. “We have done multiple children’s productions, but other than ‘Steel Magnolias,’ you may have seen ‘The 39 Steps’ back in December.

“This is a great show with a certain level of title recognition, so even those who haven’t seen an AOM production might still come check it out,” she adds. “It’s also just a wonderful, timeless story with a small cast, which gives the actors the chance to really dive in and get to know each other and their characters.”

“Steel Magnolias” is directed by Sally Story, a professor of theater at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. It’s her first time with AOM, but her third time to direct the “tragicomedy.”

“What’s beautiful about the show is that it highlights intentional family: six women who find each other in their town who have fun with each other but can rely on each other,” she says. “The challenges of the production are pretty slim as long as it’s cast well. Fortunately — and this is the reward part — it’s been cast very well. I am truly thankful for this cast and crew of talented people.

“I think most of them — if not all — hail from Fort Smith Little Theatre, but in terms of casting, it didn’t matter to me. I chose the best people for the parts. You could feel the excitement in the room during auditions – lots of positive energy and support.”

Monica Longoria, an FSLT regular, plays Truvy, the owner of the hair salon and counselor to all of Chinquapin Parish. Ten years ago, she portrayed M’Lynn, the mother whose life is forever altered by the untimely death of her diabetic daughter Shelby.

“It was very hard, because there’s a heavy emotional aspect that comes with that role,” she says of playing M’Lynn. “As a mom myself, imagining losing my child was very emotionally taxing.

“Truvy is loud and goofy and big — and that’s not usually me, unless I know people very well,” says Longoria. “I wish I could be like that, be that confident. It’s a stretch, but it’s a lot of fun.”

“Truvy has big dreams and big goals, but she married young and didn’t get to do everything she wanted to do. I think the salon is the one thing she does for herself.”

Theater for adults is an expansion of mission for Arts On Main, which Young describes as “an arts education nonprofit supporting accessibility and engagement in the arts. We host free gallery exhibitions to the public year-round, as well as workshops including visual arts, pottery and ceramics, culinary arts, and performing arts for all ages. We also provide afterschool arts programming, summer arts programming, and in-school arts-integrated curriculum.”

And, adds Young, an actress herself, there is “absolutely nothing like” live theater for any age or audience.

“It’s such an effective medium to tell stories and induce empathy or inspiration in audiences, and the electricity in the room and the shared experience we all feel when leaving the theater together should be bottled,” she says. “Providing these opportunities for novices and more opportunities to engage is exactly what we’re here to do!”

“Live theater matters because as a society we gravitate towards storytelling,” adds Story. “Film isn’t live theater. Television isn’t live theater. What’s missing in those other mediums is the art form feeding off the audience’s energy and vice versa.”



‘Steel Magnolias’

WHEN — 7 p.m. July 5-6, 2 p.m. July 7, again July 12-14

WHERE — King Opera House in Van Buren

COST — $10-$25


Categories: Theater