The film that won Julia Roberts her first Golden Globe is hitting the stage this week at the Ayr Community Theatre (ACT).
Steel Magnolias, the ACT’s second production since opening in August 2021, kicks off May 26th and will run until May 29th. The Saturday matinee has already sold out, and tickets are running low for the Friday night show.
“The movie was actually based on the play. So the play came first, and the playwright, Robert Harling, based the story on his sister's life, so it is a true story,” said Vice President and director of the play, Michele Di Tomasso.
“His sister in the 80s was a brittle diabetic. She was a nurse, and her dream was to have children. It's definitely a dramedy: you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll go home happy. But there's an element of truth in it,” she said.
Set in a Louisiana hair salon, Steel Magnolias tells the story of the bond between six women "who are as delicate as magnolias, but tough as steel."
“One of the most beautiful parts of the play is its female friendship, and how women come together, regardless of their age or background,” she said.
Their open casting call brought in two actors from Ayr and several from nearby areas. Di Tomasso said Adele Roberts, who is playing Shelby Eatenton (Julia Roberts’ character in the film), brought them to tears during her audition.
“It was so beautiful. So the audience is in for a treat. We are so fortunate to have [this calibre of] award-winning actors.”
They are selling 100 tickets per show, meaning that the show will bring 500 people through downtown Ayr.
In anticipation of that, they’ve partnered with three businesses to offer ticket-holders discounts: Tipsy Scarf Boutique, Caught My Eye Thrift, and Riverbank Interiors.
One of the goals is to encourage people “who may have never been to Ayr before… [to come] into our little village.”
As the first theatre to open in Ayr, the success of their sold-out debut production in the fall foreshadowed a promising future for the ACT.
“Ayr is a huge sports town, which is great, we're really proud of that. However, there was nothing for the performing arts here, there was no theatre,” said Vice President and director Michele Di Tomasso.
“So the response from the community has been awesome. It's like we've been waiting for this for such a long time. And what we also love about it is the volunteers who have come out; people coming out of the woodwork to say, ‘we want to help.' It's just really heartwarming.”
For their first show, they didn’t have a set -- just curtains on stage. This time, though, Di Tomasso says they have a “beautiful set.”
“We’re very proud of it,” she said.
As a new theatre, Di Tomasso says they’ve relied on the support of other theatres in the region, especially that of Kitchener-Waterloo Musical Productions.
“It's really been so lovely to have groups come together and support each other. They've loaned us set pieces, they've helped us with our set build,” she said.
Di Tomasso also notes that they will be sending out a casting call for a creative team soon, in preparation for their Christmas production in November.
The ACT is located upstairs in the Ayr Community Centre.
You can find more information and purchase tickets here.