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Theatre of Western Springs opens season with 'Steel Magnolias'

WESTERN SPRINGS – The Theatre of Western Springs is gearing up for another exciting season of quality productions, beginning with the beloved play “Steel Magnolias,” which opens Sept. 8 and runs through Sept. 18. The play, which was made into a popular film starring Julia Roberts and Sally Field in 1989, features an all-female cast that tells the story of the unshakable relationships among a group of Southern women.

“If you think you know ‘Steel Magnolias,’ come and see this because this is where it all began,” said Eddie Sugarman, the theater's executive artistic director. “The audience should expect to be entertained and inspired, and to laugh and feel uplifted. The dialogue is so darn funny and clever. This play also wrings your heart out. People should come with tissues.”

The play, which consists of just six characters, is made up entirely of volunteers, many of whom are from Western Springs and surrounding communities. Sugarman said there are a lot of women in the theater’s ensemble, so it made sense to put on a production with an all-female cast.

“It’s an amazingly quotable play with tremendous women, and how their friendship supports them all,” he explained. “Our particular production has a wonderful cast of women who are not only fantastic for the parts, but many have known each other and been friends for decades.”

La Grange resident and Lyons Township High School graduate Elyse Polickey, 31, plays the role of Shelby, which was made famous by Roberts in the movie. Polickey, who has appeared in several productions at the theater, said everyone in the audience will be able to relate to the funny and heartwarming characters.

“It’s different from the movie because the whole play takes place in the beauty shop. And because you just meet the six women, everything you learn is from their perspective, which is pretty cool,” she said.

“Steel Magnolias” was written in 11 days by Robert Harling after his sister’s death in 1985.

Director Sheila Landahl, who is working with the Theatre of Western Springs for the first time, said she has never seen the movie or the play, so she can give the audience her interpretation of the script while remaining faithful to the playwright.

“Having a female director and all-female cast is perfect because having a woman at the helm can draw out subtle moments of conflict and love in a mother-daughter relationship,” she said. “We all go through transitions in life, and this play is laughter through tears, as one character says. It’s a loving look at some beautiful souls and how they deal with life and transition.”

The 88th season at the theater offers something for everyone and features entertaining and wonderful scripts, Sugarman said.

Besides “Steel Magnolias,” the 400-seat mainstage at the theater will feature “The 39 Steps” in October, which Sugarman described as a “hilarious” tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. In January, audiences can enjoy the story of Julia Child in “To Master the Art,” followed by the thriller “Wait Until Dark” in April. The season finishes in June with Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” which Sugarman said is Simon’s funniest play. In addition, the season features two plays in its intimate, 120-seat Cattell Theatre.

“There’s such variety this season. We strive to provide balance so subscribers and audiences can have it all,” Sugarman said. “We’re very proud that we offer affordable tickets with free parking, plus high-quality shows with great variety.”


Theatre of Western Springs 2016-17 Season Schedule

• "Steel Magnolias," Sept. 8 to 18

• "The 39 Steps," Oct. 20 to 30

• "To Master the Art," Jan. 19 to 29

• "Wait Until Dark," April 20 to 30

• "Rumors," June 1 to 11

• "The Outgoing Tide," Sept. 29 to Oct. 9

• "Love, Loss & What I Wore," Feb. 9 to 19

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