"Steel Magnolias" given a solid Jerseyville High School performance

Jerseyville High School cast of "Steel Magnolias" (l to r) Madie Stotler as Clairee, Amanda Wilderman as Annelle, Sarah Siemer as Truvy, Jaelyn Hawkins as M’Lynn, Brittney Blackorby as Shelby and Kristen Maher as Ouiser (pronounced “Weezer”).

STEEL MAGNOLIAS by Robert Harding, directed by Brett Beauchamp. Jerseyville Central High School, Jerseyville, Illinois.

Theater is alive and well in Mid-America.

Many in the theatre world bemoan the fact that the legitimate theatre is experiencing a decline in attendance especially by the younger generations. Solutions have been suggested and the most visible trend is to produce concept productions of Shakespeare. Locally we have seen Marin Theatre Company's The Tempest, CalShakes' Taming of the Shrew and Oregon’s Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has a National grant to make Shakespeare more palatable to younger audiences. This has been very successful in OSF and on any day the youngsters out number the adults. Sadly, many High Schools are dropping art programs targeting drama groups. That is not the case in Mid-America, specifically in Jerseyville, Illinois.

On the most recent visit, my host said he had a surprise for me. It was a ticket for the Jerseyville High School play. It truly was a surprise to find that an active and dedicated group had undertaken two productions on the same weekend that included the drama Steel Magnolias. The other was a farce /comedy A Black Comedy on alternate nights. One might question the decision to take on the difficult Steel Magnolias that requires six strong female characters with action that takes place over three years. The cast included Sarah Siemer as Truvy, Amanda Wilderman as Annelle, Madie Stotler as Clairee, Bittney Blackorby as Shelby, Jaelyn Hawkins as M’Lynn, Kristen Maher as Ouiser (pronounced “Weezer”).

The play is a true ensemble piece where a close knit group of “Southern magnolias” demonstrate their daily fortitude with steely resolve. Director Brett Beauchamp selected the play as a dedication to those with diabetes and because of his personal an intimate family experience with the disease. When the diabetes strikes young Shelby the group forgets their petty personal differences and unites as one. The cast does a creditable job of demonstrating their true concern for each other inducing more than a few wet eyes in the audience. There is a great deal of humor written into the script that is well handled and all deserve accolades. It is unfair to single out any one actor but Kristen Maher as “Weezer” bursts on the stage as if shot out of a heavy artillery cannon giving more than a dollop of good old fashioned much needed laughter that she carries over into other scenes.

If one wonders if this theatrical experience will carry over into adult life, the answer is probable resounding yes. This observation is supported by a local newspaper item: Edwardsville [it is just down the road from Jerseyville] – “Last April a bunch of Edwardsville High School theater kids from the 1970s had a grand reunion. That gathering was the genesis for the formation of Alumni Players and their inaugural production, “We’re Still Here,” a musical comedy revue.” Thus proving that theater is alive and well in Mid-America.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com