JANUARY 22 – FEBRUARY 29, 2020
Previews: January 22 & 23 at 7:30 PM
Opening Night: January 24 at 8:00 PM
Pay What You Can: January 29 at 7:30 PM

Wed/Thu: 7:30 PM
Fri/Sat: 8:00 PM
Sat Mat: 2:00 PM

Length: approx. 2 hours and 20 minutes including one 15-minute intermission
Age Rec: 12+

Download a PDF of this Between The Lines

P.S. Don’t forget: Subscribers get $7 off additional regularly priced single tickets to Jewell Mainstage productions!

1980s small-town Louisiana brought to life in Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias

“I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful
than a lifetime of nothing special.”
Shelby in Steel Magnolias

BOOM! Drum fires another shot into the magnolia trees giving Ouiser’s dog a nervous breakdown. Truvy’s salon is buzzing as gossip and zingers fly between baby’s breath and bouffants. Annelle is new and nervous which means things are getting a little poofy. Welcome to Chinquapin, Louisiana. Hold onto your rollers and grab your tissues for this hilariously heartwarming American classic.

“Harling has given his women sharp, funny dialogue… The play builds to a conclusion that is deeply moving.” (NY Daily News). Perhaps best known for its film adaptation starring many Hollywood favorites, playwright Richard Harling wrote Steel Magnolias to come to terms with his sister’s death. Moving between laughs and tears with the ease of a hair flip, his remembrance has touched audiences for decades.

Directed by Marianne Savell whose previous Taproot directing credits include Arsenic and Old Lace as well as several Taproot Theatre Company touring Christmas shows.

The cast includes Cas Pruitt (Tacoma Arts Live’s Sonya and Vanya and Masha and Spike) as Truvy Jones; Arika Matoba (5th Ave/ACT’s Urinetown) as Annelle Dupuy-Desoto; Marlette Buchanan (Seattle Opera’s Porgy and Bess) as Clairee Belcher; Melanie Hampton (Taproot’s Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley) as Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie; April Poland (Taproot’s Sweet Land) as M’Lynn Eatenton; and Kim Morris (Taproot’s Arsenic and Old Lace) as Ouiser Boudreaux.

The production team includes Jocelyne Fowler, costume design; Amanda Sweger, lighting design; Mark Lund, scenic and sound design; Katt Greaser, stage manager; Emily Brown, dramaturg; and Marianna de Fazio, dialect coach.

Tickets are on sale now! Learn more here →

Steel Magnolias is sponsored in part by:

ACTOR SPOTLIGHT: Actor Spotlight: The Cast of Steel Magnolias Share Hair Horror Stories

Everyone has that one terrible haircut they’ll never forget.
We asked the cast of Steel Magnolias to describe their worst hair experience.

Melanie Hampton (Shelby) – One time, when I was a kid, my dad cut my bangs. It wasn’t quite straight so he cut them a little more. They still weren’t straight. He cut even more. And then some more. I looked and the mirror and laughed … and then cried.



Arika Matoba (Annelle) – In middle school, a hairstylist told me she didn’t know what to do with my hair—it was so “weird” and thick and heavy. I flipped through pages and pages of white women in a magazine she handed me. I finally picked a style and she butchered my cut. I went home feeling so ugly, I cried for hours, and I told my mom I wished I was white.


Cas Pruitt (Truvy) – I am actually a licensed cosmetologist so my hair experiences are a little different. I don’t recall ever having anyone do something awful to my hair. However, I do remember a situation when I was going to Vidal Sassoon Cosmetology School in Santa Monica, California. I had just accomplished cutting a fabulous A-line bob, the client loved it (and she also loved the price of her discounted haircut—the perks of coming to a beauty school.) My instructor was a very unusual, eclectic teacher. It was the early 90s and “baby bangs” were a huge hit, at least they were for my very unusual, eclectic instructor. Upon completion of my awesome A-line bob, it was the instructors job to inspect the cut. Before I could say a word, she grabbed the front section of hair on the client and snipped her a fresh set of “baby bags.” I stood drop-jawed and the client’s eyes gushed with tears. No longer did she have a perfectly cut A-line bob. So sad.

Marianne Savell (Director) – I’ve always been adventurous with my hair, not afraid to take risks. One time I let my long time hairdresser do whatever they wanted with the following description: “rockstar hair.” Oooooooo, boy. Let’s just say that I was super happy when it grew out.




Next on the Jewell Mainstage: Babette’s Feast

Playing on the Jewell Mainstage March 18 – April 25, 2020
Directed by Scott Nolte

Crossing thousands of miles in search of asylum, Babette finds safety across the fjords in a tiny mountain village. But petty squabbles and personal slights render the pious villagers as frigid and unforgiving as their surroundings. In one radical act of generosity, Babette prepares a feast so lavish it awakens grace and transforms brittle hearts.

Subscribers get a $7 discount on additional single ticket purchases to Babette’s Feast.

Tickets are on sale now! Learn more here →

Babette’s Feast is sponsored in part by:


Production Spotlight: Wig master, Dennis Milam Bensie

How did you decide to become a wig master?
I was a costume design major in college. Part of that experience was having to learn to do the hair and wigs for the shows I was designing. After a while, I realized I liked doing the wigs more than designing the show. In 1995, I landed an apprenticeship at Los Angeles Opera and I have been wigging shows ever since.

What shows at Taproot Theatre have you built wigs for in the past?
I have done the wigs for Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Always… Patsy Cline, Bright Star and The Bishop’s Wife: A Live Radio Play.

What’s the most exciting hair (or hairpiece) you’ve ever built?
I have done several wigs for RuPaul’s Drag Race Winner of Season 5 Jinkx Monsoon. I did the blonde wig that she was crowned in during the finale. I helped her transition from a blond to her current orange signature color. My favorite wig, however, was one she wore for the Drag Race finale of season 8. Jinkx wanted a wig that was very tall, so I built a custom, hand-tied wig over a child’s plastic sand bucket from Fred Meyer. I spent over 60 hours hand tying hair for this giant wig and it was only on TV for 18 seconds. No regrets. It is very exciting seeing your work on TV, if only briefly.

How did you build the wigs for this show?
There are 10 wigs in this production of Steel Magnolias. (This show has been on my bucket list to wig for many years). All of the wigs are synthetic. Some are brand new and some are older wigs from Taproot’s wig stock. The trick is to style them and customize them so the actresses don’t look like they are wearing a wig at all.

Do you have a favorite?
Shelby’s hair is fun. She has three wigs: one we call “the stunt double” because the wig is rolled and styled (but not necessarily finished) onstage. This wig takes a beating. Her second wig is a perfect, finished version of her iconic long hairstyle. Shelby’s third wig is a short hairstyle that is referenced in the storyline. I started with three wigs, exactly alike, and customizing them.

Which wig was the most difficult?
The toughest wig in Steel Magnolias is for the character of M’Lynn. In her first scene, she is getting her hair washed and set in rollers on stage in Truvy’s salon. It would be very difficult to wash and set a wig on a stage as intimate at the one at Taproot. It would look fake. So we decided to use the actresses own hair for the wash and set scene. But for continuity in the show (so her hair looks perfect and beautiful every night), it is easier to wig her after the wash and set scene for the rest of the play. This actress’ real hair color is a beautiful mix of dark brown, reddish brown and grey. It was a challenge creating a wig that actually matches her hair color closely.

The Tragedy and Providence Behind the Writing of Steel Magnolias

“What is art other than taking the pieces around you and re-forming them into some vision that satisfies you and enriches others?”

– Robert Harling, Garden and Gun Magazine, 2017

Robert Harling graduated from Tulane University Law School in 1977 and moved to New York to become an actor. He struggled for several years, occasionally booking a commercial here and there, and working as a ticket seller for Broadway shows. Back home in Natchitoches, Louisiana, Robert’s sister and best friend, Susan, cheered him on.

When Susan died in 1985 due to complications related to diabetes, Harling decided to write a short story to chronicle some of who she was, how she died and all that had meant to her family and her community. It was mainly just an attempt to grieve and to help his young nephew remember her. But very quickly, during the writing process, he realized that the short story format wasn’t properly capturing the way people in his hometown of Natchitoches talked, so he switched to writing dialogue. In less than ten days he had written the majority of what would become the play Steel Magnolias.

The story takes place in a beauty shop in the fictional town of Chinquapin, Louisiana and each of the characters in the play are based on women Harling knew growing up in Natchitoches. The character Shelby is based on Robert’s sister, Susan, and M’Lynn on his mother. The story follows some of the events that transpired during Susan’s illness.

“I thought somebody would find it in a drawer when they were throwing out my stuff after I was dead,” Harling told Country Living Magazine in 2017. ” I had no illusions or delusions of grandeur.”

Harling showed his play to a friend to read, just hoping for a little feedback. She passed it along to an agent who then offered to produce it. Steel Magnolias debuted at the WPA Theatre in New York in March of 1987 and was an instant success. It transferred to the Off-Broadway Lucille Lortel Theatre where it ran for the next three years.

News spread quickly and very soon Harling had offers from Hollywood to purchase the rights for a screenplay. When acclaimed producer Ray Stark offered to film the story in Natchitoches, Harling was convinced and in 1989 the film version of Steel Magnolias debuted, featuring an all-star cast led by Sally Field as M’Lynn and Julia Roberts as Shelby. The play has gone on to become a modern American classic.

“It’s my sister’s story, I just happen to be the one who wrote it down,” Harling said.



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