MHT's 'Steel Magnolias' production to debut Thursday

During a rehearsal of Market House Theatre’s production of “Steel Magnolias,” Shelby, played by Emily Yocum Black (right), tells her mother M’lynn, portrayed by Kim Yocum, how happy she is in spite of the risks. The play will debut Thursday.

Market House Theatre’s latest production is a staging of “Steel Magnolias,” Robert Harling’s iconic play that follows a group of small town women supporting each other through a time of change.

This revival of a modern classic is, director Kathy Pingel said, an attempt to bring some comfort food to the theatergoers of west Kentucky, “a down-to-earth play that now people have enjoyed watching for decades.”

Mother-daughter duo Kim Yocum and Emily Yocum Black will take the roles of M’Lynn and Shelby, the mother and daughter at the center of the narrative. The play takes place in a salon run by Truvy, played by Audra Turner. Trenisha Jones will portray Truvy’s assistant Anelle. Clairee and Ouiser will be played by Victoria Kitchen and April Cochran.

The production debuts Thursday at the theater and will run through April 25. Tickets are available through the box office, which can be reached at 270-444-6828, or via www.markethousetheatre.org. Streaming the production for home viewing also will be possible, and details about that are expected to be announced via the website in the coming days.

“I have watched several versions of ‘Steel Magnolias’ but never directed it before,” Pingel said. “I’m always interested in the dynamics of all women, because the rules change when it’s all women or all men. The Steel Magnolias are often women in need but they are never needy women.”

Yocum and Black are no stranger to taking their real-life relationship to the stage. They’ve been acting together at Market House for over 20 years.

“It’s wonderful, the ability to spend time with one another in this way is really precious,” Black said. “Of course we have really good chemistry because we really do take on that relationship. We put in what we have as a relationship together, and then we build on that for the different characters that we play.”

Pingel has tried, with this adaptation of the play, to bring something new to its production. Particularly by stressing different aspects of the dialogue, stripping them of their comic energy to bring something deeper to the play.

“I think we’ve found a few moments like that in the show that maybe hadn’t been explored. Every decade brings something new to the play. We have to bring our sensibilities to it,” the director said. “The beauty parlor and this enclosed setting has allowed these women to be as real and as genuine with one another as any set of women has been regardless of decade.”

The cast, Pingel said, is going to be “electric” on stage together because of how well they share it.

“Any one of these women who are playing the six roles could dominate the stage. There’s great sense of comic timing, the ability to engage in a dramatic scene and draw the audience in, there’s vocal and physical presence. Any one of them could steal the show and yet their generosity in terms of working with one another creates an even stronger ensemble.”

This energy onstage, Yocum hopes, will bring a measure of inspiration to the audience.

“I hope that the audience comes away with the realization that women aren’t just something to be looked at. They have inner emotions and strength that is just beyond anything,” she said. “I would hope people will be inspired, especially with all that we’ve been through with the pandemic. Towards the end, it talks about how life goes on and I think people need to hear that right now.

“They need to know that even with everything we’ve gone through, life is still there to be had.”

On a similar note, the actor is just happy to be back onstage after the events of the past year.

“To be doing theater again, when I was wondering if that was ever going to happen, I think is going to be really emotional,” Yocum said. “I’m so thankful that we have this opportunity. It’s just a wonderful gift.”

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