Spotlight on National Community Church’s Steel MagnoliasBy Laura & Mike Clark • Sep 12th, 2008 • Category: Interviews
Listen to Mike talk with Kacey McGowan about the National Community Church’s production of Steel Magnolias [MP3 7:00 6.4MB].
National Community Church
Ebenezers Coffeehouse, Washington DC
Through September 14th
Mike: This is Mike Clark with Show Biz Radio. Today I am talking with Kacey McGowan, who is directing the National Community Church’s production of Steel Magnolias being performed at Ebeneezer’s Coffee House on Capitol Hill. Thank you for talking with me today, Kacey.
Kacey: Sure. Thank you for having me, Mike.
Mike: Probably everyone knows about Steel Magnolias, but can you give us a quick summary of the plot?
Kacey: Sure. Basically the story of Steel Magnolias, in the play version, there’s a group of six Southern women. The story basically takes a look at their relationships. It is an intergenerational play between these women. The basic plot is Shelby, the youngest of the group of women, is getting married. The story explores a lot of the relationship between she and her mother. Shelby is a diabetic. The play explores her health issues and how that plays into the rest of her life, how it plays into the rest of her relationships with these other women. So throughout the story we get a portrait of the strength of relationship between these six Southern women. And the importance of the generational wisdom and input into each others lives that they have.
Mike: Did you get the performers that are in the show from the church community or are they from the broader Capitol Hill DC community?
Kacey: Right now they are actually from the church community. We did have an audition and selected the cast from within the church community this time.
Mike: I know from reading her blog that Heather Zempel is playing the role of Ouiser which I am just fascinated about. That is a role I would never have guessed.
Kacey: Right. She really really brings such life to that role and people should really check her out on stage. She has been away from the stage for awhile. As some might remember she has been working behind the scenes with me on Godspell so it is really refreshing to get her back on stage and breathe such life into that character. She does a wonderful job. She’s hilarious. She has added a lot of depth to the character of Ouiser Boudreaux. Everyone should come out and see her.
Mike: There is some adult language in Steel Magnolias. How can a church do a show like this?
Kacey: We come at that from a perspective that if we are going to accurately portray humanity in all of it’s flaws; in all of it’s good things, in all of it’s bad things, than to eliminate it from some of the rawness and some of the edge that these characters have would be to tell a story that is not real. It would make these characters one dimensional. It would make the story flat. We then lose our ability to be creative in the way that we show the progression in these characters and the way that we hopefully build some connection with these characters.
Our goal anytime we put on a piece is for someone in the audience to be able to relate to something that we are doing. For it to strike a thought or to strike a question or cause them to come into community with people where they can converse about these things. Where they can ask the tough questions. Where they can be open to talking about these things that might be brought up in our show.
With the adult language we did make a very conscious decision that it was essential to keep that in a part of this story. We do know that folks do disagree with us on that sometimes, but again to portray the human condition and human nature as flawed as it is to take that out would just be eliminating the opportunity for us to show the power of redemption and the power of our characters to grow and to change and be affected by their life experiences and their faith and those around them. We decided that it was very important to show that.
Mike: This show is what most guys would consider a chick flick. It’s kind of weepy and has some really good emotions especially at the end of the show which I don’t want to give away. What were the reactions from the audience on opening weekend?
Kacey: We were pleasantly surprised. It is very quick to dismiss a show like this and assume that it caters only to females. We, on opening night especially, we were greatly encouraged by the number of men who actually came to see the show and receive some very positive feedback from them. They were highly entertained. They laughed a lot. They were emotional. They really connected with these women. And that speaks to the particular cast that we have as well. These women have worked really really hard to create a depth of character where in the play one of the lines is ‘Laughter through tears is my favorite emotions.’ I can’t think of a cast who has better exemplified that than this particular cast. So for all audience members I think it was highly entertaining, but it also did make them stop and think about the relationships in their own lives. It made them think about how they process their experiences. We heard a lot of laughter, but then they were silent when it was appropriate to be silent. I think it was fair to say that the audience was very impressed.
Mike: So were there any challenges with this show? The show is being done at Ebeneezer’s Coffee House. That is a small facility. It is a very nice coffee house, but it is kind of a small place to be doing a theater production.
Kacey: Yes, it is. I think our biggest challenge with this piece is that the way that Ebeneezers is set up. For those who have not been there, there is no back stage. There is no curtain. Everything is visible at all times. One of our biggest challenges was getting creative about creating some off stage areas that would not take away from the already small performance space that we have. We have incorporated some on stage screens as well as some suspended curtains off to the side of the one stage to create our own off stage area.
The other challenge of course is that our set pieces being so heavy and Ebeneezers being a multi use space. Our set has to be taken on and off at the end of every performance so that we are completely striking our set in between performances. We have gotten it down to a science by now. All the cast and crew has worked very very hard making those transitions which are often times very very tight. We do the best that we can with a space that really admit to being a community space and used for multiple purposes.
It definitely was not designed to be a theater, but we caught a vision upon first entering the space of Ebeneezers that we were not going to be limited by the space. We were not going to be limited by what the space was or was not created for and we have been very pleased by what we have been able to do down there. We encourage everyone to come see it. These women have put in a lot of work. We are very proud of the work that we have done. We hope that we have done the author proud by telling his story well.
Mike: So tell me how people can get tickets to the show?
Kacey: They can go to TheaterChurch.com and click on the events tab. There are tickets that are available on line. They can also contact me directly at my email address at -snipped- to reserve tickets. And then they can show up at the door. We do still have some tickets available for this weekend’s performances. So we will be selling tickets at the door.
Mike: When are your performances this weekend?
Kacey: Friday night at 8pm, Saturday night at 8:30 and then Sunday afternoon at 1 pm.
Mike: Thank you very much for talking with me. I do appreciate it.
Kacey: Thank you very much Mike. We really appreciate the opportunity.
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Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.