Jun 13, 2019
Heritage Theatre Festival

Beloved Tale of Friendship, Humor, and Heartache  to be Directed by Claire Karpen

Opening July 26 at the Ruth Caplin Theatre

 CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – June 12, 2019 – Heritage Theatre Festival is celebrating the 30th anniversary of one of America’s most beloved movies by producing the play that started it all – Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias.

This funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking tale about the bonds of friendship, directed by Claire Karpen, will open on July 26 at the Culbreth Theatre.

Steel Magnolias takes audiences inside Truvy’s beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana, where the dynamic proprietor dispenses shampoos, scathing wisecracks, and free advice to a group of strong, sharp-witted, and hilarious women. When tragedy enters the picture, the women offer powerful and universal lessons in sacrifice, love, and the importance of friendship.

The cast for Heritage Theatre Festival’s production of Steel Magnolias will include Jessica Rosseland Dean as Truvy; Lauren Elens as Annelle; Jacqueline Jones as Clairee; Emma Pfitzer Price as Shelby; Kate Forbes as M’Lynn; and Kate Monaghan as Ouiser. Additional creative team members include David P. Gordon (Scenic Designer); Grier Coleman (Costume Designer); Lauren Duffie (Lighting Designer); Michael Rasbury (Composer and Sound Designer); Tovah Close (Vocal Coach) and Emily McGregor (Production Stage Manager).

Claire Karpen, a Juilliard graduate, is an actor, director, and teacher based in New York City who has worked both On/Off Broadway, regionally, and internationally. Her credits include Into the Woods in London, and Sylvia on Broadway. Off-Broadway credits include Into the Woods (Roundabout/Fiasco); The Heir Apparent (Classic Stage Company); Jack (59E59); At the Table (HERE Arts/Fault Line). Regional credits include Birthday Candles by Noah Haidle (DPT); Into the Woods (Old Globe, McCarter); Bedroom Farce (Westport Country Playhouse); Don’t Talk to the Actors (Penguin Rep); Richard III, Much Ado, Tempest, Comedy of Errors (Trinity Rep); The 60’s Project (Goodspeed); and The Last Five Years (Stamford Center for the Arts). Her directing credits include The Woodsman by James Ortiz (New World Stages, 59E59, BlueBarn); Bernie and Mikey’s Trip to the Moon (Strangemen, 59E59) by Scott Aiello; A Soldier’s Tale (Chautauqua Theatre and MSO); Henry IV: Part I, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, A Little Night Music, Trelawney of the Wells, Actor Presentations for Group 43-48 (Juilliard).

Karpen said she was drawn to the project by its focus on friendship, particularly its focus on female friendships. “The play really highlights the importance of having friends in your community who can help you through good and bad times. I was moved by an interview I read with the playwright in which he said his sister was the impetus behind writing it. His sister, who died of complications from diabetes, was the inspiration for the character of Shelby. And then he wrote this beautiful thing about watching the men and the women in his life go through the grieving process. The men were in the living room not knowing what to do, and the women were in the kitchen laughing and crying and remembering things and supporting each other. He really wanted to get at that.”

The result, Karpen said, is a story that really gets at the heart of the bonds of friendship between women. “It really captures female friendships across generations. It is fun and funny, and it portrays this group of women who are real and strong and specific, and who are truly there for each other. At the same time, it talks about women and daughters, about the inherent conflict between a mother trying to protect her daughter, and a daughter who is trying to live her own life.”

The play’s unique sense of place is also paramount to its power, Karpen said. “This play is set in a beauty salon for a very specific reason. It’s a place where women can just be women together. There is privacy, and there is camaraderie. And in many cases, there is a real sense of relationship with your hair person. There is something about that space where you are that close to somebody and you are taking care of people or being taken care of that allows you to be open and honest about what is going on in your life.”

Her hope for the production, Karpen said, is that people will laugh, and cry, and perhaps take new stock in the important relationships in their own lives. “I hope that, because of the journey the play takes you on, that it makes people value their friends and their communities. There is a lot to relate to here, including the mother-daughter experience. In the end, I hope people come in and laugh, because it is very funny, and then that it might inspire them to reach out to an old friend, or to make sure they have quality time with the ones they love.”

The 2019 Heritage Theatre Festival season will kick off with the rock and roll musical Million Dollar Quartet (June 28-July7, Culbreth Theatre). The season will also feature Kate Hamill’s rousing reimagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (July 12-July 21); and The Niceties (August 2-11, Ruth Caplin Theatre), a powerful drama about race, power, and privilege.

Season subscriptions for Heritage Theatre Festival are currently available online at www.heritagetheatrefestival.org; Single tickets are now on sale, and will be available, along with season subscriptions, online, by phone at 434-924-3376, or in person at the UVA Arts Box Office in the lobby of the UVA Drama Building on Culbreth Road.

For more information on the upcoming 2019 Heritage Theatre Festival season and how you can support Heritage’s efforts, visit www.heritagetheatrefestival.org.

CONTACT: John Kelly
John Kelly PR