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Linda Fortunato

Linda Fortunato


“Smile — it increases your face value”

“I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special”

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

These are just a few of the memorable lines from the beloved “Steel Magnolias.” The 1989 film has become a favorite of many and still resonates today. But even some of the movie’s biggest fans may not realize “Steel Magnolias” was a play first. The play opened in 1987 and was an immediate success, which prompted great interest from Hollywood and its quick adaptation into a film.

I am so happy that we are able to bring this play to the stage at Theatre at the Center as our first play of the 2018 season with performances Feb. 22 until March 25. We are currently hard at work in rehearsal getting the show ready to share with our audience.

The play centers on the intertwining stories of six colorful, fascinating women and the happenings in their small town in Louisiana. Our production features six incredibly talented actresses taking on these iconic roles. It has been my true pleasure to work with these funny, kind and generous actresses. Three of the actresses are returning to TATC - Heidi Kettenring (“Annie Warbucks” and “I Do, I Do”), Cory Goodrich (June Carter in “Ring of Fire” and "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”) and Landree Fleming (“Godspell” and “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”). Three of the actresses in our cast are making their TATC debuts: Jeannie Affelder, Joslyn Jones and Myesha Tiara.

Putting a play together is hard work, but it is a labor of love. Our spectacular cast makes it a dream to come to work each day. Because they are portraying a group of ladies that have known each other for years, it is important for the actresses to find an onstage chemistry and a genuine bond. Some of the cast, like the characters, have known each other and worked together for years. Others met for the first time on our first day of rehearsals. As we work through the play, we chat a lot - to get to know each other and to discover how we relate to the ladies and the situations in the play. And we also have laughed together a lot during the whirlwind of rehearsal weeks.

There are some unique aspects to this process in the weeks before the curtain rises.

Since the play takes place in a beauty salon, the detailed-filled set is brimming with all the supplies and tools found in a hair salon - including a sink with actual running water. The actresses also have to know the techniques to style hair during the play scenes. We are fortunate to have a great team helping us to keep every aspect authentic.

Both our wig designer and our wardrobe supervisor have extensive professional experience with hair and wig styling and they joined us in rehearsal to teach the actresses how to create the styles needed for the various scenes - all while still delivering dialogue and acting in those scenes. It is definitely an additional skill tricky to incorporate. It has been a delight to look back at the styles and the trends of the 1980s. The actresses have shared lot of laughs looking at the vintage 1980s magazines we use as props in the play.

In my preparation work and research of this play, it struck me how wide spread the love is for this story.

Multiple people have told me any time they see a TV airing of the movie “Steel Magnolias,” they feel compelled to watch. Any many people have shared the large number of times they’ve seen the movie or talked of the joy they’ve gotten from sharing the movie with people seeing it for the first time. This is how I feel about bringing the play to our stage at Theatre at the Center.

For those who love the film, it will be a real treat to see the play, the true stage tale where it all started. And if there are some in the audience who have never seen the film, we are given the pleasure of introducing them to a special story full of vibrant, fascinating characters.

Tickets are available by calling the Theatre at the Center box office at 219-836-3255 or visiting the website at There’s also still time to join us as a subscriber for our terrific five-play 2018 Season, which is a wonderful money-saving value.

After “Steel Magnolias,” we have “Forever Plaid” (a charming musical revue featuring great songs of the 1950s), “The Lady With All the Answers” (a warm and funny play about the one-and-only Ann Landers), Ghost the Musical (based on the 1990 hit movie starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore) and “Miracle on 34th Street the Musical” (a holiday favorite for all ages). Subscribers always get the best prices, best seats, and some extra perks, too.

Also, we hope audiences will join us for our special “March Makeover Madness” pampering and dinner theater event. Before the 7:30 performance on Thursday, March 15 we will have representatives from Spa Pointe, James & Sons Fine Jewelers and other salons and spas providing free services and giveaways in the ballroom adjoining the dining room at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts across from the theater lobby. Adding the themed dinner makes it a complete night of dining and entertainment all in one intimate space.

Linda Fortunato is Artistic Director at Theatre at the Center at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster.