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'Steel Magnolias' prepares for the stage

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Kay Thompson,right, works on her lines as she portrays "Ouiser" during rehearsal at the Wilson County Civic League for the upcoming production of Steel Magnolias. Janice Williamson (Clairee) is seen in the foreground while Samantha Brannoch (Shelby) and Denise Turner,standing, (Truvy) are seen behind. The story that chronicles the lives of six women in Louisiana was written by Robert Harling in 1987. The play hit the big screen in 1989 in a film directed by Herbert Ross with a cast that included Dolly Parton, Sally Field and Julia Roberts.
Director Mitchell Vantrease

Mitchell Vantrease, the man behind the Civic League's 2015 and 2016 highly-praised productions of "Soul of Broadway" and "A Raisin in the Sun," respectively, is gearing up for a diverse spin on a classic southern story this June.

Vantrease, along with Brady Quisberg, have launched the Centerstage Theatre Company - which he believes is the first theatre company based in Lebanon and Watertown since 2001. Their first production will be "Steel Magnolias" in June.

Vantrease met Quisberg, also a native of Wilson County, in Phoenix, Arizona - where he relocated after college. Vantrease lived in Arizona for 13 years before moving back to Wilson County. He was eager to become involved in the Civic League Organization, where his parents have served on the Board of Directors.

He is even more thrilled about the latest venture.

"This theatre company is about the community. This show is the perfect fit," he said.

Vantrease explained that long before it was a movie made iconic by the faces of famed actresses Sally Field and Julia Roberts, "Steel Magnolias" was a play. Open auditions for his play were held in Lebanon and called for more diversity than the Caucasian women who made it on the big screen.

"We want to make it diverse and make it our own. We have African American and white cast members," he said. "It is about community."

Vantrease added that he instructed the cast to not even watch the film. "All I want them to do is find the truth in their characters. We have a top-notch group."

The show will run on weekends from June 17-26. Friday and Saturday shows will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sunday shows will be at 2 p.m. Shows will be in the Wilson County Civic League building on Market Street in Lebanon.

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at sgarrett@wilsonpost.com.

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