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The arts continue to take center stage in the northwest with Oro Valley Theatre Company’s upcoming performance of the beloved play “Steel Magnolias.” This will be OVTC’s first live performance in more than a year and a half. But if you think this means they’re rusty, it’s quite the opposite — OVTC rehearsed weekly for “Steel Magnolias” over video calls for months, and returned for in-person rehearsals in September. All this rounds up to “Steel Magnolias” being one of the most anticipated, and welcome, shows OVTC has ever put on. 

“We wanted to keep our cast feeling connected, which is what the play is all about anyway,” said OVTC director Judi Rodman. “We choose shows because we try to appeal to a general audience. And we’re sensitive to the fact our demographic is a little bit older, so we pick what we think they and a general audience would like to see.” 

“Steel Magnolias” is a play by American writer Robert Harling, and follows the comedy and drama of a group of Louisiana women. As the title implies, the female characters are both delicate as flowers and strong as steel. Rodman says she selected Steel Magnolias, which was turned into a 1989 film starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, as OVTC’s return to the stage because it’s focused on people coming together, bonding and friendships, saying that it “reflects how we’ve survived, and it’s what we need right now.” 

The show will have four performances throughout early November. In addition to the central cast of six, the play will also be put on by OVTC’s props designer, costume designer, tech director, light and sound, and sets designers. 

Since opening in 2017, OVTC has hosted six shows, all of which were held at the Gaslight Music Hall, except for one at Tohono Chul. OVTC was planning to present the play “Barefoot in the Park” when COVID hit, and they plan to return it in 2022. 

“We’ve had grand success working in partnership with the Gaslight Music Hall,” Rodman said. “They have very few stage plays, so we are one of their links to the comedy and drama of traditional Broadway plays.” 

Director Judi Rodman has a long history with theatre, having previously started a theatre company more than 40 years ago in Illinois. She even met her husband during her first directorial job with the company. They still work together in theatre, as he acts in OVTC’s plays. Rodman moved to Oro Valley in 2007, but didn’t set up OVTC for a decade. 

“For the first few years, I was busy getting acclimated and meeting new people. Then it occurred to me that we live in a town that is dedicated to the arts, yet there was no theatre company,” Rodman said. “My first passion was theatre, and since there was kind of a vacant spot for theatre in Oro Valley, I actually approached town officials and colleagues, and everyone was enthusiastic about starting a theatre company here.” 

The non-profit OVTC works with a number of community members and groups, including the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Gaslight Music Hall. In addition, they are always looking for auditions for their plays, and volunteers to help set the shows up. 

“Our goal is to nourish the heart and soul of Oro Valley and Marana by bringing theatre and arts to our community, for people both on stage and off-stage,” Rodman said. “Our mission has always remained the same. We’ve never changed that mission, but we are expanding with new sponsors and board members that represent other northwest communities.” 

Rodman points to a quote by American author Robert Fulghum for her selection of “Steel Magnolias,” and for the importance of bringing theatre to the community: “And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

“It was such a tough year for everyone to get through this pandemic, and I will say as an avid entertainment buff, I’ve been to a few shows recently and the gratitude that emanates from the stage to the audience, and the mutual gratitude from audience to stage, is palpable,” said OVTC member Sasha Case. “I think when people can be together again and experience a story, song or human talent, it will be healing to the world.” 


Steel Magnolias

Oro Valley Theatre Company at the Gaslight Music Hall, 13005 N. Oracle Road #165

6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 3; 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 7; 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10



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