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Downtown Jefferson offers a $25 deal: Dinner, a play, then dessert
Jefferson Community Theatre members Lynn Mulvey, left, and Lindsay Starnes rehearse a scene from the group’s upcoming performance of "Steel Magnolias." Mulvey is playing Truvy, while Starnes is portraying the character Shelby from the Robert Harling play. - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

Jefferson Community Theatre

  • What: "Steel Magnolias"
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 1; 2:30 p.m. Aug. 2
  • Where: Performing arts center, Jefferson High School, Washington Street, Jefferson.
  • Tickets: Students, $7; adults, $10; dinner tickets, $25.
  • Contact: Jefferson Mainstreet office, 706-367-5714

JEFFERSON - The Jefferson Community Theatre group has turned their inaugural performance into a true community affair.

For the first production, "Steel Magnolias," which opens Friday, the group has teamed up with two local establishments to give the play a dinner theater feel.

"We didn’t have a location that was suited for an actual dinner theater, so this is the next best thing," said Beth Laughinghouse, who is helping to organize the production. "For $25, dinner ticket holders can have dinner at Fusion on the Square before the Saturday show and then coffee and red velvet cake afterwards at the Coffee Philter, also in downtown Jefferson."

True "Steel Magnolia" fans will know that the red velvet cake being offered up at the Coffee Philter is more than a dessert to enjoy after the local production, it’s also a staple of the reception scene from main character Shelby’s wedding. In the scene, the character Ouiser makes a memorable remark as she is serving up slices of the "bleeding" red velvet, armadillo-shaped groom’s cake.

Fusion on the Square is a relatively new addition to the downtown Jefferson business community.

"We are trying to do everything that we can to support our community," said Chase Butler, restaurant co-owner. "We thought it was important for use to join in and be supportive of this initiative with the Jefferson Community Theatre."

Most people are familiar with the film version of "Steel Magnolias," which is based on a novel of the same name by Robert Harling, starring Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine and Sally Field. Harling also wrote a play based on the book, which is the same text that the Jefferson group will use for their production.

The play, movie and book all center on the lives of six women and the relationships they develop in Truvy’s hair salon.

All of the scenes in the Jefferson play are set in the hair salon and feature real props like a shampoo bowls and bouffant hair dryers inside the performing arts theater at Jefferson High School on Washington Street.

"We spent a lot of time studying the text to determine what the purpose of each scene was. We didn’t want the cast to focus on imitating the characters from the movie, instead we wanted them to put themselves into their character," said artistic director Ray Ferrante. "This play is hot and cold water; it really runs the spectrum of emotions. It will have the audience laughing one moment, and then it will rip their hearts out in a really touching scene in the next moment."

Ferrante says that the group hopes to find their "niche" in the local community theater scene and that the group will be able to put on regionally inspired productions that appeal to the local audience.

"We’re shooting to have our own theater," said Ferrante. "But this first production will be the litmus test, we’re hoping to be embraced by the community."

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