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Cane River Theatre Company sets the stage for community theatre in Natchitoches

“Oops! I see a hole!”: Shalynn Zachary (Annelle) styles Tracee Leblanc’s (Truvy) hair during a rehearsal.
Lara Schales
“Oops! I see a hole!”: Shalynn Zachary (Annelle) styles Tracee Leblanc’s (Truvy) hair during a rehearsal.

Northwestern State University of Louisiana has been known for producing working theatre performers and technicians throughout the Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts’ illustrious history. Shakespeare once said “All the world’s a stage,” and now Dallas McCann, a freshman Bossier Parish Community College NSU student, has taken the Bard’s advice to heart.

McCann founded Cane River Theatre Company as an outlet for NSU, Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts (LSMSA) and the wider Natchitoches community to express themselves and to step into the spotlight. Given that the CRTC has its roots in Natchitoches and one of the things that Natchitoches is known for is the movie “Steel Magnolias,” it was only natural that McCann would choose the play for CRTC’s first public outing.

Although Steel Magnolias is the first production that McCann has directed in Natchitoches, it certainly isn’t his first as a director. His previous directing credits include “Gift of the Magi” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

With the understanding that mounting a production of “Steel Magnolias” in its birthplace is no easy task, McCann set out to cast six women with fabulous comedic timing and the ability to convey the story with the southern charm and the care that it deserves.

Although the women involved in the production are making their Natchitoches debuts with this production, many of them are no stranger to the stage.

Amanda Willis, who plays the determined and slightly stubborn Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (made famous by Julia Roberts), shared that during the rehearsal process she greatly enjoyed working with her fellow castmates.

“This group of ladies are absolutely phenomenal and the sweetest group I’ve met in a while. I feel so welcomed by them and rehearsals are easy because we’re all aiming for the same goal and intend to do so with as many laughs along the way as possible,” Willis said.

Willis has enjoyed taking on the role of Shelby. She feels that in a way, she is bringing Susan Harling’s (the playwright’s sister and the real person that Shelby is based on) story to life.

She also said that she has been extremely passionate about theatre from a young age.

“I’ve been in theater since I was in 4th or 5th grade. I had a few years where I wasn’t on stage around college because I was traveling with the Centenary College Choir. But as soon as I got settled after teaching a year abroad (and the pandemic), I was hungry to perform again,” Willis said.

She said that having a new community theatre company in Natchitoches was a long time coming, and that she feels honored to help make it happen.

Tracee Leblanc, a real-life hairstylist and Dolly Parton fan, has said that she feels honored to take on the role of Truvy Jones, the sassy and vivacious owner of Truvy’s Beauty Salon.

Leblanc is no stranger to bringing an iconic woman like Dolly Parton to life and jumped at the chance to do “Steel Magnolias.” As a matter of fact, she made her performance debut as Dolly Parton at an end-of-summer function at her first job.

“My first job was at Security First National Bank in Alexandria. At the end of summer we would have a celebration called Ritz of Summer. I was Dolly Parton and performed 9 to 5,” Leblanc said.

Leblanc also said that her favorite line in the show is “the poor man doesn’t know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt,” which she will have the pleasure of delivering.

Lisa Greer, who plays Shelby’s mother M’Lynn, is no stranger to performing with having done things from beauty pageants to community theatre.

She said that audiences will be surprised when they see this production of “Steel Magnolias.”

“The public I believe is going to get a big surprise at how well this production is presented and my hope for future productions is that they’ll want to be seen, coming from an up-and-coming Cane River Community theater group,” Greer said.

Although producing “Steel Magnolias” in its birthplace is no easy task, McCann and his cast are up for the challenge and are ready to tell the story of these resilient Southern women who have become synonymous with Natchitoches.

“Steel Magnolias” will be presented by Cane River Theatre Company from Nov. 3-4, 2023 and Nov. 10-11, 2023 at the Big Blue Barn at the Natchitoches Parish Fairgrounds. All shows will be at 7:30 p.m. The production is directed by Dallas McCann and features Amanda Willis (Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie), Lisa Greer (M’Lynn Eatenton), Celidora “Sissy” Peltier (Clairee Belcher), Nicole Strait (Ouiser Boudreaux), Tracee Leblanc (Truvy Jones) and Shalynn Zachary (Annelle Dupuy-Desoto).

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Mary Fletcher
Mary Fletcher, Current Sauce - Contributing Writer

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