Ballarat National Theatre

2021 12 steel magnolias square

About the Play

Steel Magnolias is a stage play by American writer Robert Harling, based on his experience with his sister's death. The critically acclaimed play is a comedy-drama about the bond among a group of southern women in northwest Louisiana.

The action is set in Truvy's beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana, where all the ladies who are "anybody" come to have their hair done.

Helped by her eager new assistant, Annelle (who is not sure whether or not she is still married), the outspoken, wise-cracking Truvy dispenses shampoos and free advice to the town's rich curmudgeon, Ouiser, ("I'm not crazy, I've just been in a bad mood for forty years"); an eccentric millionaire, Miss Clairee, who has a raging sweet tooth; and the local social leader, M'Lynn, whose daughter, Shelby (the prettiest girl in town), is about to marry a "good ole boy."

About the Director

2021 12 steel magnolias directorDr Mary-Rose McLaren is an associate professor in Education with the College of Arts & Education, Victoria University. Mary-Rose has been involved in many productions in Ballarat. Her favourite memories with Ballarat National Theatre include:

  • writing and directing “One Boys War” which was performed to sell-out crowds in 2013, which was about her Grandfather.
  • Co-writing and directing Honourable Mentions with Peter Nethercote. Honourable Mentions was a special tribute to the Royal South Street Society's 125 year history (2016)
  • Directing Daisy Pulls It Off and A Christmas Carol
  • Acting in Little Women and The Best Man (2016), Much Ado About Shakespeare and Falling From Grace (2017), and getting to be Mark Antony in Act Like a Girl.


Why this play?

As a classic piece of American theatre it has a strong female ensemble cast covering a range of ages. It provides an almost voyeuristic view into the lives of a small group of women and invites the audience into their world.

This play was last produced by BNT in 1994, and in fact my mother was a cast member. I thought it was time for another airing.

Although this play is American and now more than 30 years old, it still speaks to family, relationships, sacrifice, friendship and loss. It depicts women in strong, independent roles and does not shy away from the conflicting and competing roles that all adults must navigate.

Of particular interest to a 21st century audience is the depiction of who controls our bodies, and the degree to which we do (and do not) depend upon medical professionals and the advice they give.


Ticket link to be released soon.

Show dates:

  • 4 December Saturday at 8.00pm Gala Night
  • 5 December Sunday at 2.00pm Matinee
  • 8 to 10 December Wednesday to Friday at 8.00pm
  • 11 December Saturday at 2.00pm Matinee


Excited to join the crew and help bring this show to life? Apply online here.