Steel Magnolias is a play about love and loss, life and death, laughter and tears. But mostly it’s about friends and family. And for Valerie Mozena, Iowa City Community Theatre’s upcoming production of the play is really, really about family.
At 23, Valerie can just barely remember the early 90’s when her mother, JoDeen Mozena, and her sister, Lynnette Kreps, played mother and daughter M’Lynn and Shelby on the same stage. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t heard them since. “They’ll just quote the lines back and forth.” Valerie told me when we were chatting backstage before play practice. She kept slipping in and out of the Southern accent she’s been cultivating for her role as Annelle. “Any time pink is mentioned in my family my sister quotes ‘My colors are blush and bashful’ and my mom replies ‘Her colors are pink and pink!’”
Not all the characters in the play are related, but in the years they spend in Truvy’s beauty parlor, they come to feel like family. And Valerie says its the same for the cast. “This cast is awesome.” she singsonged in her best Southern. Most of them have acted together before and Valerie says the cast rapport was instant on the first read. “We’d have to stop, we were laughing so hard.”
When most people think of Steel Magnolias, they think of the movie, but the play has some significant differences. Most of their lives happen offstage, weddings, deaths, etc. The play is set entirely in the beauty parlor and there’s no men in the cast. But that doesn’t mean its boring. “It’s not like we’re just talking about nails and hair. We do talk about that, but there’s life and death, love and even a physical fight.” That fight
involves the two characters her mother and sister played. But when she asked them if any personal animosity came out on stage they told Valerie “It was all acting.”