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A poignant "Steel Magnolias" comes to Kensington

Steel MagnoliasEdye Smith and Emily Karol rehearse scene from “Steel Magnolias.”   COURTESY PHOTO  After the death of his younger sister to diabetes, American writer Robert Harling penned a short story, “Steel Magnolias,” which he later adapted into the 1987 off-Broadway hit play.

Harling also wrote the screenplay for the 1989 film version, which became a hit on the strength of the performances of its powerhouse ensemble cast which included Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Shirley Maclaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton and Daryl Hannah.

While director John Nunemaker might lack Harling’s family history, his background – a childhood spent in a rural area north of Hagerstown and getting his hair cut at a beauty salon – meshes with the play’s inherent strengths to give him a strong affinity for “Steel Magnolias,” which opens next month at Kensington Arts Theatre, where Nunemaker also serves as the theater’s artistic director.

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Doomed romance at the heart of Kensington play

Bridges of Madison County at KATElizabeth Hester and Jonathan Rizzardi star in Kensington Arts Theatre s production of “The Bridges of Madison County." COURTESY PHOTO BY ENELISON AYALASome have labeled Robert James Waller’s 1992 novel “The Bridges of Madison County” oversentimental. But it inspired a well-received film three years later in which Clint Eastwood, who also directed, demonstrated his romantic chops and for which Meryl Streep garnered yet another Oscar nomination.

Nearly 20 years later, a show by the same name opened on Broadway – with a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.

Despite numerous nominations and some awards, as well as star power – including Kelli O’Hara as the female lead and director Bartlett Sher – the musical lasted only weeks on Broadway.

Now, “The Bridges of Madison County” is coming to Kensington Arts Theatre, the first community theater in the area to present it, said the show’s director Craig Pettinati.

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