Salon Talk: Hair, Identity, and “Steel Magnolias”

The free event Hair Salon (Nov. 11) celebrates and expands on the Guthrie’s latest production
"Steel Magnolias" at the Guthrie, photo by Dan Norman
Hair Salon is a free community event surrounding the Guthrie’s production of “Steel Magnolias,” whose cast includes, from left to right, Melissa Maxwell (M’Lynn), Adelin Phelps (Annelle), Austene Van (Truvy), and Nicole King (Shelby).

Dan Norman

The Guthrie has been doing post-play discussions and conversations with playwrights for a while now, but Hair Salon is a different beast. The free community event on November 11 feels more in the vein of the theater’s interactive and experiential Happenings series. (Read: You don’t have to see its production of Steel Magnolias (October 26-December 15) to go to this and vice versa.) There will be talking and “experts,” yes, but it’s more about storytelling, casual conversation between the guests and those on stage, and of course, some fun with hair. 

The evening has a full itinerary. In the lobby, guests can mingle, check out vintage hair salon chairs and hair-inspired art, and get quick ’80s hairstyles for, as director of community engagement Rebecca Noon jokes, “anyone who wants to get hairsprayed to the heavens.” Some drag numbers will kick off the show on the show’s set on the Proscenium Stage, and then the stories will come out, intermixed with onstage hair demonstrations and a kiki on intersecting identities, cultural traditions, and more. (Yeah. It’s a lot to do in one night.)

“I think with a play like Steel Magnolias, there’s something kind of fluffy about it, a little bit like candy, but actually, inside that play, is the really deep, beating heart,” Noon says. “You can talk about hair, and it can be so fun, and you can enjoy it, but it’s also talking about so many things that make us so vulnerable and so disempowered. … It’s about identity and privilege and who has access and all the ways that we bend ourselves, in ways that you don’t even realize you’re doing, into some other image [that] will help other people think of you as somehow neutral.”

For Hair Salon, the Guthrie teamed up with Curl Power and the Beauty Lounge Minneapolis, salons that both specifically focus on women with multicultural or curly hair, and the Aliveness Project, which supports those living with HIV or AIDS. As Noon explains, “The play came out and the movie came out in the ’80s in the midst of the AIDS crisis. A good friend of mine, a gay man survived, and talked to me about how Steel Magnolias was a huge metaphor for him and his community at a time when having popular cinema and stuff about gay people—and certainly about AIDS—just didn’t exist. So it really was a movie and a moment that the gay community of that moment claimed and said this is ours.” 

If you can’t attend Hair Salon (or even if you can), consider stopping by post-play discussions on November 3, 5, 10, 21, and 23 and December 7, and Drag Night, a benefit for the Aliveness Project (November 21).

Facebook Comments