New GCT director Carolyn McBurney bringing Southern classic to the stage
TORRINGTON, Wyo. — Goshen County Theatre is introducing its new director, Carolyn McBurney, as she prepares to put on “Steel Magnolias” this spring.
McBurney moved to Torrington with her husband Bruce this year, where he serves as the pastor of First Wyoming Presbyterian. She majored in theater in college and has worked in television throughout the country.
She started participating in theater at an early age.
“I grew up in a small west Texas town, so the only theater there was through school,” McBurney said. “A close family friend was the director at the high school, and I went to see him probably in sixth grade to be part of a musical. I believe it was ‘Carousel.’”
Initially, McBurney said she got into theater to act. As she got older, though, she grew more fond of directing.
“I like looking at the big picture,” she said. “When you’re focused on a part, you’re so immersed in that character and how they relate to the other characters and that sort of thing. As a director, you kind of set the tone for all of that.”
The creativity in directing comes in organization.
“You’re putting all the pieces together,” McBurney said. “I always look at the intent of the script, what the playwright was intending to do, but where there might be new insights into how to tell that story. I don’t ever just take it at face value and, God forbid, I don’t do it just like the movie was.”
When she prepares to direct a new play, McBurney dives deep into the script.
“It really helps me to do a complete analysis of the play,” she said. “Who the characters are, what words the playwright uses, what the rhythms are in the language. A good example is ‘Steel Magnolias’: it’s set in the South and that’s for a reason. That tells part of the story. Every piece of it, every angle of the words, the setting, the action of the play, the playwright puts in there for a reason.”
It is important to her that the script is represented well on the script and intention of the playwright is respected.
“That is their art and I want to respect that,” she said. “That’s sacred to me. I don’t mess with the script, the words.”
Based on her studies of the play, McBurney has an idea of what the play is about.
“It’s about how we build our support systems,” she said, “and how we accept each other or don’t for who we are.”
“Steel Magnolias” is set in a beauty salon in a small Louisiana town in the 1980s. The characters are all regulars at the salon.
“It’s the hub activity in a little town,” she said. “(All the characters) know each other so well and know the ins and outs of their families. A new character has come to town and has this mysterious aura around her, but she gets a job at the beauty shop and gets brought into the workings.”
Because the play is set in a salon, McBurney plans on teaching her actors how to style hair for the play.
“We’ve already reached out to the cosmetology department at the college,” she said. “The students are going to do the hair and makeup and I’ve asked them to do a little workshop with us early on in the rehearsal process to teach us how to do the early 80s hairstyles. They’ll be cutting hair and washing hair and doing a manicure while all the dialogue is going on. I want the actresses to get a lesson on how to do this so that it looks authentic.”
One of the additional challenges of the play is that McBurney is not yet familiar with the talent available in Goshen County.
“One day after I got here, I jumped in and helped with the summer youth program for a week,” she said. “I met some people that way and I know the youth talent. I was in the fall revue they did, so I know the talent from a musical standpoint and a little bit from the acting standpoint. I don’t know who’s going to show up to audition, but I have been amazed at the talent in this community. I hope, acting-wise, it proves to be the same as it did musically.”
GCT will hold an informational meeting at 21st and Main on “Steel Magnolias” at 9 a.m. on Jan. 5. Auditions will be at the Fine Arts Auditorium at Eastern Wyoming College on Jan. 10 and 11 at 7 p.m., with callbacks on Jan. 12 at 9 a.m.