Two years ago, when Pocahontas Drama Workshop director Margaret Baker approached a new substitute teacher and asked her if she had any interest in being in a play she had no idea she had discovered a gold mine – Charlie Maghee Hughes. New to Pocahontas County, Hughes brought with her a rich background and deep love of the theater.
Not only did she end up playing the lead in that year’s Drama Workshop production of People on the Edge of Town, but she has performed in every play since, including the Opera House’s Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. Hughes has also worked tirelessly to bring theater to the children in the county. And now, she’s directing the Drama Workshop’s production of Steel Magnolias which will be performed at the Opera House Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18.
Hughes’s love of theater dates back to sixth grade.
“I moved to a new school, and the husband and wife – sixth and seventh grade teachers – were all about ‘Drama,’” she said. “I was actually a pretty shy kid up until they got ahold of me. They cast me as the spider in Charlotte’s Web and from the applause on that first night, I was bitten by the theater bug. After that, I went along through high school, college, and after, taking on any part or crew assignment I could get.”
Hughes was a creative writing major at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, but took so many theater classes as electives that she ended up accidentally minoring in theater studies.
She has her favorites among her performances.
“Definitely Natasha in Tom Stoppard’s Rough Crossing,” she said. “It’s a madcap farce based on a Moliere play, and I just had a blast creating this once glamorous, now washed-up Eastern European Actress.”
Her dream character she’s yet to play is Beatrice from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
“I love how witty her lines are, and how feisty and stubborn she is,” Hughes said.
As a director, her favorite show was You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
She said it was fun to help take the cartoon characters and make them into realistic three dimensional characters.
Hughes has a similar challenge with Steel Magnolias, because the story and characters are so familiar – thanks to the movie version.
“I’m very lucky in that all of the women in the cast understand that they aren’t there to do their best imitation of the actresses who played these characters on the screen,” Hughes explained. “I try to help the cast focus on the genuine bond these characters have. I think makes us love the movie isn’t Julia Roberts or Sally Field, or even Dolly Parton, it is the caring Truvy, Annelle, M’Lynn, Shelby, Clairee, and even Ouiser, have for one another. It’s the strength they lend one another, and the humor and tears they share that gives the story a special place in people’s hearts.”
Hughes was pleased, but not surprised, to find that Pocahontas County has such an active community theater.
“I moved around dozens of times growing up and I find rural places often have some incredibly creative and talented people,” she said, “and, unlike in the city, their attention and talents aren’t necessarily drained by their jobs or being pulled in a million other directions. What I love about Pocahontas County is how invested people are in the community, in helping neighbors and in keeping it an active, living place.”
Hughes hopes the community will turn out in droves to see her Drama Workshop debut. “It has been an absolute pleasure working with everyone involved with this show, and I’m so excited for the community to see it.”
Steel Magnolias will be presented Friday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 18, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Opera House.
Tickets cost $10 and will be available at the door.