A group of local actors will be performing a live reading of the iconic 1987 comedy-drama “Steel Magnolias” at the Mark Twain Library on Sunday, May 21 to raise money for the library and awareness of an organization making diabetes treatment more accessible to all.

This is a unique opportunity to see a live reading of this iconic play, featuring top local stage talent. At the heart of this play, which is based on true events, is the story of a young woman, who was played by a young Julia Roberts in the 1980s movie version,  dealing with complications from Type 1 diabetes.

Redding’s Phoebe Madden plays one of the women and was the impetus behind gathering the local talent to perform this reading. The play holds special meaning for Madden, who is an actress and recurring soloist for the Rhode Island Philharmonic, as she has performed in it several times and also has a family member living with Type 1 diabetes. The reading project came about because she said, “Theater is a tool to raise compassion and awareness.”

Long-time actress and 40-year Redding resident Diana Canova will direct the performance. Canova directed many of Easton and Redding children over the course of three decades in shows at Joel Barlow High School and John Read Middle School. She is perhaps most recognizable for her role as Corinne on the 1970s sitcom Soap. She met Phoebe Madden, who runs a vocal and acting studio, several years ago when Madden’s daughter performed in some of the Redding school plays. When Madden came to her with the idea to bring “Steel Magnolias” to the community, Canova immediately thought of the Mark Twain Library.

“I suggested doing a benefit for the Mark Twain Library and that way we could reach more people,” said Canova.

Madden couldn’t agree more. “We all have a connection to the Mark Twain Library,” she said. “We chose the Mark Twain Library because it’s the cultural center and the heart of Redding.”

Mark Twain Library Director Erin Dummeyer said the library was delighted to host the reading of this quintessential play. “It is our honor to present this group of top local theater talent to our community, bringing together the opportunity to raise funds for the library while increasing awareness of Type 1 diabetes,” said Dummeyer.  “It is sure to be an evening to be remembered.”

Rounding out the actors performing in the upcoming reading are fellow actors and friends of Madden and Canova who all live and/or work in the area. Mary Jo Duffy, who is co-founder of Wiremill Academy, Performing Arts in Georgetown, will be in the show as will her daughter, Áine Duffy. Andrea Wright Barrett, who currently directs theater at Wooster School in Danbury, is one of the actors along with Ellen Cody, who taught at John Jay Middle School in Katonah, N.Y. for 30 years, and Alexandra Fortin, a former student of Madden’s.

In addition to providing them with an opportunity to support the library, through this production, the actors hope to raise awareness of the Open Insulin Foundation, which is dedicated to making insulin accessible to all. Madden said while the play increases the awareness of Type 1 diabetes overall, the Open Insulin Foundation helps the people who need it the most. “There are so many people that don’t get the help because they can’t afford insulin,” she said.

The reading takes place on Sunday, May 21 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in-person at the Mark Twain Library. As the actors wanted to support the library, there is a cost of $25/ticket to attend and all proceeds benefit the Mark Twain Library.

Register and purchase tickets online at www.marktwainlibrary.org or call 203-938-2545 for information.

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