SHELBY EATENTON-LATCHERIE – age about 25. Shelby is the “prettiest girl in town.” She is ideally blonde (can be wigged if necessary), slim, charming, ebullient, and appealing. The daughter of M’Lynn and Drum Eatenton, sister to Tommy and Jonathan, and soon to be wed to Jackson Latcherie, Shelby is free-spirited and tends to speak her mind, which often brings her into conflict with her mother. She takes her life in her hands when she decides to get pregnant despite doctors’ warnings of her fragile physical condition (she is severely diabetic). She works as a pediatric nurse in a hospital with newborn babies, including premature ones, a career path which increases her resolve to give birth to her own child. There is something ethereal, dainty, elegant and graceful about Shelby – one senses that she has always been beautiful and popular and, despite her health challenges, an easygoing and happy person. After giving birth to her child (an event that happens between Acts I and II), Shelby is elated to have a baby but, as a result, suffers more severe medical problems as well as the onset of marital problems with her challenging husband. The actress must pull off a creditable diabetic attack in Act I.
M’LYNN (Mary Lynn) EATENTON – age early 50s, though she has the look and constitution of someone a decade younger. Socially prominent in the town, married to Drum Eatenton, a successful and affluent man, M’Lynn is herself a career woman who works as a counselor at the local Mental Guidance Center. She is mother to Shelby and two sons, Tommy and Jonathan. She worries a great deal about her headstrong daughter and the two clash frequently over some of Shelby’s life choices, specifically Shelby’s choice to have a baby. M’Lynn challenges her daughter only because of a genuine and deeply-felt concern and worry for her child. M’Lynn also has some marital problems with her husband which eventually get better when they together find peace later in the play’s action. In Act II, we learn that M’Lynn and Drum have just marked their 30th wedding anniversary. M’Lynn is smart, articulate, concerned, and kind. The actress playing M’Lynn has a difficult acting challenge to pull off in Act II, Scene 2, the day of Shelby’s funeral, in a scene which requires a display of legitimate and heartfelt emotions as she suffers a wrenching breakdown over the loss of her child. It is a tall acting order.
OUISER (pronounced “Weezer”) BOUDREAUX – age late 60s to early 70s. A wealthy curmudgeon, she is acerbic but ultimately lovable. Possessed of a sharp tongue, she can be sardonic, severe, sarcastic, scathing, severe, snarky, and stinging – BUT the barbs must never totally mask that a good, kind, and caring woman exists beneath the veneer of a brittle older woman. She is dear friends with the ladies in the neighborhood, though sheand M’Lynn’s husband Drum are opposing parties in a longtime feud. Ouiser is a single lady, having been previously married to “two total deadbeats”; she is also the mother of “three ungrateful children.” In her own words, she has “more money than God.” She and Clairee are friends of many decades and, likely because of this, they tease, taunt, and torment each other relentlessly. Her closest companion is her mangy and disreputable old dog, Rhett, for years on his “last legs.” As Ouiser herself says, “I’m not crazy – I’ve just been in a bad mood for forty years.” The actress playing Ouiser needs to have a strong sense of comic timing and to not be afraid to “go there” with a strong attack on the character’s outward bile and nastiness. Also, we may explore having Ouiser smoke onstage (but we would use herbal stage cigarettes).