DODGE CITY, Kan. — At the Depot Theater here, a small army of volunteers was preparing to put on a show. It was the evening of Sept. 6 at one of the few dinner theaters hanging on in the country, and in a few days the curtain would rise on their production of “Steel Magnolias,” the beloved play about women’s friendships and resilience made famous by the movie starring Julia Roberts, Sally Field, and Dolly Parton.
“I love ‘Steel Magnolias.’ Have you seen the movie?” asked Gayla Rodenbur, who stars as Clairee, in the purple skirt suit she wears for the play’s opening scene. It’s always been Rodenbur’s dream to star in this play, and her adult children are planning on traveling to Kansas to see her in it. She’s thrilled that a place for the performing arts endures: “We’re kind of in a desert for that kind of stuff.”