Actor Interview – Mary Kwiatkowski

In our production of Steel Magnolias Shelby is played by the phenomenal Mary Kwiatkouski. From day one of rehearsals Mary “became” Shelby. It was like she was made for this role. The relationships she portrays with each character feels so real. Watching her performance you are going to wish that Shelby was a member of your friend group. You do not want to miss her performance!

Shelby is a delicate role that needs to be played with sensitivity and care. This is always the case when an actor is playing a role of someone with a health issue. Mary approached this role so thoughtfully, doing a great deal of research on diabetics and diabetic seizures. She wanted to represent what Shelby goes through properly, and knowing that Shelby was based on a real person (the writer’s sister) it added an extra layer of responsibility. Mary handles this role so perfectly, with such grace and care. You will love her and she will absolutely break your heart.

Tell us a little about you!

Hi! I’m Mary, I’m a Software Developer in Richmond Virginia. When I’m not dabbling in the acting world, I enjoy running long distances and podcasting about my favorite TV shows and movies. 

What has the Steel Magnolias story meant to you?

To me, Steel Magnolias represents the unique dynamics between women of different backgrounds and generations. I love how the women in the story lean on each other but can also tease each other at the same time. 

What has been the most impact female relationship(s) in your life?

I am incredibly close with both my mom and my sister. Even at almost 30 years old, I still call my mom almost every day for advice or to just update each other on our lives. She is my biggest supporter and has made me the strong women I am. My sister Laura is my best friend. Much like the women in the show, we are very different from each other, but will put everything else aside when the other needs us.

Who is the least like their character in real life and makes the biggest transition for their role?

I’d say that Kim is probably the least like her character. It has been so fun watching her embody Ouiser and finding the irritated older women that lies deep within all of us! 

How is your character like you? How is she different?

I am similar to Shelby in that I would love to have children some day soon. Family is one of my biggest motivating factors and I know it is for her as well. I am also pretty outgoing and independent like her. On the other hand, I am more of a maroon and green gal myself, and pink is certainly not my signature color! 

What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?

The biggest challenge with playing Shelby is figuring out how to accurately, and sensitively play the struggles of a diabetic attack. That has taken a lot to get right, and I hope I do it justice!

If you could play any other character in this show, who would it be?

I would love to play Truvy or Clairee! They both have so many fun lines and get to go through a range of emotions! 

What is your favorite line?

My favorite line isn’t a line – It’s the moment that Ouiser hangs up the phone without  answering it in the middle of her rant in Act 1, Scene 1! It makes me giggle every time!

If someone was going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

I think someone like Jennifer Lawrence or Florence Pugh could do a good job embodying my quirkiness and wit. (Or maybe that is just wishful thinking haha).  

When did you first perform?

My first real performance was my 5th grade talent show where I performed a comedy Juggling Act with my Dad! 

Besides this one, what is your favorite stage show?

My favorite stage show is The Man of La Mancha! 

What do you do when you are not doing theatre?

I like to run ultra-marathons, play board games with my friends, and talk about the show Survivor!

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