Calendar Girls bare their souls and a little bit more

I'm sure the ladies of Calendar Girls -Keyano Theatre Company's newest production about to preview this evening - must be getting a tad anxious about getting in front of their first audience.  The well-known story, based on the lives of some real-life Yorkshire women, revolves around the personal impacts of cancer, the dreaded C-word that has invaded many of our lives, at one level or another.  These brave ladies decide to take matters and dignity in hand, and shuck off the mantels of negative body image and self-doubt and embrace their womanhood.

One of the actors who has taken this journey is Terri Mort, playing Annie in this Fort McMurray production of Tim Firth's play.  She last appeared in a Keyano Theatre show about 10 years ago when she played the transvestite lead in the Rocky Horror Show.

"Amazingly, I felt more comfortable doing this than doing Rocky," she said.  "For some reason, Rocky was just raunchy, sexy.  This show is dealing with a different aspect of womanhood.  I'm older, but I felt more liberated about doing this."

As part of the process of whetting the appetite of local media, a scene is performed a number of times during a media call, which happens just prior to the last technical run through of the show before playing in front of an audience.  Last night, several of us sat in the lower bowl, cameras in hand, as the ladies of Calendar Girls performed a scene that talked about (and showed) the difference between being naked and being nude.

Chris, played by Amanda Campbell, turned around - back to the audience, reached inside her shirt, unhooked her brassiere, slid it through her sleeve, tossed it on the floor, unbuttoned her shirt, took it off, and turned back around.

The assembled characters were shocked, titillated, exuberant, and newly cognizant of the difference between being naked and being nude, as Chris strategically covered herself in all the right places.

For long-time theatre stalwart and former resident Ruth Francoeur, being asked to return to Fort McMurray to perform in this show couldn't have happened at a better time.

"I just love Keyano Theatre," she said.  "Since 1995, it's been my theatre home and when I got the call to come back and do this, it just happened to work into my life at that time, because our daughter was having the baby.  So, I was going to be up here anyway."

While getting to be back on stage at Keyano was exciting, being able to play in Calendar Girls was extra special.

"It's been on my bucket list of plays to do for a very long time," said Ruth.  "I'm finally old enough to play it.  I'm not going to lie.  When I was naked on the Keyano stage at age 53, I had a couple of moments where I thought what part of your brain thought this was a good idea."

The plot of Calendar Girls revolves around the brainstorm of doing a tastefully nude slice-of-life calendar to raise money for cancer research.  Utilizing the skills of Keyano College photographer Sean McLennan and designer Charlene Haggett, the cast of the show and several cancer survivors posed, sans clothing, for an actual Calendar Girls calendar which will be sold during the run of the production.

"When I first saw it, I had a bit of a shock," said Ruth.  "The more I went back into myself and why we are doing this, and why the original calendar girls did this - it's not about me and my own insecurities, it's about the real reason for the doing the calendar and what it can mean to people.  We aren't all cookie cutter.  We're all different.  We're all beautiful in our own shapes and forms, and the calendar really illustrates that.  And it's fun, too."

The calendars are available at Keyano Box Office for $20 each, with net proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society.

"I watched a full run of the show the other night," said Misty Oakes, Marketing Coordinator for Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre.  "Oh my goodness, I laughed so hard. Then I cried, then laughed and cried some more."

"It's been a real pleasurable journey," said Terri Mort of her return to the Keyano Theatre stage.

"Although there are many comedic moments, it is very respectful, too," said Ruth Francouer, delighted to be back in Fort McMurray.  "The gravity of cancer is tangible.  It's a whole character within the play itself."

Calendar Girls is directed by Valmai Goggin.  It previews tonight and opens tomorrow with a succulent post-performance reception catered by the Sawridge Inn & Conference Centre.

Click on the names to listen to the interviews with Terri Mort and Ruth Francoeur and find out more.


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