SUMMERSIDE — It’s a story Sandra Sheridan longed to see on stage at Harboufront Theatre but never thought would happen.
Sheridan is one of several women baring their souls and much more in the upcoming production by the Harbourfront Players of “Calendar Girls.”
The veteran amateur actor portrays lead character, Chris, who is one of the driving forces in the screenplay, that tells of a group of middle-aged women who band together to produce a calendar to raise money for leukemia research.
Although she’s played many roles over the years, Sheridan is most excited about portraying what she says is poignant and well-written character, penned by playwright Tim Firth.
“It’s more than a production, it’s a rich women’s experience,” she said. “His writing is just breathtaking. Every time we rehearse, every time we do certain scenes I cry. Every time you are not talking you are listening to someone else and the interplay. The words and the images, I have never seen a man write for women the way this man writes for women.”
Central in the stage adaptation, as was the movie, is Sheridan’s character, Chris.
She wants to purchase a sofa for the visiting lounge at the hospital where her friend, the late husband of one of the calendar girls, was treated for leukemia.
Chris comes up with the idea of printing a calendar featuring members of her Women’s Institute, all of varying backgrounds, posing nude while going about everyday activities such as gardening and baking.
“These are women who find friendship and comfort and solace and strength and beauty and power from each other,” said director Marlane O’Brien. “In this case, it also celebrates the husband, the person in the play whose death basically inspires the calendar. His point is that everything is at its most blossoming, beautiful when it’s mature.”
It was Sheridan and fellow thespian Sue Urquhart’s idea for the amateur theatre group to stage the play.
“This is the only season that the company who owns the rights to ‘Calendar Girls’ has allowed amateur groups to do it,” said O’Brien. “What’s really terrific about this show… is that a portion of the monies, the profits, will go to a fetal heart monitor at Prince County Hospital.”
Much like what the original “Calendar Girls” had done more than a decade ago.
But the play is much more about the calendar itself. It explores the friendships between the main characters, their lives, aging and death.
“We do not value age in this society the way we should and we certainly have a very skewed idea of what beauty is,” said O’Brien. “Yes, it kind of glorifies or gives these women a chance to show how beautiful they are on the outside, but that exterior reflects a beautiful interior and some of them don’t even know they have it until they progress in the play.
“They learn about themselves and who they are and that the light that shines out of their eyes makes them beautiful.”
She added, “There is tasteful posing and an illusion of nudity that is actually central to the story because we are trying to strip away all of the kind of layers of crud we have on ourselves — the I’m not beautiful enough, I have to put clothes on,” added O’Brien. “These women, one by one — some more reluctantly than others — say, you know what, this is beautiful.”
The show features a cast of 14.
There are several newcomers, including Stephanie Betts, who portrays Ruth.
Urquhart portrays Annie, whose husband’s death prompts making the calendar.
She said the script is among her favourites.
“He (Firth) has developed the characters so beautifully. He’s made full characters.”
So, what does O’Brien hope that audiences walk away with?
“I hope they would have already laughed and wept and they’ll walk away feeling renewed and filled with joy and also a little sadness because life is life and wrapped up in life is death,” said the director. “But if you can celebrate life and face death with that celebration in mind I think, then, you are living life to the fullest.”
For tickets or more information, visit harbourfronttheatre.com.
A few facts
- Runs Feb. 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16 at Summerside’s Harbourfront Theatre.
- Based on the Miramax motion picture by Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth.
- Portion of ticket sales to be donated to the Prince County Hospital Foundation to purchase of a fetal heart monitor.
- The Calendar Girls are: Sandra Sheridan as Chris, Sue Urquhart as Annie, Nancy Smythe as Cora, Catherine Ann as Jessie, Sara McCarthy as Celia and Stephanie Betts as Ruth.
- Cast also includes: Nils Ling, Steven MacDougall, Thane Clark, Shelley Tamtom, Justean Hanson, Susan Rodgers, Karen Slater, Vernon Campbell.
- Director is Marlane O’Brien