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Review of Calendar Girls at Park Square Theatre

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Quote of the Day: from the play Calendar Girls by Tim Firth. John Clarke wrote the following words in a letter before he died of Leukemia. 

Chris: A while ago I asked John Clarke to give us a talk here at Knapely WI. Annie asked me to read it to you here tonight, and this is what he wrote: “The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth has its own beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious. Then very quickly they all go to seed.”
[laughter]
Chris: “Which makes it ironic my favourite flower isn’t even indigenous to the British Isles, let alone Yorkshire. I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life that the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.”

 

L to R: Carolyn Pool (Celia), Shanan Custer (Ruth), Linda Kelsey (Jessie), Laurel Armstrong (Cora), Charity Jones (Chris), Kory LaQuess Pullam (Liam), Christina Baldwin (Annie) Photo credit: Petronella J Ytsma

L to R: Carolyn Pool (Celia), Shanan Custer (Ruth), Linda Kelsey (Jessie), Laurel Armstrong (Cora), Charity Jones (Chris), Kory LaQuess Pullam (Liam), Christina Baldwin (Annie)
Photo credit: Petronella J Ytsma

Productions like Calendar Girls are too few and far between. Rare is the script that provides multiple rolls for women over 40 who can play characters with such emotional depth and complexity. Tim Firth has written the play that lifts up the often hilarious, sometimes tense, and always tender story of the women of Yorkshire, England who rallied around their grieving friend Annie Clarke, going way out of their comfort zones to raise money to make that waiting space in the cancer ward a little more comfortable. They hoped to raise enough money from their unconventional calendar to buy a couch. To date, they have raised more than five million dollars for UK’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Research Foundation.

I know you’re wondering, Do the ladies really pose in the nude right there on stage? Yep. They do. And, it’s done in a respectful, tasteful, and creative way, just as the original calendar was done. I believe that the success of the calendar to raise funds for cancer research and comfort, the story in movie and now stage play form, is that it is a gift of love. The women aren’t trying to be sensational. This isn’t a burlesque show, nor a trashy tabloid. What these women and their photographer did was create images in carefully constructed shots, and angles, that bring a smile to your face. The models aren’t your tiny tarts in their twenties. Rather, they’re real women, with curves and flaws, insecurities, and a sense of daring. Yet, they pose with confidence, seeming to say, You bare your soul to me. I’ll bare my breasts for you.

L to R: Ryan Colbert (Lawrence), Laurel Armstrong (Cora), Carolyn Pool (Celia), Linda Kelsey (Jessie) Photo credit: Petronella J Ytsma

L to R: Ryan Colbert (Lawrence), Laurel Armstrong (Cora), Carolyn Pool (Celia), Linda Kelsey (Jessie)
Photo credit: Petronella J Ytsma

With this production of Calendar Girls, it doesn’t even seem like they’re acting. It’s real life. They have real chemistry and caring for each other. They have to trust each other, especially in those delicate scenes. For instance, in the above scene, two of the actors hold the light reflector shields in front of their friend, while she disrobes and properly positions herself in front of the props, in this case pastries. It’s where the famous line, “We’re going to need considerably bigger buns!” comes from. They have to be there for each other physically, mentally, and emotionally. There’s danger in the scene, as the vulnerable one has to trust that her friends won’t drop the end of the blanket, open the door too soon, or move just a bit out of line, and boom, you’re overexposed.  

Calendar Girls post play discussion

Calendar Girls post play discussion

During the post-play discussion, the actors said this is a very fun show to do. Both the men and women in the production appreciate the diverse rolls for women, and the importance of the story. The Twin Cities Theater Bloggers (FB page) were specially invited to this performance, and two of our members, Becki from Compendium, and Carol for MN Theater Love, were the moderators and did a bang up job. Thanks to Connie Shaver, Marketing and PR for Park Square, for organizing the event, and Michael-jon Pease for welcoming us as a group. The Twin Cities Theater Bloggers (website) met before the show for brunch and discussion. We did a little meet and greet, pre-show, watched the performance together, and participated in the post-play discussion. Attending Calendar Girls together brought home one of the biggest benefits of live theater. It builds community. We have a shared experience. We learn empathy and compassion both from the story itself and from those who were on stage telling it. 

Twin Cities Theater Bloggers posing before seeing Calendar Girls together at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN

Twin Cities Theater Bloggers posing before seeing Calendar Girls together at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN

Calendar Girls, directed by Mary M. Finnerty and featuring many of the finest actors in the Twin Cities Theater scene, is playing at Park Square Theater in St. Paul, MN through July 24, 2016. This is a lovely play about taking care of each other, doing something brave, being real, and building community. The only thing missing? A Calendar Girls calendar for sale in the lobby. Seriously, several of us were looking for one.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What have you done to show support for a friend? How do you show love and caring to someone who is grieving? 

PS: Note to Bill McCallum (who played Rod in the play), I also believe that living the creative life is a calling. What we do is more than a paycheck, it is life giving. Go. Create. Inspire!

 

  1. Oh my. I remember seeing the move and both laughing and feeling mollified for the women involved. I can just imagine how much fun this would be on the stage.

  2. I love the flowers!
    Looks like you ladies had fun!
    Mary, I sent you a message on Facebook…

  3. I’ve seen both the movie and the play and loved them. What a great story! There needs to be more amazing roles for “older” women.

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