Carla Bakker, Roxzane Armstrong, Caryl Moore and Debby Allan (left to right) rehearse a scene from the Red Deer Players production of Calendar Girls.(Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Bare essentials needed for Red Deer Players’ next stage show, Calendar Girls

Actors need a special kind of courage to disrobe and step on stage

A play involving English people who strip off their clothing will be shown next month in Red Deer.

Not the unemployed-miners-turned-male-exotic dancers of The Full Monty.

Red Deer Players are presenting Calendar Girls, a comedic play that features a slyer, wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of nudity.

While the six female actors will be baring themselves on stage, their contentious bits will remain coyly hidden behind strategically-placed props such as teapots, baked goods and a piano.

The play, adapted by Tim Firth from a 2003 movie starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, is based on a true story.

In 1999, members of the Knapely Women’s Institute of Yorkshire decided to honour the memory of a husband who passed away from leukemia by raising money for a new couch for the local hospital’s family room.

Instead of creating another yawn-inducing fundraising calendar featuring scenic bridges or colourful flower arrangements, one of their feistier members, Chris Harper, lobbied for tastefully executed nude shots.

Sex sells, Harper reasons — and who could argue with that?

A calendar was eventually created featuring the regular, middle-aged and older WI members doing everyday activities, such as baking, knitting or having tea — while topless.

Red Deer Players director Lori Lane was careful in casting this production because she needed the female actors to be aware of the play’s rather extraordinary requirements.

Cast members, including Roxzane Armstrong who will play the irrepressible Chris, and Caryl Moore, as her best friend, Annie, were told no body stockings would be provided. They had to be comfortable essentially walking onto stage semi-nude, screened by various large props for their ‘photo-session’ scenes.

The actors learned this version of Calendar Girls is being dedicating to the memory of the late community theatre actor and director, Carole Forhan, who passed away last year of cancer. And for those who knew Forhan, that was enough incentive to get involved.

“Carole touched so many people… for a lot of the ladies, this was a special project. One of them said, ‘I want to do this for Carole,” recalled Lane.

A fundraiser will be held on opening night, March 3 at the Scott Block, for Red Deer Players to establish a Carole Forhan Scholarship. The usual $25 ticket price will be raised to $60 for that evening, which will include a silent auction (and patrons will receive a $25 tax receipt).

Lane said the scholarship will be given out annually to a young actor who embodies the same qualities as Forhan — of enthusiasm and passion, mixed with an exemplary work ethic.

The Canadian Cancer Society will also be selling fundraising 50-50 tickets and putting out a donation box during the play’s run to March 18.

For tickets and more information about the 7:30 p.m. shows (with a Sunday matinee), please visit www.reddeerplayers.com or Sunworks. This play is recommended for ages 13 and up (fingers crossed, Lane said, nothing offensive will be seen).

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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