Theatre 17 cast preparing to bare it all

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By Jon Thompson

Although the show is still months away, Drydenites are already marking Theatre 17’s case of life imitating art on their 2014 calendars.

The local theatre company has licensed Calendar Girls for a four-show run and just like the play’s members of the Women’s Institute in Yorkshire did in 1999, the company is fundraising for the hospital’s oncology unit by shooting a similar calendar with a tasteful touch of local skin.

When character Annie Clarke’s husband John passed away from leukemia, she wanted to raise money for a sofa in the hospital’s lounge. The product was a calendar of nude photos of women in candid environments. The plot traces the women confronting authority over their racy action, which was so popular that they were able to build an entire wing on their hospital.

While Theatre 17 has ambition for its calendar tied to the launch of the play in February, it’s more about mobilizing the Dryden Area Health Centre fundraiser around local culture.

“We wanted to make the calendar ours,” said Theatre 17 chair, Judith Hamilton. The play has prescribed scenes of each of the months but we wanted this to be a ‘Dryden’ calendar. We wanted it to be snow machines. We wanted it to be our scenery and venues and that’s what we’ve done. Local venues have been wonderful.”

The response to the cast call for the Calendar Girls play was so overwhelming that directors split the actors into two troupes, who will both perform. Sharing with the group at auditions, Hamilton said each actor had a deep personal connection to the topic.

“If you live in a small town in Northern Ontario, you live with cancer. We’re mining towns and we’re mill towns and we have a higher incidence of cancer than most places so we’re all touched by it. Some of us have had it, most of us have relatives who have had it. We’ve all been touched.”

Hamilton has counted herself among those survivors for six years and while she praised the staff of the Thunder Bay regional cancer patient lodge, she said there’s nothing like care close to home.

“They were wonderful in Tamarack House but how much better to have it in your town because you’re living with strangers if you’re not here and although close friends might come and visit, it’s not the same as being able to go back to your own bedroom and crying into your own pillow if that’s what you want to do or going out with your friends if that’s what you want to do.”

Calendar Girls will run from Feb. 19-22 and although calendars will be launched with the show, Theatre 17 hopes pre-orders will be this year’s “must-have” Christmas gifts.

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