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Calendar Girls a triumph for local theatre group

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
A scene from the first act of Theatre 17’s closing night staging of Calendar Girls featuring the second cast, Feb. 22. From left are: Rachelle Dupuis, Elaine Lavoie, Audrey Nosworthy, Melany Groves, Peter Marshall, Kate Kroeker and Julija Graham. Photo by Chris Marchand

By Dryden Observer Staff

It was a week that marked a daring new high for community theatre group Theatre 17. The group celebrated a well-attended run of four performances of the feel-good comedy/drama Calendar Girls, featuring two distinct casts.

Described by patrons as a ‘rollercoaster of emotions’, the three-hour spectacle chronicled the true story of a group of Yorkshire Women’s Institute members who produced a nude calendar as a fundraiser to support their local hospital’s cancer ward.

Still on sale! Theatre 17’s fundraiser calendars can be found at a variety of local locations. All proceeds will benefit DRHC’s Oncology Unit. Cover features Karen McDonald.

Theatre 17’s production was accompanied by a calendar project of its own, featuring cast members in states of tastefully obscured nudity in characteristically Northwestern Ontario environments — from blizzards to autumn leaves and campfires. As the play itself would describe it, the fundraiser project for Dryden Regional Health Centre’s ‘celebrates the corporeal beauty of the mature human form without indecency’.

“We got the town talking,” said director Judith Hamilton in her post-show address to cast and crew. “And I think that’s an important thing to do. We made them think about the importance of continuing to support Cancer fundraising, especially in your own community.”

While the calendar has thus far raised around $10,000, sales are somewhat short of what the group had hoped. The calendar will remain on sale at a variety of retail locations like Lotto One, CKDR, The Flower Forest, Novel Ideas, Ella Lynn’s, Wilson’s Business Solutions and as well as several other unconfirmed sites.

Experienced and first-time actresses alike described the Calendar Girls production as transformative in many ways as they mustered the courage to not only appear semi-nude on stage, but to do it with confidence.

“This has been one of the top-ten moments of my entire life,” said Cast One member Theresa Lambert. “Friendships have been made that will last a lifetime. I’ve cried and I’ve laughed. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I’ve had four years with Theatre 17 but this was out of our comfort zone for sure.”

Karen McDonald graced the cover of the show’s calendar. The show marked her first time in community theatre.

“It’s been very special,” said McDonald. “I’ve made a lot of great friends and the community has been very supportive.”

Katie Venne hopes the community won’t hold her character, a makeup artist of questionable moral character involved in a lurid affair with a main character’s husband, against her after the show’s over.

“I’m not really a trollop,” she says. “I’ve heard that ladies go up to ‘Ruth’ after the show to tell her they’re so glad she didn’t go back to Eddy. But no one tells me anything. I’m a little heartbroken.”

Cast One included Ellen Bloomfield, Darlene Fuerst, Karen McDonald, Gail Arnold, Kate Cook, Theresa Lambert, Yvette Burns, Renee Fediuk, Irene Skene, Katie Venne, Peter Marshall, Murray Cook, Adam Riley, and Bruce Walchuk — and performed Feb. 19 and Feb. 21.

The second cast including Elaine Lavoie, Julija Graham, Kate Kroeker, Audrey Nosworthy, Melany Groves, Rachelle Dupuis, Melissa Ewanchuk, Patti Gallaway, Irene Skene, Katie Venne and again Peter Marshall, Murray Cook, Adam Riley and Bruce Walchuk. The second cast performed Feb. 20 and 22.

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