Branch Out Productions present Calendar Girls, February 4-6, 2016.
This week is a busy week for theatre lovers. Among the three productions taking place this coming weekend, Branch Out Productions, one of the city’s leading community theatre groups, will be staging Calendar Girls, an adaptation of the popular screenplay by Tim Firth.
“This is our fifth season of doing theatre in Fredericton,” said director Ben Harrison. “When we form our seasons we like to make sure that our shows are accessible to all, avid theatre goers and people who may have never seen live theatre before. Calendar Girls fits that niche.”
The play was inspired by the real life story of a group of Yorkshire women who came together to produce a nude calendar to raise money in support of Leukemia research following the death of a loved one. The story was first produced as a film in 2003 and adapted for the stage in 2008.
In addition to staging the play, the cast of Branch Out Production’s Calendar Girls have also produced a nude calendar of their own to compliment the work and raise funds for charity.
“The play is an important reminder of the value of community, friendship and support in the face of a horrible crisis like cancer,” said Harrison. “We also strive to support our community so there was a great opportunity to do a calendar of our own to fundraise for the Canadian Cancer Society.”
When the audition call went out, Harrison was overwhelmed by the response he received.
“When we sent out the audition call I never guessed we would have the response we did,” he said. “I expected it to be popular, but this is a small cast show with some interesting requirements for the female cast members. In the end, we had over 54 women audition for eight speaking roles and could have easily cast the show five times over.”
Fredericton actor Norah Profit Grey answered the audition call and was awarded the role of Ruth Reynoldson.
“We were just finishing up A Christmas Story with Branch Out Productions when the director announced that Calendar Girls auditions would be coming up,” said Grey. “I loved the movie and felt strongly moved to try out for a play with so much emotion and warmth.”
In some ways, Grey’s real-life experiences mirror those of her character, which proved to be part of her motivation for pursuing the role.
“Like most people, sadly, I have lost someone close to me to cancer,” she said, “so that aspect of the show hits close to home. As I have aged, I have come to realize the importance, especially for women, of having close relationships with good quality people that will be there for you no matter what. During good times and more importantly, when the chips are down. That is what I take away from this story. I’ve been down the path that my character Ruth is on, and I hope to be able to give life to this role.”
“Vulnerability is such a beautiful thing,” said Harrison. “When people allow themselves to step outside of their comfort zone there is a beautiful glimpse into reality that happens. Artistically, it breathes a new life into our work and allows our audiences to connect with a character on a deeper level and get lost in the story we’re telling. From a personal perspective we knock down the barriers and walls we create for ourselves. We tell ourselves so many lies about what we can or should do and it really only takes one step to dispel those lies, find freedom and a renewed self worth.”
This week, Branch Out Productions invites members the community to step outside their comfort zones and enjoy an evening of theatre steeped in themes of community and support for one another. We could all learn something from the Calendar Girls story.
Calendar Girls | February 4 – 6, 2016 | Tom Morrison Theatre | 7:30 p.m. | Buy Tickets | More info
Presented as part of FROSTival 2016