Turning back the calendar

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Angel Bilagot and Ruth Brown rehearse a scene from Calendar Girls.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Two years between rehearsals is a long time.

But that’s what happened to Theatre Kent’s production of Calendar Girls that’s coming to the Kiwanis Theatre April 22 and 23.

The first version of the beloved play was set to run May 9, 2020, but then COVID-19 rolled in.

Director Melissa Bristow said production was six weeks out when the pandemic was declared.

“This is Calendar Girls 2.0,” Bristow joked when discussing the two-act play that features a cast of 13.

“We’ve been sitting on it since 2020 and while we’ve retained a lot from the first version, this is definitely a stronger show,” she said.

Eric Bristow is the show’s producer and there are 13 backstage production members.

The British play followed a movie staring Helen Mirren. It retells the true story of a group of middle-aged women who belong to a local Women’s Institute. They decide to pose nude for a calendar to raise money for cancer research.

The idea for the calendar came into being after one of the Women’s Institute members loses her husband to leukemia.

Now there’s a local twist on the theme.

Besides bringing live theatre back to Chatham-Kent, the cast of Calendar Girls decided to create their own calendar to raise money for cancer research.

Proceeds from the sales will be split evenly between the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance oncology department and the Windsor Cancer Foundation.

Cast member Ruth Brown said that posing for the calendar was emotional for everyone involved as it drove home the play’s message.

The Renaissance-inspired photos of the diverse group of cast members were tastefully shot by local photographer Angela Speller.

The experience brought the Calendar Girls message home.

“The story became more poignant for us and it makes you realize tomorrow is not promised,” Brown said. “We took our robes off so cancer patients can put their robes on.”

A portion of the money raised from the calendar has been earmarked to purchase specially made “dignity robes” for cancer patients receiving treatment.

According to Brown, shooting the calendar was a “gift,” with actors giving a more authentic performance after the experience.

Bristow concurred.

“The show is about how far an idea can take you,”

Bristow noted. “This is a better, stronger show – we’ve been galvanized by the last two years.”

A total of 400 calendars are for sale to the public. They can be purchased from cast members or at the theatre.

Calendar Girls will kick off April 22 at 7 p.m. Two performances will be held April 23, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

All tickets are $28.50 and can be purchased at the Chatham Cultural Centre box office, 75 William St, N. in Chatham during business hours or online through CKtickets.com.

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