Story & photos by Gretchen Ammerman
For the TODAY
Let’s just get it right out of the way — the latest production from Theatre West, “Calendar Girls,” deals with nudity. Though it’s much more implied than explicit, the fact that the play contains disrobing was fairly well publicized by the 2003 movie by Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth, which spawned the stage adaptation.
The story follows the true tale of a group of British women of a “certain age” who create a nude(ish) calendar as a fundraiser for the Leukemia Foundation.
Though much of the play’s tension stems from the characters trying to find the courage for the project, director Stina Seeger-Gibson had no such challenge with her talented cast.
“I approached it as choreography,’” she said. “I told the women I would do my best to protect them, but they were fearless. These women have bonded beautifully and support each other completely.”
The play has a large cast for a small theater company, and includes six people new to the troupe.
“It was sheer luck that we were able to fill the whole cast and that they would all be so good,” Seeger-Gibson said. “It could have been because of the play; a lot of people were piqued by it.”
Alice Luchau, one of the new members of Theatre West, turns in an impressive performance as Annie, who loses her husband, played by Wes Ryan, to leukemia. To channel her grief, Annie decides to create the risqué calendar and, together with her friend Chris, played by Tamara Merry, sets about getting the rest of her Women’s Institute group on board.
“I’ve been acting since middle school,” Luchau said. “This one of the best experiences I’ve had and I’ve done about 40 plays. It’s amazing to come to a small theater and find such commitment. I’m floored and honored to be a part of this. The whole cast is wonderful and Stina is amazing.”
Luchau drew from a recent loss for the serious parts of the role, but says she’s not alone in that experience.
“I lost my partner about a year and a half ago to a heart attack and it turned my life upside down,” she said. “Then I helped a friend through the loss of her husband to brain cancer. But we all have life experiences that we can draw from.”
Other cast members touched by loss include Merry, who lost her brother to cancer, and Seeger-Gibson, whose husband died only last year.
“I chose the play partially because of Dennis,” she said. “I saw it about two weeks after he died and it was so hard, but also cathartic. The production I saw was pretty good, but I think we have better actresses, and the chemistry of the whole cast is great.”
The rest of the great cast are Cory Town as Lawrence, Diana Pasztor as Lady Cravenshire, Ida Liise Putansu as Ruth, Jenelle Glenn as both Brenda and Elaine, Julie Bradley as Celia, Larry Stevens as Rod, Michelle Gaylor as Cora, Patti Siberz as Jessie, Bonnie Ross as Marie and Paul McNalley as Liam.
The cast has plenty of elbow room, as this and the next production are being performed at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, instead of on the Jack Coyne Stage in Taft.
“I’m thrilled to be working with the cultural center,” Seeger-Gibson said. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from them.”
The larger venue will also enable a partnership with a few non-profits, who will have information tables at the performances and will be taking donations.
“We will have representatives from Relay for Life and My Sisters’ Place here,” Seeger-Gibson said. “The subject matter of the play, as well as the fact that October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month make this a great partnership.”
Though the subject matter is serious, the play is still a comedy. The cast turn in very funny performances and do well delivering the British toned humor while making the probably wise decision to not attempt English accents.
And as for the naked truth about the play, Seeger-Gibson called up a quote from the playwright, Tim Firth, to say it best:
“As in the best traditions of vaudevillian fan dances, the art of the play’s nudity lies in what is withheld. The choreography of this sequence is best described as ‘fabulous concealment.’ Should we see anything we oughtn’t, the whole scene will deflate like a soufflé on which the oven door has opened too quickly.”
“Calendar Girls” will be performed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm through Nov. 11, at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, 540 NE Hwy. 101.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors (60 and over) and students (over 12) and $10 for children 12 and under. A special group discount is available at $12 per ticket for groups of 10 or more with a pre-paid reservation. Reservations may be made by calling 541-994-9994 or online at www.lincolncity-culturalcenter.org/lccc-facility.