|Annie (Laurel Stroud, left) has her doubts about her best friend Chris (Mary Ann Tweedie, right)|
We live in a virtual society. People experience much of life remotely or vicariously, through the lens of traditional or social media. While many of these “channels” can simulate real life, sometimes there’s just no substitute for being there in person. Such is the case with Calendar Girls, which opens at the Farmington Player's Barn Theater on Friday September 22. While many people know and love the 2003 movie, you really need to experience the play in person to understand the characters’ vulnerability, particularly when it comes to baring more than their souls on stage.
Laurel Stroud plays Annie, one of the play’s protagonists. Laurel describes Annie as “a normal woman, happily moving through life when it hands her a tragedy. Life as she knows it is turned upside-down.” Seeking to make something positive out of a bad situation, Annie and several other middle-aged women raise money for a local hospital by posing nude for a calendar. As Laurel says of Annie, “At first she is distracted by the calendar, but eventually she has to deal with it. My challenge is portraying a woman going through grief in an unusual way. She thinks her best friend is in her corner, but then starts to doubt.”
Like Annie, Laurel overcame her own doubts to become a Calendar Girl: “I felt it would be a personal stretch for me, getting out of my comfort zone. This show celebrates woman in her most glorious phase. It takes a taboo and says: Beating cancer is more important, and shows how breaking a taboo can give relief and growth in the process. Seeing it onstage makes it more personal than watching a movie. There will be more of a connection.”
So is Calendar Girls just a female version of The Full Monty? No, not at all. Laurel explains how the use of nudity is just a vehicle to illustrate the broader themes that run through this show, including: “Dealing with grief, the power of friendship, personal awakening and growth, and the beauty of ‘women of a certain age.’ That beauty, we discover has a lot, maybe more, to do with the inside as well as the outside. The nudity has been handled with professionalism and humor, so it has not been an issue for me. I think in the show, it's a type of rebellion leading to some healing. Maybe that's true in real life too.”
When Laurel is not onstage or backstage at the Barn, she works by day editing the clip sheet for Ford Motor Company. Her interests include cooking, baking, bike riding, and “sitting out on the patio with some coffee.”
Calendar Girls has 11 performances at Farmington Players Barn Theater from September 22 – October 14. The show is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.