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Calendar Girls PromoCalendar Girls comes to Lab Theater in October. This emotionally charged story by playwright Tim Firth revolves around a women’s group whose pedestrian focus on the ancient arts of jam-making, flower-pressing and crafts is suddenly disrupted when one of its members loses her Calendar Girls Promo 2husband to lymphoma. To raise money for the local cancer ward, the ladies have photos of themselves taken for a calendar. Charming and cheeky, this play depicts slightly-prudish women doing whatever it takes to help a friend in need. “The play induces a few tears along with joy and laughter,” proclaims The British Theatre Guide. “It has heart, lots of genuine emotion and true sentimentality,” adds the National Business Review. Performances are scheduled for October 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17.

On this page you will find all the announcements, releases, news and reviews for this production.

 

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Spotlight on ‘Calendar Girls” Patricia Clopton (10-12-15)

Pitching the Calendar 04On stage at Lab Theater through October 17 is Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls. Among the cast of characters in this poignant comedy is a retired schoolteacher by the name of Jessie, who resents the stereotyping of older women as doddering nonsexual beings.

Patricia Clopton plays Jessie in this production. She has been seen in over 40 area theater productions, as well as TV and film … “mostly with her clothes on.” Of her real-life calendar appearance, Patricia syas she plans to use the shoot for her obit … 20 years from now.

You can enjoy Patricia and the rest of the Calendar Girls cast at Lab Theater through October 17. Please see above for remaining play dates, times and ticket information.

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Spotlight on ‘Calendar Girls” Ben Lamoureux (10-11-15)

Shooting the Calendar 02In Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls, a group of “women of a certain age” decide to pose semi-nude for a calendar in order to raise money for a new couch for the local hospital’s waiting room after one of their group loses her husband to cancer. In addition to moxie, what these ladies need most of all is, well, a good photographer. That task falls to a bashful bloke by the name of Liam, played by Ben Lamoureux.

The part calls for Lamoureux to hover amusingly Shooting the Calendar 03between delight and embarassment, but there’s no better scene in this comedy than when former schoolteacher Jessie chastizes Liam as he photographs her nude for not recognizing “your former teacher.”

Calendar Girls represents Ben’s Lab Theater debut. A Spring 2015 Musical Theatre graduate from Florida School of Arts, Ben has recently been seen as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, the Bishop/Feuilly in Les Miserables, and Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.

Calendar Girls is on stage at Lab Theater in downtown Fort Myers through October 17. Please see above for remaining plays dates, times and ticket information.

 

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Spotlight on ‘Calendar Girls” Jim Yarnes (10-10-15)

John and Annie 04On stage now at Lab Theater is Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls. It’s a poignant comedy about a group of women in northern Englands’ Yorkshire Dales Women’s Institute who decide to pose semi-nude for a calendar in order to raise funds for a more comfortable couch for the local hospital’s waiting room after one of their members loses her husband to leukemia. Jim Yarnes plays the part of the stricken husband, John.

It’s too bad that John dies off early in the play. (Admittedly, if he didn’t, there’d be no play.) While Bill 01neither a hero nor a saint, John is one of those effervescent personalities who raise everyone’s energy and aura the moment he walks into a room. And when he dies, it’s as though someone turned off a light.

Yarnes plays this part to perfection. The scenes in which he appears in a wheelchair, fighting for each breath, are moving but not maudlin. And although his is a bit part, he sets everything in motion by what he does once he realizes he is not going to beat the odds and triumph over the disease. (If you want to know what he does, you’ll just have buy a ticket and see for yourself.)

Annie and Bill 02Yarnes is enjoying his 35th year on stage. He started with Gulf Coast Opera Company, went on to perform at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater, Cultural Park Theater and Theatre Conspiracy. His favorite shows include Pirates of Penzance, Music Man, Jesus Christ Superstar, Fiddler on the Roof, Evita, Phantom, Barefoot in the Park, Swell Party and A Position of Relative Importance. Jim has also been a staged reading actor at Lab Theater.

Calendar Girls is on stage through October 17. Please see above for play dates, times and ticket information.

 

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Spotlight on ‘Calendar Girls” Lois Kuehne (10-09-15)

Ruth 01On stage now through October 17 at Lab Theater is Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls. Based on a true account, the play focuses on members of the Women’s Institute in northern England who band together to pose for a tasteful, semi-nude calendar to raise money for a new couch for the hospital waiting room after one of their number loses her husband to leukemia. One of the characters in the play is a woman by the name of Celia who is played by Lab Theater’s own Lois Kuehne.

Broccoli 01Celia is something of a WI anomaly. Unlike the more middle-class hobbies typically pursued by Women’s Institute members, such as jam making, cake baking, knitting and crocheting, Celia is into golf and tennis. More at home in a high-end department store than a church hall, she Planning the Calendar 02often feels like she has drifted in from another world. In fact, Celia must often face down her society golf-wife friends, who love to titter and tipple. But it is her rebelliousness that sets her apart from the vapid materialism of her peer group and makes her a welcome addition to the WI. And within the WI, she ranks as the group’s sex symbol by virtue of having been photographed in her youth topless on a Harley-Davidson.

Lois Kuehne 01Lab Theater’s own Lois Kuehne plays this part. A graduate of the School of Communication at Ohio University, Lois has worked on both sides of the stage lights. For Lab Theater, she has directed The Graduate, In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play and Picasso at the Lapin Agile. She won the Broadway World award for Best Costumes for Amadeus and Best Set Design for On Golden Pond. Among her favorite plays are Singin’ in the Rain, Harvey, Clue, the Musical, Steel Magnolias, My Fair Lady and The Lower Room. Before moving to Southwest Florida, Lois ran a Lois Kuehne 03successful community theater company on the east coast. Lois’ involvement in theater has enriched her life through wonderful and moving moments both on and off stage, but she considers the extraordinary people who have wandered in for minutes, months or years to be the greatest gifts she has derived from her theater experience.

You can see Lois and the rest of this terrific ensemble cast at Lab Theater. Please see above for remaining play dates, times and ticket information.

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Spotlight on ‘Calendar Girls” Robin Murray (10-08-15)

Ruth 01Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls is on stage now through October 17 at the Laboratory Theater of Florida. It’s a comedy based on a real-life case in which eleven members of the Women’s Institute in northern England banded together to make a tasteful, semi-nude calendar to raise money for the local hospital after one of their members lost her husband to leukemia.

Of course, not everyone in the group was on board with posing nude for a calendar. And the character who is Ruth 03least enthusiastic about the project is a woman named Ruth. We all know a Ruth. She’s the peacekeeper in the group. Not a spineless rag doll but, adaptable and malleable, she is eager to please and desperate to be valued and appreciated. In Calendar Girls, Ruth is the one with the largest and most dramatic character arc. Before the audience’s supportive eyes, Ruth grows from the false self-confidence of the emotionally damaged to the genuine self-confidence of a woman who is happy in her own skin.

Robin Murray plays the part for Laboratory Theater. She confesses to having special insight into her character’s Ruth 05persona, foibles and character flaws. “Ruth and I are peacekeepers. We try to keep everyone happy, even in difficult situations,” Robin shared in a recent e-interview. But she acknowledges that the role of peacekeeper often comes at an emotional price. In Calendar Girls, it requires Ruth to repress her own feelings and reactions while keeping a smile on her face even while she is in pain of her own.

Murray says that was more true for herself when she was in her 20s and 30s. However, like Ruth, Ruth 06“the ‘filter’ fell out in my 40s. I honestly believe [Ruth] found peace once she realized problems are things that are meant to be dealt with and you don’t have to lose your softness being brave or standing up for yourself. [That said,] I still find myself looking at life through rose colored glasses, even when ugliness is all around. I don’t think it is necessarily being naive, but being negative never helps.”

Ruth 08APerhaps Robin’s positive, can-do attitude is a function of being a Leo. “There is not much that is out of my comfort zone.” That’s not to say there aren’t challenges, such as “learning an accent and, of course, being nude on stage – that was a first for me.” Having to sing also makes Robin feel awkward. “I am not even allowed to sing Christmas carols at home,” the actor quips.

Robin was inspired to tackle the role from witnessing the strength given by caretakers to Ruth 11loved ones with cancer, and from the bravery of those who are stricken. And like the rest of the cast, her life has also been touched by the disease and its aftermath. “My uncle and grandfather passed from cancer and right now, I have friends who are either fighting themselves or helping a family member fight [the disease].”

Murray has appeared in numerous roles on the Lab Theater stage, with her favorite being Ruth 13Henrietta Iscariot in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Robin lives with her husband, Chris, in Cape Coral, where the two are adjusting to recently becoming empty-nesters. With more time at her discretion, Southwest Florida audiences should be seeing more of Robin and, being a Leo, that should equate to even bigger and more challenging roles. “I would love to play Vanda Jordan in Venus in Fur by David Ives,” Robin admits.

Are you listening Annette Trossbach? Did you catch that Bill Taylor?

But for now, you can catch Robin Murray’s charming performance in Calendar Girls. Please see above for remaining play dates, times and ticket information.

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Spotlight on ‘Calendar Girls” Lori Riti (10-07-15)

Chris 04On stage now through October 17 at Lab Theater is Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls. It’s a comedy about a group of mature women in northern England who decide to make a semi-nude calendar in order to raise funds for a new couch for the local hospital’s waiting room after one of the women loses her husband to leukemia.

The central characters in the play are best friends Annie and Chris. Annie is the one who loses her husband to cancer, and it is Chris who comes up with the fundraising idea of a nude calendar featuring the women of the WI. Left to her own devices, Annie is the prim, proper, Chris 01conformist type. But when she’s with Chris, the two of them become naughty schoolgirls. That’s because Chris is the cut-up of the group. Funloving, irreverent, at times even imperious, Chris is the life of any party and the center of attention wherever she goes.

Lori Riti plays the part of Chris in this production. Lori has dabbled in amateur theater all of her life. Since her arrival in Southwest Florida, Lori has played a variety of roles, including Kate in Kiss Me Kate, Elaine in Arsenic and Old Lace, the niece in The Sunshine Boys, Nikki in Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, Ms. Casewell in Mousetrap, and Mrs. Smith in Meet Me in Chris 03St. Louis. Lab Theater audiences will recall Lori from Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune, The Laramie Project, The Gay Marriage Plays and Agnes of God.

Lori has dedicated her performance in Calendar Girls to the patients and families whose lives have been forever changed by cancer. “I lost my niece at the age of 11 to osteosarcoma,” Lori revealed in a recent e-interview. “Her young age made this the most tragic and difficult experience with cancer in my life.” But like so many of us, the actor has suffered many other losses. “My sister-in-law died of breast cancer in her 40s. The best man at our Annie and Chris 05wedding died two months afterward from pancreatic cancer. A beloved friend and fellow thespian, Robert Feigenblatt, lost his fight with cancer.”

And one of the chief reasons Lori was inspired to audition for the part was to support director Brenda Kensler, whose husband Dave is fighting cancer right now. “This is a play of support and solidarity. My husband and I are very close with Dave and Brenda Kensler and Dave’s challenge with cancer is our current challenge.”

Riti embraces challenge. “The most challenging part of Annie and Chris 12playing the role of Chris is keeping the wit at the right level … and trying to have an authentic and consistent accent.” In the latter regard, coaching sessions from Lab Theater Artistic Producing Director Annette Trossbach certainly helped. But she also immersed herself in British television episodes. “Don’t laugh …. I prepared for the English accent by watching many hours of Dr. Who [on] the BBC,” Lori divulges. “I also used diction sites online, but it was the conversational aspect of the TV program that really helped.”

Chris 06Riti channels her inner Chris by getting in touch with those aspects of her personality that she shares with Chris. “I like to be a mover and shaker,” Lori confides. “In real life, I might bowl someone over with my enthusiasm just like Chris does. Playing Chris has made me think about ways to keep that trait in check.” And Lori considers herself lucky to have, like Chris, an amazing group of women who would drop everything to be with Pitching the Calendar 02her in a time of need. “I am blessed. Some of them are in this production!”

But she did not bother to corral her enthusiasm when she joined her cast mates to pose for a tasteful real-life nude calendar to support the fight against cancer. “Posing for the calendar was an experience that was exhilirating, scary and fabulous. The best part was being there for each other, just like the women in the play. The love and support that surrounded us was incredible. It was a celebration, really.” Shot free of charge by talented local photographer Mila Bridger, the calendars are on sale at Lab Theater prior to and after each performance, as well as during the Shooting the Calendar 07intermission, and 100% of the proceeds benefit Partners for Breast Cancer Care, Inc., a grassroots group that is the only non-profit organization in Lee County that funds breast screening and diagnostic testing for low-income, uninsured women and men at no cost to the patients.

“I hope we raise lots of money!” Lori chips in.

Calendar Girls 02Besides supporting this worthwhile charity, the most rewarding aspect of playing the role of Chris is the impact the play is having on the audiences who turn out to see it and the other women in the cast. “It is special to be in a production that is based on a true story, and a story that touches the lives of so many people,” Lori observes. “Is there a Annie and Chris 03person on the planet who wouldn’t do what they could to fight cancer?”

Aside from what Calendar Girls has to say about cancer and its impact on the families and friends of those affected by the disease, Riti also appreciates that the play revolves around older women. “I love the way [playwright] Tim Firth captured the story of a group of older women who celebrated the ‘mature’ female image in such a positive way,” Lori sagely observes. “We live in a society that overly values youth and the perfect body. Calendar Girls give us a break from this and allows us to appreciate every aspect of our life journey.”

The journey continues Thursday night at the Laboratory Theater of Florida. Please see above for remaining play dates, times and ticket information.

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Spotlight on ‘Calendar Girls’ Suzanne Davies (10-06-15)

Annie and Chris 04On stage now through October 17 at Lab Theater is Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls. Suzanne Davies stars as Annie, a member of a women’s club in northern England who loses her husband to leukemia. This is Davies first role at Lab Theater, although she previously stage managed Miss Witherspoon and danced at Lab Theater. A veteran stage manager, Suzanne also enjoyed “treading the boards” as Charlotte Hay in Moon over Buffalo, Aida Gianelli in Over the River & Through the Woods, and Florence Stuart in You’re Never Too Old, an original comedy by local playwright Cart Megill. Singing and dancing with Betty Annie and Chris 08Dentzau’s Performing Arts troupe round out Suzanne’s theatrical experience and allows her to frequently dress in the glitzy costumes she adores.

As Annie, Suzanne turns in an enjoyable performance as the well-grounded, sensible one in her friendship with the more irreverent, free-spirited Chris, played by Lori Riti. She is touching as the grieving widow and poignant as she reads and tries to respond to the hundreds of letters that Calendar Girls 02the group receives after release of their semi-nude calendar by the victims and survivors of cancer. Based on her performance in Calendar Girls, Southwest Florida audiences will be seeing more of Suzanne Davies (pun intended).

Please see above for remaining play dates, times and ticket information.

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‘Calendar Girls’ about female friendship, bonding and corruptive force of fame (10-05-15)

Annie and Chris 02Tim Firth’s stage play Calendar Girls opened on Friday at the Laboratory Theater of Florida. Although the show has enjoyed successful runs in England since 2011, Calendar Girls (which Firth adapted from his eponymous 2003 film) is only just now hitting stages in Canada and the United States. Lab Theater’s production appears to be the inaugural show in all of Florida.

Calendar Girls is based on the true story of a group of middle to late age British women who decided to pose nude for a calendar in order to raise money for a new Annie, John and Chris 02sofa for the local hospital’s waiting room after one woman in the group lost her husband to leukemia. But while a lot of the show’s laughs result from the concept, the play itself is not about nudity. It’s about friendship, female bonding, and the corrosive, corruptive force of sudden fame and notoriety.

The script is replete with laughs, but a lot of the humor in the early-going is lost on an American audience because it presupposes a knowledge and understanding of British culture, current events and celebrity personas. It’s like being present when someone tells an Annie and Bill 04inside joke. It sounds funny, you want to laugh, but you really don’t get it because you don’t really know what the joke-teller is trying to lampoon.

And while masterfully delivered, the British accents can be somewhat tedious as well.

But that aside, this play is full of lively, poignant and relatable dialogue, situations and, above all, characters. The most interesting, of course, is Chris, played by Lori Riti. Irreverent, impudent, and an inveterate cut-up, she’s the one who comes up with Pitching the Calendar 04the idea of a semi-nude calendar as a fundraising ploy. She is also the one who gets swept away by her own success when the group becomes an overnight sensation and media darling with the local and international press.

Annie is the character who loses her husband to cancer. Sensitively played by Suzanne Davies, Annie has misgivings about the whole calendar idea until letters arrive from all over the world from cancer survivors and people who have also lost loved ones to the disease. They overwhelm Annie with tales about how the calendar has helped them come to terms with their own grief and sense of loss,

Planning the Calendar 02While this, at first blush, may seem to be a minor sub-plot, part of the strength of the script and Lab Theater performances is its cathartic effect on both cast and audience members. After all, who hasn’t lost someone they know and love to cancer? Everyone in the cast of this play has wept those bitter tears. Patricia Clopton, who plays Jessie, has dedicated her performance to her special angel, Richard, whom cancer took too soon. Lori Riti’s Shooting the Calendar 02performance is dedicated to the patients and families whose lives have been forever changed by cancer. Yet another cast member implores, “Let’s beat this sodding disease.”

And like the cast, each audience member brings his or her unique experiences into the theater, and that explains why this play has been so extraordinarily popular no matter when it has been staged. It’s also been a box office success because it’s a rare play about female friendship, Shooting the Calendar 10bonding and empowerment … which is interesting given that it was written by a man. But if playwright Tim Firth misses when it comes to how women really talk and relate to one another, you’d never know it because the show gets its heartiest laughs from women, especially those who come from the same demographic as the characters in the show.

Calendar Girls 09But even if you are young or male, there’s a lot to endear you to this show. For all its message and content, Calendar Girls is downright entertaining. As you will find out for yourself when you take in this show.

Please see above for remaining play dates, times and ticket information.

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Cast of Lab Theater’s production of ‘Calendar Girls’ make own calendar to fight breast cancer (09-30-15)

CC Girls 33Eleven Southwest Florida women involved in Laboratory Theater of Florida’s opening production of its 2015-2016 season, Calendar Girls, have teamed up with local photographer Mila Bridger to make a calendar of their own for chairty. Proceeds will benefit Partners for Breast Cancer Care, Inc.

What began simply as roles in a highly-successful Calendar Girls Promocomedy quickly became much more than that as they got into their characters. Calendar Girls is based on the true story of eleven Women’s Institute members who posed nude for a calendar to raise money for the Leukemia Research Fund after one of their members lost her husband to CC Girls 35leukemia. In a similar vein, the Calendar Girls cast wanted proceeds from the calendar sales to benefit a local cancer charity.

“As a cast works together so closely, they learn so much about each other – their lives, history, emotions – that they become like a surrogate family during the rehearsal and run of a show,” Annette Anotes Lab Theater’s Artistic Director Annettte Trossbach, who finds herself inspired by the women’s generosity of spirit and personal motivation to reach out to others in the community.. “This exceptional group of women (and a few good men, too!), most with their own personal experiences with cancer, wanted to make an impact beyond the stage. The Laboratory CC Girls 2Theater is thrilled to produce this play and reach further through these women to help members of our community who are struggling with cancer.”

100 percent from the sale of the calendars will benefit Partners for Breast Cancer Care, Inc., a grassroots group that is the only non-profit organization in Lee County that funds breast screening and diagnostic testing for low-income, uninsured women and men at no cost to the patients. In the past nine years, the organization has served 8,715 local residents, and of these, 122 have been diagnosed with breast cancer through the organization, which is housed at Hope Hospice in CC Girls 3Healthpark. Established in 1990, Partners for Breast Cancer Care exists exclusively on donations, grants, and fund-raising.  Its mission is to save lives and reduce suffering from breast cancer through improved early detection, education, and access to health care. All funding stays in Lee County.

“This is such an exciting partnership and your donation will be helping so many women (and men) who otherwise could not afford it,” says Janet Darnell, executive director of Partners for Breast Cancer Care, Inc. “You are helping us to save lives in our community. You can’t get much better than that!”

Mila 1The cast went on a weekend retreat where the eleven actresses posed for cheeky and charming photos for the calendar, sitting for individual and several group photos. Mila Bridger of Mila Bridger Photography (milabridger.com) donated her time and considerable talent to create the images for the calendar. Bridger has shot local artists, musicians, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, designers and more, and her work has been recognized both nationally and internationally.

“I guess you could say it was life imitating art,” said the play’s director, Brenda Kensler. Many of the photos were inspired directly from references in the script. One woman strategically CC Girlsholds pastries and another sits draped in a colorful, hand-knit blanket. Each image is different and shows the ladies’ personalities and willingness to go to great lengths for a smile.  Or, as Kensler says, “it shows what true friendship is.”

Written by Tim Firth, who adapted the script from the eponymous movie he wrote in 2003, Calendar Girls opens on Friday, October 2, at 8 p.m. at the Laboratory Theater in Fort Myers. “[It’s a] wonderful [play] because of all the roles for mature women and because it brings more awareness to the fight against cancer,” Kensler adds.

Calendars will be available beginning opening night, and may be purchased for $15 each at The Laboratory Theater of Florida before, during intermission, and after each Calendar Girls performance.  The show runs October 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17 CC Girls 38at 8 p.m. and on October 11 and 17 at 2 p.m. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Avenue in the Fort Myers River District. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. There will also be an opening night reception starting at 7:15 p.m. on October 2.

Tickets are available online www.LaboratoryTheaterFlorida.com or by calendar girlscalling 239.218.0481. At the door, tickets are $12 for students and $25 for adults. The theater also offers Thursday night discounts to seniors and military, at $18.50 per ticket. Seating is limited.

More information about Partners for Breast Cancer Care is available online at www.pfbcc.org or by calling 239-454-8583.

The Laboratory Theater of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts through live performance, education, community outreach, experimentation, and the development of ensemble work. The company features ensemble productions, produces classic works, takes artistic risks, and features and challenges local performers of various skill levels. Stay up to date with its news and events on Facebook and Twitter @LabTheaterFL.  For more information, please call 239-218-0481

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Spotlight on ‘Calendar Girls’ creator Tim Firth (09-26-15)

Calendar Girls PromoOn October 2, Lab Theater opens the Tim Firth comedy, Calendar Girls. Before it was a stage play, Calendar Girls was a successful motion picture. But in 2008, Firth adapted his film for the stage, and that started a love affair during which British audiences made Calendar Girls the all time Firth 01number one box office hit in that nation’s history. And now U.S. audiences are getting to see just why the show’s been so popular across the pond.

Born in 1964, Firth started writing at a young age. By 15, he was already penning full-length musicals for local schools and a year before graduation, he was even commissioned to write a television script. While studying English at Cambridge, he Firth 02had occasion to attend an Arvon Foundation writing course run by playwrights Willy Russell and Danny Hiller. As part of the workshop, he wrote a play about two 16-year-olds trying to write a song. It was so compelling that a fellow participant immediately optioned the work for his production company, and with that Firth’s future as a writer was set. “I never wanted to be anything other than a writer,” Firth conceded during a 1994 interview with Radio Times.

After three years at Cambridge, Firth was calendar girlscommissioned to write a play by the Stephen Joseph Theatre. He produced a one-act play titled Man of Letters which was such a success that Alan Ackyborn engaged him to write a full-length work. The result was Neville’s Island, which tells the story of four businessmen who are shipwrecked on an island in the middle of a lake during a corporate training exercise. Although the work has a very serious theme, it’s nevertheless hilariously funny. The play premiered in Scarborough in 1992 but was quickly transferred to London’s Apollo Theatre, where it met with critical acclaim, being nominated for various awards including four Oliviers.

Following Neville’s Island, Firth went on to write The Safari Party, the CC Girls 37musical Our House (which won an Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 2002), The Flint Street Nativity, Sign of the Times and, of course, Calendar Girls, which won the Whatsonstage Best Comedy Award in 2010.

Firth’s success on stage led to numerous made-for-TV projects. Following episodes of Minder and the Bill, Firth wrote the script for Money for Nothing, CC Girls 36which was shown as a Screen One production on the BBC in October of 1993. Starring Christian Anholt, Julian Glover and Paul Reynolds, Money for Nothing told the story of a school-aged whizzkid who finds himself caught up in the world of business. It won a Writer’s Guild award for Best Television Film.

Tim’s other television credits include The Rottentrolls (which won a 1997 BAFTA Award for Best Children’s Entertainment), Cruise of the Gods, The Flint Street Nativity, and Preston Front CC Girls 2(which won numerous awards, including a Writer’s Guild Award for Best Original Series, comedy awards, best comedy drama, RTS Awards for Best Series, and a BAFTA nomination for Best Drama Series). He also partnered with Willy Russell in 2004 to provide dialogue and original music for The Singing Playwrights.

Firth has also written scripts for a number of motion pictures, including Blackball, Calendar Girls, and Kinky Boots. Released in 2003, Calendar Girls received British comedy awards and Best Comedy Film, with Kinky Boots garnering a Sundance Selection, Best International Feature and Florida Film Festival award. Firth’s most recent film was the 2012 picture The Wedding Video.

CC Girls 3In 2013, Firth’s musical, This is My Family, hit the stage. In addition to the script, Firth wrote both the book and the music. The production won the UK Theatre Award for Best New Musical and actress Sian Philipes won Best Supporting Actress.

Due out in November is The Girls, a musical that tells the story of the Calendar Girls in the aftermath of their fame and notoriety.

Although much of Firth’s work in theater, film and television is humorous, Firth does not consider himself a comedy writer. “I start writing and that’s what comes out,” he demurs. “If it’s funny, it’s in the way that real life is, because I write about things that amuse me and CC Girls 38characters that I’ve come across.” Tim also has a novel approach to writing for television. Eschewing a storyboard that carries him and his characters from one episode to the next, “I just start writing on page one and hope that the characters will show me the story.”

While there’s unquestionably more to come from CC Girls 33Tim Firth’s PC or pen, for now, Lab Theater audiences can revel in the titillating plot, saucy characters and hysterical dialogue that characterize Calendar Girls. Please see above for play dates, times and ticket information. And return again to read more articles, insights, news and reviews about Lab Theater’s production of Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls.

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Tim Firth’s ‘Calendar Girls’ has morphed into ‘afterward’ musical (09-25-15)

CC Girls 2The plot is fairly straighforward. Chris and Annie live in a small, peaceful village in Yorkshire Dales, Britain. Although as different in temperment as two women can be, they are very close friends. But their serene co-existence is suddenly shattered when Annie’s husband dies of leukemia. After spending copious amounts of time in the antiseptic environment of the hospital’s uncomfortable waiting room, Chris decides to do raise money for a new settee and enlists the support of her fellow members in the local Women’s Institute to raise the needed dollars. She comes up with a seemingly traditional fundraising idea. She and eleven other WI members will pose for a calendar engaged in typical Women’s Initiative tasks such as making jam, pressing flowers and knitting. But there’s a twist. The women will be nude.

CC Girls 35Before they can process what’s happening, they are in the news, making headlines both at home and abroad. Whisked off to Hollywood on a worldwide publicity tour, they even make the rounds on the U.S. talk shows and magazine photo-shoots. But it’s not all fun and fanfare, as the girls’ friendships are put to the test by their newfound fame and notoriety.

CC Girls 36With a plot as rife with humor and conflict as this, it’s no wonder that Calendar Girls won a What’s On Stage Award for Best New Comedy in 2008 and has recently morphed into a musical called The Girls. The Girls depicts the aftermath as the girls try to return to the normalcy of their former lives and resume their roles in their relationships with their husbands, children and friends. For the musical, Firth teamed up with friend and colleague Gary Barlow. Firth and Barlow both grew up in the same village and have been friends for more than CC Girls 3725 years. Barlow has written 14 number one singles, is a six-time winner of the Ivor Novello Award and has sold over 50 million records worldwide. Firth has won the Olivier Award and the UK Theatre Award for Best Musical and Best Play and the Comedy Film Award for Calendar Girls. The Girls will premiere at Leeds Grand Theatre in the United Kingdom on November 14, 2015.

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Tim Firth’s ‘Calendar Girls’ sweeping the planet, but Lab Theater’s production Florida’s first (09-24-15)

CC Girls 3On October 2, Lab Theater opens the Tim Firth comedy, Calendar Girls. Before it was a stage play, Calendar Girls was a successful motion picture. But in 2008, Firth adapted his film for the stage. The play found favor with British audiences across the United Kingdom during its ensuing 2008-2009 tour, breaking British box office records in the process. A year later, it enjoyed an even larger and more successful U.K. run, and in 2011, Calendar Girls beat the all-time box office record for a play and raised over half a million pounds for Blood Cancer Charities, funding research projects in Yorkshire hospitals.

Amateur rights were snapped up by more than 500 amateur dramatic CC Girlsgroups across the United Kingdom and abroad. Since then, the play has been produced in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. But the play did not come to the United States until 2014, when it was performed by the Sullivan Players in San Diego. Over forty more amateur and professional productions are planned over the coming two years, including one by the West Coast Players in Clearwater, Florida from January 15 to February 7, 2016. But according to the playwright’s website, the one that opens October 2 at Laboratory Theater in downtown Fort Myers represents the show’s Florida premiere.

See above for play dates, times and ticket information.

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Brenda Kensler to direct Lab Theater’s production of ‘Calendar Girls’ (09-16-15)

Brenda Kensler WatchesWhat do you do for an encore after staging Lab Theater’s first and incredibly successful musical, Cabaret? Well, if you’re Brenda Kensler, you take on Calendar Girls, an emotionally-charged story by playwright Tim Firth that revolves around a women’s group whose pedestrian focus on the ancient arts of jam-making, flower-pressing and crafts is suddenly disrupted when one of its members loses her husband to lymphoma. To raise money for the local cancer ward, the ladies have photos of themselves taken for a calendar. Charming and cheeky, this play depicts slightly-prudish women doing whatever it takes to help a friend in need.

Brenda Confers with Helga and Frenchie 01LBrenda attended Eastern Michigan University, and later taught elementary school. At 47, she returned to dance classes, with an emphasis on performance and musicals. Her first show was 42nd Street, followed by Sweet Charity, Hair and Forum. After making the move to Florida, she was in How to Succeed in Business and The Graduate (which was her first Lab Theater role), but regards her most life-changing role as Ida in Cemetery Club.

Brenda’s first directing experience was Love, Sex and the I.R.S. In addition to Cabaret, Brenda has directed Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune and last summer’s sell-out show, Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays.

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Auditions for Calendar Girls will be held on Sunday, July 12 (07-05-15)

Auditions for Lab Theater’s 7th season will be held on Sunday, July 12 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the theater, which is  located at 1634 Woodford Avenue, on the corner of Woodford and Second Street in the Fort Myers River District.

One of the plays that is being cast is Calendar Girls by Tim Firth, which will be performed on October 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17. The play is about a women’s group which focuses mainly on the ancient arts of jam-making, flower-pressing and crafts until one of its members loses her husband to lymphoma. The ladies have photos of themselves taken for a calendar to raise money for the local cancer ward. This charming and “cheeky” play shows slightly-prudish women doing whatever it takes to help a friend in need.

The characters in this play are:

  • Chris—at home in a crowd, likes to hold court.
  • Anne—Chris is her best friend and keeps her from being a saint; together they are better than the sum of their parts.
  • Cora—the joker but not the fool; her wit is deadpan; she’s an ex rocker chick.
  • Jessie—an ex-teacher who loves of life to the fullest and who doesn’t bother with cosmetics.
  • Celia—more at home in a department store that a church hall, she always feels like she’s drifted in from another world.
  • Ruth—her journey in this play is from the false self -confidence of the emotionally abused to the genuine self-confidence of the woman happy in her own skin; wants to please, but not a door mat.
  • Marie—the WI is her trophy; it justifies her entire existence.
  • John—a human sunflower. not a saint or hero, just a man you would always want around; he’s Annie’s husband, who dies of cancer.
  • Rod—Chris’s husband …loves Chris; deadpan humor and a drinker.
  • Lawrence—photographer; hesitant without being nerdy; shy…when he arranges the shots, he is around nudity, but sees only the photos.
  • Lady Cravenshire—seems to be from another world; patronizing.
  • Elaine—patronizing; treats Jessie as if her granny.
  • Liam—photoshoot is just a job; has resigned patience in his approach.

Accents…the play will be done with British accents. Dialect coaching will be provided. Nudity—those cast as actual calendar girls must understand that they will be nude on stage. They will not be exposed to the audience; however, to the other cast members and stagehands there are no guarantees. The goal is the audience shouldn’t see anything they oughtn’t…therein lies the humor.

Actors will be auditioned on a first-come, first-seen basis. Actors should come with a 1-2 minute comedic and/or dramatic monologue. Actors should be prepared to do cold reads. Actors who are not available on July 12 may send a resume and headshot to: Casting, c/o The Laboratory Theater of Florida, PO Box 334, Fort Myers, FL 33902.

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