Farmington Players’ ‘Calendar Girls’ gets saucy for a cure

By: Sherri Kolade, | Farmington Press | Published October 11, 2017

FARMINGTON HILLS — Six women positioned in front of a pink background hold large sunflowers against their bodies — they wear a smile and what appears to be nothing else. 

The picture is a promotion shot for the Farmington Players’ current comedy, “Calendar Girls.” 

The show is by Tim Firth, adapted from a British film, according to a press release.

The Farmington Players opened the season with the play Sept. 22, and it will run through Oct. 14. 

The play, based on a true story, is about a group of close friends who join forces to raise money for leukemia research by posing in the buff for calendar photos. A film was made about the group’s efforts in 2005, and a play was written about them after that.

Farmington Players director Nancy Cooper, of Farmington Hills, said in a press release that the women were inspired to do the calendar shoot after one of them was touched by grief, and they used the strength of their friendship to pull off the project.

“They literally took their community, and in fact the world, by storm and raised thousands of dollars in the process,” she said in the press release. “With that in mind, some fabulously funny actresses are preparing to provide you quite a ‘revealing’ experience at the Farmington Players Barn in Farmington Hills.”

The focus of the story is Annie, whose husband, John, dies; her best friend, Chris, creates an idea to help the hospital raise money, according to a press release. 

Because the organization’s regular fundraising calendar is “quite dull,” Chris encourages several of her friends to “liven it up” by posing for photos, tastefully, in the nude. Chris hires an amateur photographer to handle the nude photo shoot, according to the release. The calendar becomes popular, and each woman is changed in a different way by its unexpected success. They later realize that friendship can help overcome any challenge.

Cooper said during a phone interview that the inspiration for the play was a group of ladies in England called the Women’s Institute.

“This beautiful story reminds us that cancer can and does touch millions of lives,” Cooper said in a press release. “It also reminds us that middle-aged women, of which I am one, should never be discounted or underestimated.”

She added that the Women’s Institute Calendar Girls were shooting to raise 5,000 pounds — about $6,554. They ended up raising 5 million pounds — about $6,547,500.

“It just went worldwide and hit the country, and it hit Japan and France and (the) United States,” she said. “And everywhere people were talking about it.”

A little closer to home, Cooper has dealt with leukemia in her family. She lost a 15-year-old nephew to it last year.

Cooper said that cancer touches a lot of lives.

“Just about everybody has had a (connection) with it in their own families — someone they know,” she said.

“Calendar Girls” is raising funds for the Michigan chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“I thought it would be really neat if everyone involved in this show made a calendar and we sold it, and the money would go to benefit our own chapter here of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” Cooper said, adding that everyone — from costume designers to sound engineers — got involved.

During the first weekend of the show, over 100 calendars were sold.

Redford resident Laurel Stroud plays Annie, and she said her character is a regular person.

“She likes her life in small-town England and (is) happy with the job she has landed; she has great friends and a great husband — then this tragedy happens to her,” Stroud said.

Stroud said she connects with the character because Stroud has gone through seasons of life when not everyone was on the same page as her emotionally, especially when dealing with hardships.

“You’re just going through a season of your life when things are changing,” she said, adding that the fundraiser is a great add-on. “Something fun to talk about. It is the right thing to do, and really it helps with the whole taking your clothes off part.”

She added that taking their clothes off was one of the first things the actors in the show did. 

“You had to get over it pretty quickly, and after that it was liberating, freeing and fun.”

The 2018 calendar from the Farmington Players’ “Calendar Girls” will be available for purchase at the upcoming performance and online at farmingtonplayers.org. The calendar costs $10, and proceeds from the calendar will benefit the Michigan chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 

The show will be staged at 8 p.m. Oct. 12-14 at the Farmington Players Barn, 32332 W. 12 Mile Road.

Tickets are available at www.farmingtonplayers.org and at the box office by calling (248) 553-2955 or emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org.