Local women go au naturale for fundraising calendar
'The movie 'Calendar Girls' is about women who stepped out of their comfort zone,' says Jaime Love, executive artistic director of Sonoma Arts Live, 'so we're offering the women of Sonoma an opportunity to follow that example, by stepping out of their own comfort zones.'
This, of course, means stepping out of their clothes.
According to Love, the first show of SAL's spring season will be Tim Firth's 'Calendar Girls.' The play, adapted from the hit 2003 movie, tells the true story of a dozen proper English ladies from North Yorkshire, who set out to raise money for their local hospital by posing in clever ways for a tastefully suggestive calendar.
As a tie-in to the local production, and as a benefit for Sonoma Valley Hospital, Love has teamed up with local fundraiser Mara Lee Ebert to create a version of the infamous calendar, featuring Sonoma Valley women. All she needs now are the models, whom she describes as women between 40 and 60, willing to follow in the footsteps of the famous 'calendar girls' from England.
As told in the movie and the play, those original calendar girls, all members of the Rylstone Women's Institute, overcame a mountain of obstacles, from overprotective husbands to outraged townsfolk. The modern day Ladies Godiva did, eventually, produce their calendar, becoming instant celebrities in the process. The artfully designed calendar went on to sell more than 88,000 copies in England in 1999. The following year, an American version was printed and, following the women's appearance on 'The Jay Leno Show,' the new calendar sold more than 200,000 copies.
'What people embraced,' says Love, 'wasn't just that these middle-aged women were sort of naked, with teapots and things blocking the naughty parts, but that they were pushing themselves to do something outrageous for a good cause. And the validation they received for how sexy they were made them all realize that, hey, 'We've still got it.''
With 'Calendar Girls,' the play, set to open in June at Andrews Hall, the proposed 18-month calendar will need to be finished sometime in May – assuming, of course, that enough willing models can be recruited. Photography is set to begin in mid-April. Love and Ebert want to make it clear that all the profits will be donated to the hospital.
'The idea is to get different local businesses to sponsor different local women,' says Ebert. 'They will donate a sponsorship fee, in exchange for having their product or business featured in the picture. A hardware store might sponsor a model who would pose with, I don't know, construction materials or something. We want this to be really fun for everyone involved.' To date, the local calendar confirmed to participate include Cee Cee Ponicsan, Dr. Kimberly Hubenette, Deborah Emery and Marilyn Cabac. The funds raised will be donated to Project Pink. the Sonoma Valley Hospital program that provides free or low-cost mammograms to women in need.
Love jokes that because Ebert has been such a vocal participant in the recent leaf blower debate, she ought to pose for the calendar herself – preferably, with a leaf blower incorporated into the shot.
In the original calendar, much of the fun was in the way each model was framed, accentuating their mature beauty while teasing the very notion of pin-up calendars. According to Love, the Sonoma variation will have the same balance of art and exuberance.
'The whole idea began when I read the script of the play,' says Love. 'I thought it was such a great fit for our demographic, of our audience and also our theater artists. We have so many wonderful actresses in their 40s and 50s and beyond. Somehow, we just organically started talking about doing an actual calendar. I reached out to Mara Lee, whom I've known since our kids were babies. We started getting together for coffee, and discussing ways that we could do our own version of the calendar right here in Sonoma.'
Assuming 18 willing models can be found in time, that whimsical idea appears likely to be brought to life soon in high-gloss living color. And Ebert has high hopes it will prove incredibly popular.
'The calendar will be very tasteful,' Ebert says. 'It will be beautiful. And hopefully it will be available to purchase all over the Valley. It's such a fun idea, and a great way to raise money for a cause the Valley feels strongly about.'
Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org.