By Richard Schultz, February 2016 Issue.
Described as “the British Golden Girls” by producing artistic director Michael Barnard, Calendar Girls is Phoenix Theatre’s premiere of the United Kingdom comedy that celebrates extraordinary women of courage on a philanthropic journey that leads them to discover that all women are beautiful – inside and out.
Determined to raise money for a cause, Chris (played by Elyse Wolf) and Annie, (played by Shari Watts), decide the best way is to give the public what they want is a nude calendar. However, instead of young models gracing the pages, it will feature themselves and the other real women of their small English village showing some serious skin.
Written by Tim Firth, Calendar Girls is a hilarious look at the true events that resulted in a charitable windfall.
Scottsdale resident Elaine “E.E.” Moe (pictured) directs a powerhouse cast of the Valley’s leading actors, including Johanna Carlisle, Patti Davis Suarez, Cathy Dresbach, Hilary Hirsch, Maren Maclean, Debby Rosenthal, Debra K. Stevens and Gabrielle Van Buren.
“No idea is too small,” Moe said, describing the plot. “Some of the events are traumatic, touching and hilarious in the reveal of each woman’s human nature and attempt to cover up a silent anguish.”
Additionally, Moe believes the theme of the play centers on a constant return to love and friendship.
“The men who share in the driving force of Tim Firth’s play are equally vulnerable to the challenges of change and step out of the norm of acceptable behavior, to a redefined love, honor and respect,” she said. “And as truth will out, we cheer as betrayal and deceit get their comeuppance.”
When asked how the nudity will be handled in this local production, Moe didn’t give up any details.
“That secret remains at heart of the play. It’s magical. Hysterical,” she said. “Michelangelo would be proud and the Mona Lisa smiles a giant grin.”
Back in July, Moe and Barnard set a goal of casting an all-Arizonan company.
“As we agreed, there are never enough contracts to cast all the remarkable talent that resides in Arizona,” she said. “Not only is our cast all from Arizona, but the production and design team all reside in Arizona as well, or attended colleges and universities here, and now fly in from other professional gigs to work on the production.”
Additionally, Moe believes that the universality of the theme and action of Calendar Girls will speak to the LGBTQ community.
“As a community, LGBTQ is one that reaches out to those in need, shares its resources and promotes awareness,” she said. “The AIDS crisis, along with other critical diseases, took and still takes the lives of the men and women we love. It’s time we drop our labels and become one caring family unfiltered by who we love.”
Calendar Girls is personal in love, loss and recognizing the renewal of friendships, according to Moe.
“This play belongs to everyone who believes they are alone with their loved one in the awful moments of recognizing we are confronting a deadly disease,” she said. “There is hope, and that hope comes through sharing ourselves with others in times of need, too.”
Moe is a member of Society of Directors and Choreographers and has a 55-year legacy of distinguished honors for producing, directing and arts management consulting throughout the United States.
She is the artistic director/co-founder of The MEGAW Theatre/Actors Studio, Inc. of California and Arizona; a senior lecturer at Scottsdale Community College; and a co-founding member of the Arizona Theatre Company. In 2015, she received the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion of Excellence in Arts and Education.