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Calendar Girls (Sioux City Community Theatre)

The cast of Sioux City Community Theatre's "Calendar Girls" actually took part in their own nude calendar photo shoot, just as their characters had done.

Actors and actresses sometimes go to great lengths in order to connect with their characters. For Shari Hoelker and Diane Driscoll, stars of Sioux City Community Theatre’s production of “Calendar Girls,” that meant disrobing and posing for a calendar, just as their respective characters Chris Harper and Annie Clarke had done.

The photo shoot, organized by director Joanne Fox, was difficult, but Hoelker and Driscoll said cast members banded together to help everyone through the process. And not only do the cast members know what their characters went through, the finished calendar will also help benefit the same cause in “Calendar Girls.”

“It was Joanne’s idea to create this calendar to raise money,” said Hoelker. “We did photos for all of us that were in the show. So the people that come to the show, if they want to, can buy that calendar as a keepsake and also raise money for cancer research.”

“Calendar Girls” began as a 2003 comedy film starring Helen Mirren before it was eventually adapted to the stage in 2008. The story is based on the true story of a group of women from Yorkshire, England, who decide to produce a nude calendar in order to raise money for cancer research in 1999. Hoelker recalls when the event happened.

“I remember reading about it and thinking, ‘Whoa! Good for them!’” she said. “These ladies were very brave. They started out to raise enough for furniture and ended up raising enough money [to pay for] a new wing at the hospital. It was quite an experience.”

In keeping with the play’s charitable themes, proceeds from the ticket sales of a special one-night-only presentation of “Calendar Girls” on Thursday (Dec. 1) at the Sioux City Community Theatre will be donated to the June E. Nylen Cancer Center in Sioux City. This action, Driscoll said, not only benefits a good cause but also gives a special nod to the original story that the play presents.

For Driscoll, “Calendar Girls” hits close to home. Before Driscoll was even a teenager, her mother died of cancer.

“I lost my mother at a very young age, and I’m sure she would have lived a lot longer because of the progress that cancer [research] has had,” she said. “So many people are touched by this ugly disease. And [‘Calendar Girls’] is such a good presentation of the strength you can give other people and the families through their loss.”

Hoelker, familiar with the true story she read about so many years ago, was attracted to the play because of its true-to-life approach. She said anyone can relate to the story and themes in “Calendar Girls” because cancer affects so many families.

“It touches everyone but there is hope,” said Hoelker. “When you look at the people we lost so quickly five years ago, that today, if that happened, would still be alive. We’ve made such great progress.”

The Sioux City Community Theatre’s production of “Calendar Girls” has been a challenge for Hoelker and Driscoll. They hope audiences can connect with the story, characters and themes on an emotional level: themes of life and death, love, relationships, the ups and downs of friendships, conflict and resolution, acceptance and forgiveness.

“I want to see if we can make this what it should be,” said Hoelker. “There are parts they should laugh. There are parts they should cry or feel something. I want them to get past the fact that they’re at a play and get drawn into the story and the themes.”

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