By Aayat Ali
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
Midway residents may have been surprised to see a calendar featuring many well-known women of Woodford County posing modestly nude, in support of The Woodford Theatre’s adaptation this month of Calendar Girls – the uplifting story about a group of women who pose semi-nude for a good cause.
The theater’s connection to this story hits close to home because the theater is run by four women: Patricia Clark, the executive and artistic director; Dawn Connerly, technical director; Dara Tiller, managing director; and Vanessa Becker Weig, education director. Clark said she wanted to highlight the strong women in the area who are notable community figures.
“When I first came here to work, I was impressed by all the women business owners in Versailles and Midway. The [Main Street] strip in Midway is mostly women who have opened businesses,” said Clark.
The original story of Calendar Girls is based on the true story of Angela Barker, whose husband passed away from lymphoma in his early 50s. Barker and her friends, part of the England Yorkshire Women’s Institute, decided to pose semi-nude for a calendar – which had typically featured meadows and flowers – to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research, according to the website if The Bloodwise, a United Kingdom cancer charity for which the women have since raised over £3 million, or $4.32 million.
|The calendar for July features this photograph of Leslie Penn.|
The calendar features three women from Midway: Leslie Penn of the Historic Midway Museum Store; Peggy Angel, owner of Steppin’ Out Boutique; and Karel Churchill, owner of Le Marche Boutique on East Main Street.
“People have come into the store asking for my autograph,” said Penn. “I just love participating in community things and I love to see how people can work together in achieving what we want.”
Calendar Girls was adapted into a film starring Helen Mirren in 2003, then an onstage production in 2008, and continues to be adapted to suit various aspects of feminism, including in Midway. The calendar became a symbolic way for the women of Midway to express their strengths.
“The journey we took in setting up their photographs is everything the actual true story of the Calendar Girls was,” said Clark. “This was a really special community effort that we got the chance to complete this year.”
The tale has since become an empowering lesson driven by all types of women and has a flexible message for feminists. The Woodford Theatre’s adaptation of the story gave the women of Woodford County an opportunity to pose for their own calendar.
“Everyone has been incredibly positive,” said Churchill. “You know, this is the South. They’re a little more conservative. But I’m really proud of the women who got together to do it.”
Additionally, the theater spent the month of March, Women’s History Month, promoting The Girl Project, an arts- and performance-based program for young women that was founded by Weig and Clark’s daughter, Ellie. The project is “designed to inspire, educate and empower girls of all ages to challenge the misrepresentation of girls and women in American media culture through performing arts and education.” Clark said she truly believes that the project can help young women, and men, to express themselves and understand the issues and mistreatment they face today.
“I have people who absolutely celebrate and love the calendar and people who will shy away from it,” Clark said. “I often find it interesting how people receive comedy and theater with sexual innuendos, but it’s really about people’s perceptions.”
Although she credits the success of the theater to the women in charge today, Clark says that the message that her story and the real-life story of Angela Barker can inspire women and men of all ages at any stage in their lives.
“This is a celebration of life and that’s exactly what the story reveals,” said Clark. “There is nothing wrong with what we are doing. They are celebrating their aging. They’re celebrating themselves as women. They’re celebrating their bodies as much as they can. They’re saying, ‘This is who I am and I’m proud of this.’”