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Ee bah gum . . . here is how we got this show on the road

Icing on the cake: Mimi Tanaman as Celia in Calendar Girls

I hope that those of you who came to see the production of the play, Calendar Girls, enjoyed watching it as much as we enjoyed performing in it.

After almost six months of rehearsals we finally pulled it off, but only we, the actors, and our wonderful props team know the frustrations and tears, stresses and strains as well as the laughter that we all went through to put the play into production.

Let's start at the beginning.

We needed seven Yorkshire lasses (ladies) to play the women of the WI (that's the Women's Institute, a kind of Christian WIZO or Hadassah). Well, we managed to find five who hailed from the North of England but had to welcome two Americans into the cast and change a couple of words. 

Revealing all about the production: Linda Silverstone who also played Chris in the production

Our producer was Israeli born and was brought up in Australia, so she didn't know what the WI was. We Anglos had to explain it to her. Then we came upon words well known to us Brits, but the Americans didn't know that a settee was a sofa! Our director also wanted to "jolly" the music up a bit and change the anthem that the ladies of the WI sing before every meeting. The hymn, Jerusalem ("And did those feet in ancient time....") has been sung almost since time immemorial before every meeting - it is part of the WI. You just can't change it, its sacrilege!

We needed two saucy little Mrs. Santa suits. How do you find such a thing in Israel in March? Thank goodness for the Internet and family in England helping us in our quest. We needed Christmas wrapping paper to set up our Christmas scene. No such luck, we had to improvise with the most festive wrapping-paper we could find. Our wonderful props people made very lifelike, delicious looking cakes, needed for one of our photo shoots. We needed a memorial wreath with MUM on it. We were really stumped there. No such thing in Israel, but once again, after a great deal of trial and error, one of our diligent props people came up trumps and we had our wreath. A trophy for the winner of a cake baking competition was found in the ESRA shop in Raanana as were many of the clothes we needed. We begged and borrowed clothes from families, friends and even from strangers in order to be deemed suitably attired as members of the WI, through winter scenes and into summer..Finally, we seemed to be fully equipped with the correct clothes and all our props.

But how do you stage a scene where six mature women have to pose supposedly naked behind various props, and not show "bits" that aren't supposed to be shown? We rehearsed it; we practiced it over and over again and tired ourselves out with it. We were never going to be able to do it successfully! It was going to be just too hard for us to stage. Would we ever get it right? There were tears, and tempers flared and sometimes we were in utter despair. To have six semi-naked (sorry "nude") ladies removing their robes discreetly in front of a packed theater, posing behind a piece of knitting (knitted by one of our props people), a basket of fake oranges or a couple of teacups was an amazing piece of choreography. But we did it. We pulled it off, to the rapturous and appreciative applause of the audience.

But backstage was chaos! We had started off all those months ago, not knowing one another. We were shy about disrobing in front of one another. We hid, turned our backs and went into discreet corners, but that all went overboard. No time to hide with the fast clothes changes. Bras and knickers flew round the dressing room with gay abandon. My own costume took a great deal of thought and trial and error. I needed red flowers to cover my breasts and I was told in no uncertain terms that it mustn't look like a bikini. Off I trailed to Nachalat Binyamin Street and found perfect red silk flowers. But how was I to attach them to my body? I found amazing double-sided sticky tape which I had to laboriously replace each night in order that the "costume" would be ready to be slapped on in the right place, with very little time to change and all done in the wings behind the stage because the dressing room was just too far away. I had to be sure that it wouldn't slip or move when I removed my dressing gown facing the audience, and raised my arms in my statuette pose facing a full theater. It worked too well! It was agony peeling it off each night. I still have the scars to prove it.

With no seamstress or set designer, without a carpenter, but with the help of hard- working and talented people, we sewed, knitted, printed, devised and with extensive use of the Internet slowly had everything we needed, including a badminton net which came from a website in Hong Kong.

Then it was on with the opening night and all those past months were behind us. This was it.

To quote one of the characters from the play: "We did it! We did it!"

Oh boy, did we do it.

 

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Saturday, 01 October 2022

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