A number of local theater supporters donning the tragedy mask this week, after learning that the long-planned-production of the play “Calendar Girls” may not make the Carrollton Center For The Arts stage.
The play is based on the true story of a group of middle-aged women in England who produced a nude calendar to raise money for leukemia research after the cancer death of a friend’s husband.
The story reached the stage for the first time in 2008, following the movie of the same name in 2003.
While the movie did show brief glimpses of female breasts, the stage performance does not show any nudity.
However, it’s the “implication of nudity” that has the city of Carrollton closing the curtain on its support of the production, according to City Manager Tim Grizzard.
“This is a conservative town, a conservative mayor and council, and we are not comfortable having our name on this production,” Grizzard told WLBB radio this week. “I understand that it is not in any way pornographic. I know there’s no actual nudity involved. It just has the appearance of that sort of thing. It just sends a message that we are not comfortable having our name on.”
The Center for The Arts is a city-owned venue.
Grizzard says independent sponsors can still produce the show at the Center For The Arts, however the city will not be a sponsor nor promote the program in any way; and, the arts center would have to be rented by the producers for the show.
Up until this week, it appeared that there may be sponsors for the performance. However, Community Theater Board member Cindi Winstead says the board has given up.
“We could have possibly funded the production ourselves,” Winstead said Thursday. “But, having to pay rent on the Cultural Arts Center on top of that, it would have put us into a position where we would have had to make a profit on the show. Unfortunately, the majority of the board did not feel like they wanted to risk the city being upset with them by trying to self-fund it, and didn’t think it was feasible to self-fund the show.”
Winstead says initial plans for the production included a partnership with Tanner Medical that would result in a calendar to raise funds for breast cancer awareness.
While Winstead says the board appears to have moved on, supporters of the initial plan continue to be active and have even suggested raising money to have the play performed on another stage.
This is not the first time this decade that the City Of Carrollton has pulled the plug on plans for a “non-PG” performance sceheduled for the Center For The Arts/ Cultural Arts Center.
In 2011, Carrollton made national news after then-mayor Wayne Garner shut down the production of The Rocky Horror Show several weeks into rehearsals, after he viewed a video clip that was posted to Facebook.
At that time, Garner issued this letter: “It is true that this play was approved by the Carroll County Community Theater’s Board of Directors, a group charged with reviewing and approving plays scheduled to perform at the Cultural Arts Center. It is my further understanding that they did their job — they reviewed the content of the play and voted, with some reservations, to allow the request to proceed. The board issued instructions to ‘tone the content down’ and to make the production more PG-oriented. The director of the play failed to do so, and in fact, took some liberties that headed the play in the opposite direction.
On Sept. 13, 2011, I was contacted by the city manager, Casey Coleman, who informed me that he had received a video of actors rehearsing a scene in the play, titled ‘Touch Me.’ After reviewing this video, I was in absolute agreement with Mr. Coleman that this play could not be performed in the Cultural Arts Center. It is not an appropriate use of tax dollars, city property, city manpower or other city resources.”
The 1970’s cult-classic did eventually reach the stage… at the University of West Georgia Townsend Center.
Supporters of the Calendar Girls performance are also pointing out that the City of Carrollton has recently allowed the Center For The Arts to showcase numerous plays originating from PG-13 material, including Spamalot, and Tombstone– which showed an attempted sexual assault.
Winstead concludes that supporters are not only disappointed that the specific play will not make it to the Center For The Arts stage, they are also frustrated as well that — according to her — producers were not informed of the city’s dis-interest in supporting the play, until 10 days before auditions. She says the production has been in the works for close to a year and scheduled to premiere in September.
No announcement has been made if a play will replace ‘Calendar Girls’ in the Fall schedule, or what that show may be.