On March 20, 2020 Silhouette Stages will open their production of “Calendar Girls” by Tim Firth based on the motion picture of the same name by Firth and Juliette Towhidi. The play will be produced and directed by Conni Trump Ross with set by Becca Hanauer and Doug Thomas, Costumes by Lynn Kellner and Sound by Ethan Hogarty.
Silhouette Stages began back in May 2003 as Shadow Block Productions. The name changed in 2008 and the group started to reach out to a broader venue. They relocated to Slayton House in the Wilde Lake Village in Columbia Maryland. As a registered 501 (c) (3) Silhouette Stages “touches an ever-expanding community of actors, musicians, production and technical crew, and creative staff in its mission to bring audiences the joys of the theatre experience.” Silhouette Stages is one of the few ongoing amateur, unaffiliated, theatrical groups in the county. In a city that is presently the second largest in Maryland, Columbia, they have a large and loyal following.
“Calendar Girls” follows Annie and her best friend Chris after Annie’s husband dies. They try to raise money for a local hospital with the help of four friends. As a means to solicit donations, they decide to pose nude for a risqué calendar. This gets noticed worldwide while the women face the real meaning of their friendship. The play is a fine comedy that will make you feel inspired along with some tugs on your heartstrings.
Listed in the cast are Rosalie Daelemans, Debbie Mobley, Julie Press, Lyn Whiting, Veronica Clarke, Jeanne Louise, Suzanne Young, Terri Laurino, Russell Wooldridge, Jeff Dunne, Kathy Marshall, Robert Howard, Dana Bonistalli and Gary Grabau.
I had a chance to interview Connie Trump Ross, the director and producer of “Calendar Girls.”
Bio: Conni studied voice performance and theatre at Indiana University and has performed and directed in the Baltimore area, the Midwest and on the West Coast. Last year she directed the award-winning production of “Anything Goes” for Silhouette Stages. Next season she will direct “42nd Street”. A couple of favorite roles she’s done are Reno Sweeney and Hope Harcourt “Anything Goes”, Betty Blake “The Will Rogers Follies” Marian “The Music Man,” Golda “Fiddler” and Abigail Adams “1776.” Some favorite shows she has directed include “Forum,” “Curtains,” “The Full Monty,” “Spamalot,” “Chicago,” “Drowsy Chaperone,” “Lucky Stiff,” “The Fantasticks,” and “Noises Off.”
- Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
I was raised in Knightstown, Indiana and studied vocal performance and theatre at Indiana University. Following graduation, I served as an officer in the US Army where I met my husband. We were transferred to this area for a three-year assignment and have now been here for 30 years! I worked for many years as a management consultant which afforded me the opportunity to travel throughout the US and Europe. Although retired from the corporate world I do continue working as an Executive Coach.
I have been acting, singing, and directing since 7th grade. I have done so many shows over the years, but there are so many I’d still love to do. Time is the limiting factor!
- What special problems do you have directing “Calendar Girls”?
Fortunately, I haven’t had any real problems directing “Calendar Girls”. I was able to cast with very talented and experienced actors who make the directing pretty painless.
I wanted to do the show for two reasons. 1. It provides an opportunity to cast many actors of a certain age! There aren’t a lot of plays around that are written for cast members in their 40s+ and yet experience typically comes with age! 2. It reminds all of us that life is limited and needs to be embraced. You would be hard pressed to find anyone whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way. We have to continue the fight against it.
Accents were a bit of a concern, but we have a wonderful dialect coach. Also, the author is specific in noting that people come and go within a town so accents should vary.
While the actual calendar scene could have been intimidating, it was actually one of the more enjoyable ones we worked through. There is a deep trust within the cast and production team for this show. We did the photos for our calendar prior to working on the scene. We had a blast working on the photoshoot and that probably made the scene work more relaxed. We will be selling the Silhouette Stages “Calendar Girls” calendar at the show and through the website.
- Would you rather act or direct and why?
Do I have to make a choice? I spent so many years on stage and always swore I would never come off. One night I was watching a show and told my husband I felt I could have done a better job directing it. His response was simply “then why don’t you?”. Until that moment I had never considered the possibility of directing because I was never going to come off stage! Next thing I know I am directing my first show. And now “Calendar Girls” is my 24th show as a director.
I still occasionally do a role and love being on stage but I adore the entire process of directing. There is so much satisfaction in creating a show from beginning to end.
- Why do you think Silhouette Stages endures as the only successful, continual and totally amateur theatre group in Howard County, not including those connected with schools and colleges? What makes it work?
I think what makes SS endure over the years is the commitment and passion of the volunteer Board of Directors. Many of the Board members have been involved in the organization for many years, and several have been with us since the beginning. These Board members put in countless hours on top of their full-time jobs simply because they are passionate about Silhouette Stages. Because of that consistent Board membership over the years, we are able to refine and revise how we do things over time, as we adjust to meet our ever-growing and ever-changing audiences, volunteers, and artists As we learn the types of shows that our audiences love, we adjust our seasons to bring them the shows we know they will enjoy. For example, we began years ago producing little-known, small cast musicals, but we are now known for our large musical comedies often with casts of more than 20 people. We also have made the experience of our patrons and our performers a priority; we get to our patrons and especially our season subscribers and bring make them feel like they are a part of the Silhouette Stages family, and for our volunteer performers and technical crew, we do everything we can to make them have an enjoyable and educational experience.
- Is there anything you would like to do either as director or actor in the future?
I am going to be directing “42nd Street” in 2021 for Silhouette Stages. After that my plan is to retire from directing. We are going to be grandparents and I want to have more time to travel and spend with my grandson!
“Calendar Girls” at Silhouette Stages runs weekends from March 20-April 5 at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane, Columbia, Maryland 21044 (Wilde Lake Village Center). For tickets and information go to their website.
Calendars of the women in “Calendar Girls” will be available at the theatre and through the website. The cost is only $20 and profits will be donated to the Leukemia Foundation.