Meet the cast of McLean Community Players’ Calendar Girls. In Part 1, meet Diane Sams.
Joel: Tell our readers where they may have seen you on local stages.
Diane: I have been around the area for a long time. I did a long stint in Shear Madness at The Kennedy Center and have worked with Woolly Mammoth and various other D.C. groups. Most recently I have been doing Community Theater with McLean and Bowie Community Theatre but also with LTA and Port City Playhouse in Alexandria.
Tell us about the character you play and how you relate to her. Does this character have any of your personality or character traits?
I play Chris Harper. She is the ringleader in the groups’ determination to put together the “nude” calendar to raise money to buy a new sofa for the Leukemia Center relatives’ waiting room in memory of her best friend’s husband, John, who has died of Leukemia. Chris is one of those out front, having a wonderful time, people who gets everyone involved with her plans and activities, even when they have not been thought through very well. She’s fiercely loyal and much deeper that most people see. I think Chris and I share a few traits in that we love people and want everyone to be involved in things about which we are passionate. Neither of us has ever walked into a room full of strangers, only rooms full of friends we don’t know yet.
What has been the most fun playing this character?
Being allowed to do the North of England accent. It is so full and wonderful in the mouth. It makes saying the most everyday words spectacular.
What have been some of the challenges you have had preparing for your role and how did your director help you with these challenges?The most challenging thing has been the idea of being unclothed, even partly, in public. It takes a great deal of mental work to come to the point that it can be done. I am particularly lucky in that the Director, Bob Sams, is my husband and has supported my decision to be in the show and to do the calendar poses and described. Bob loves and respects women as the fabulously varied individuals that they are. The outsides are loved in all varieties as much as the insides. He makes things very safe.
Which character in the show is most like you, and why?
I think the character most like me is actually Annie Clark, Chris’s best friend. She is less out front and more internally emotional. I am personally less likely to make emotional displays until there is no longer any way to avoid them.
What do you admire most about your fellow cast members?
The women and men in this cast are fantastic. They have created an ensemble feeling from the very first reading. No one slacks. Everyone is listening and aware of the flow of the scenes, even when they aren’t in them. I love the embracing of the whole that has happened with this cast. I’m having a wonderful time working with all of them.
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching you perform in Calendar Girls?
That there is no limit to what a small group can achieve when they pull together for a cause they truly believe in. Love and friendship can move the world.
There are very few shows that feature middle aged women as vital, forceful, human beings. This one is an opportunity to bring the largest segment of womankind out into the spotlight. It is this age group that actually leads in community organizations, in families, in businesses, in life in general. To be able to show how women function as real friends and not just as adjuncts to the men in their lives or as the objects of blind desire is amazing. When the rights to do Calendar Girls were released in the U.K. we at MCP began our vigil to get hold of the U.S. rights as soon as they were available. We had to wait nearly two years but it was worth it. This play was too important to lose the chance to present it.
What is your favorite line that your character says? What is your favorite line that another character says?
My favorite line of Chris’ is “If we could get just this much closer to killing off this shitty, cheating, sly, conniving disease that cancer is, I would run round Skipton Market smeared in plum jam, wearing a knitted tea cozy on my head, singing “Jerusalem!””
My favorite line from another character, is from Jessie the retired 70+ schoolteacher to the condescending 20 something beautician, “You take her first. I’m going around back to score some crack.” It’s just beautiful.
If you were a Calendar Girl, what would your page look like, and which month would you be and why?
My page would be books, stacks and stacks of books. I’d be reading at least two at once and there would several open on the floor and tables. I would probably have a “chair” made of books to sit on. My month would be May. The flowers and trees are just about full, it’s not too hot and one can sit on the porch for hours and read. Just heaven!
Calendar Girls plays from September 18- October 3, 2015 at the McLean Community Players performing at McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre – 1234 Ingleside Avenue, in McLean, VA. For more information, call (703) 304-3176, or visit their website. Tickets are available at the Alden Box Office, through OvationTix at 1-866-811-4111, or online.