Patti Heying has been a regular presence on local stages for decades, and she has been orchestrating the action from the director’s chair almost as long. This month, she is directing the Woodford Theatre’s production of Calendar Girls. It is based on the 2003 movie, featuring Helen Mirren, about a group of British women who produce a nude calendar to raise money for leukemia research.
With Calendar Girls heading into its final weekend, we decided to ask Patti a few questions.
1. You are known to local audiences as both a director and an actor. What do you find most satisfying about each?
As an actor, I love digging into the script to develop the character and uncovering what drives them. I love interacting with the other actors. As a director, my focus is more big-picture, such as finding the through-line for the play and its rhythms, how each character fits into the story, what are the colors and textures of the play, etc. I enjoy asking questions and then watching what the actors do to answer those questions. I love bringing a group of talented, thoughtful actors together and watching how they build relationships with one another as the characters.
2. What attracted you to Calendar Girls as a directing project?
The story moved me, and I was fascinated by the real-life events. A small group of quite ordinary women at the midpoint of their lives wanted to raise money to buy a sofa, and the result was bigger than any of them could have imagined. It forever changed their lives and helped so many. What they did required some personal risk, and they did it anyway.
3. How did you decide how to execute the photo shoot scene? What were those rehearsals like? That took some very playful, careful blocking and had to have been a scream.
We set a date to rehearse the “unveiling” and eased into it. I gave them the freedom to wear as much or as little as was comfortable in the rehearsals leading up to that night. When the date arrived, it was a women’s-only rehearsal, and as we blocked each photograph, I was jogging all over the theater to see what I could or could not see from every audience perspective and shouting things like, “More to the left! Hold that higher! Hug that piano like it’s your best friend!” And yes, it was a scream.
4. When you cast a show, what are looking for in an actor?
Beyond any qualities (age, height, size) made necessary by the script, I look for people who connect well with the other auditionees both in the audition and in the waiting areas. My goal is to put together a team of people who will play well together both on and off stage.
5. What has been your most satisfying on-stage performance in the Lexington area?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a single acting experience, because there have been several I’ve very much enjoyed and the roles were very different. What they all have in common is the team of people who came together to put it all together. Designers, director, stage manager, crew and actors were all of one mind in the creative process. My first taste of that kind of true ensemble work was a mid-1980s production of A Lesson From Aloes. Carol Spence directed, and I shared a stage with Joe Gatton and Joe Montgomery.
Calendar Girls plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center, 275 Beasley Drive, Versailles. Visit Woodfordtheatre.com or call 859-873-0648 for tickets.