When the going gets tough, the tough get naked.
Prodded by stripped-to-the-bone budgets, supporters of the arts in Ventura County have taken off the gloves — and the shirts, pants and assorted unmentionables — to help. The results are two calendars for 2010 that feature local residents posing in the buff.
The Dramatic Dames Calendar is the inaugural effort of the Grandes Dames, the volunteer auxiliary of the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura.
It features members of the fundraising group wearing little more than smiles and carefully placed props as they interpret scenes from plays staged by the professional theater troupe.
“A couple of years ago, we did a cookbook of the Grandes Dames’ favorite recipes. Last year, the project was cases of wine with show posters as the labels. This just seemed like a fun way to continue the theme,” said Grandes Dames President Wendy Gillett.
The Men of Ojai Calendar for 2010 is an all-new version of one last produced in 2007, said Demitri Corbin, director of what is now called the Ojai Calendar Project.
“In the beginning, it was a protest, a way of bringing awareness to the need for the city of Ojai to reinstate the arts grants it had discontinued during an earlier financial crisis,” he said.
But the inspiration to actually create the black-and-white calendar of images by photographer Attasalina Dews was a lot more colorful than that sounds, Corbin admitted.
“I was at Movino Wine Bar one night and asked some friends, ‘Would you pose nude for a good cause?’ And people said, ‘Sure!’ A few weeks passed and I forgot about it. Then a friend asked, ‘What’s going to happen with the calendar, man?’”
The selection of models was more complicated than merely finding local men willing to show some skin, he said.
Volunteers were asked to fill out an application listing their interests, then to undergo face-to-face interviews with Corbin on the topic of the calendar theme, which this year is “freedom.”
Finalists then were selected by the cheekily named Council of Fabulousness, a group of women with ties to the arts in Ventura County.
“It’s not just about looks; it’s about who makes real contributions to the community,” said Corbin.
This year, the project comes full circle with the inclusion of Movino manager and Ojai Art Center Theater producer Billy Wilds, who is featured striking what is, for the calendar, a rare indoors pose: reading on his couch at home.
In the spirit of the 2003 Helen Mirren film “Calendar Girls,” women willing to appear in the Dramatic Dames project were asked to put their names into a bucket for selection by drawing. Winners of the drawing were then paired with what Gillett considered “iconic” plays from Rubicon’s history.
They include former Ventura Mayor Rosa Lee Measures in a depiction of the William Inge play “Bus Stop,” certified financial planner Merle DiVita as Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and octogenarian Realtor Helen Yunker — her hair loosened from its usual bun — as Blanche DuBois in a tableau from “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
The calendar’s images were shot on the Rubicon stage by photographer Jeanne Tanner during a single, busy week in October, between performances of “Daddy Long Legs.” The women did their own hair and makeup and in some cases brought their props.
“When you see them, you really get the sense that these are gorgeous, confident women who felt the importance of taking it off for charity,” said Gillett. “We loved doing it, and would consider doing it again.”
Daring calendar duo
Dramatic Dames 2010: The calendar produced by the Grandes
Dames as a fundraiser for Rubicon Theatre Co. in Ventura
will debut at the group’s luncheon and boutique from 11:30
a.m. Dec. 7 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Oxnard, 600 E.
Esplanade Drive. It also is available by calling Rubicon
development coordinator Amber Landis at 667-2912, ext. 237.
Cost is $20 for advance orders, $25 after Dec. 7.