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Play aims to reach above stereotypes

One-act drama Strong Breast Revolution based on experiences of its four actors

Guelph Mercury Local news, Tuesday, September 30, 2003, p. A4 \

KATHLEEN ELLIOTT MERCURY STAFF GUELPH - There are small ones, big ones, saggy ones, perky ones, floppy ones, soft ones, hard ones and even leaky ones. And that's the message Vicki Hambley wants to get out.

Women's breasts come in a variety of shapes and sizes. "We don't all have the kind of breasts you see on television," said Hambley, a University of Guelph graduate and director of the one-act topless play, The Strong Breast Revolution. "Generally the only time we see breasts is on television and the only time is in a sexual atmosphere. "It's a cookie cutter breast."

Not every woman walks around with an optimistic 36 DD. Not every woman wants to. "The overall message (of the play) is about celebrating our bodies," said Hambley, 23.

The Strong Breast Revolution is a short series of vignettes that weave into each other. The stories are based on the personal experiences of Hambley and the four actors, Meagan Timms, Melannie Gayle, Christine Lafazanos and Laurel Atkinson. The latter three are University of Guelph students. Timms is a graduate. The play touches upon many themes including body image, gender, breastfeeding and breast cancer. "A lot of these things go back to how well you know your body," said Hambley.

While the play was presented originally as Hambley's final class project it caught the attention of local arts guru Sue Richards. She thought it might complement her Breast of Canada calendar, which is being launched Thursday. This is the third year for the calendar, aimed at educating women about their breasts and breast health through information and a variety of photographs.

"(The Strong Breast Revolution) reinforces another element to the calendar," said Richards. "It's a must see, it will change the way you think." While Richards typically introduces the calendar with a one-day launch, she was so overwhelmed by the audience's response to the play that it will run for eight days at the Guelph Youth Music Centre in conjunction with the official release of the 2004 Breast of Canada calendar.

Richards is thrilled to publish the calendar again. Sales for the 2003 edition were up by 250 per cent from the first year, when Richards took a personal financial hit, giving away almost 18,000 calendars. This year 4,000 calendars have been printed as Richards is hoping for a sell-out. More than half have already been sold online at www.breastofcanada.com and at a select number of retailers. "I have fans now, the calendar has fans," laughed Richards, whose net proceeds from the calendar will go to the Canadian Breast Cancer Network. "I have customers who have been with me for three years, and it's quite exciting. They feel they have a stake in this."

Richards said the idea of the calendar is catching on. Women are using it as a tool and many, she explained, have learned how to do proper breast self examinations because of the calendar. The 2004 edition features the photographs of Guelph photographer Melanie Gillis as well as Brian Hydesmith of Winnipeg and Kellie Yandle of Vancouver, who are responsible for the June and October photographs, respectively.

"It's great to expand beyond the breasts of Guelph and the breasts of Ontario," said Richards. "It is truly becoming the breasts of Canada." The calendar boasts models between the ages of 18 and 69 and features the four actors from the Strong Breast Revolution as well as three breast cancer survivors. The calendar sells for $19.95 and will be available at the launch.

Dates are as follows: Oct. 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 4 and 5 at 3 p.m. Doors open an hour before showtime. Tickets are $10 in advance, $13 at the door and are available at the Bookshelf, River Run Centre box office or by calling 763-3000. The launch takes place at the Guelph Youth Music Centre, 75 Cardigan St.