It’s 1955 and teenager Peggy Ann Douglas has big dreams of becoming a movie star.
Her only problem is that lives she in rural Ontario and not Southern California. So the persistent teen turns to the local beauty pageant in hopes of escaping the farm.
That’s the premise behind comedian and actress Melody A. Johnson’s solo production, Miss Caledonia.
“In the 1950s the culture in North America was that if you wanted to get off the farm and do something more exciting with your life, like be a movie star, you do what Debbie Reynolds and a lot of other women did, which was get onto the beauty pageants circuit,” Johnson said.
Written and performed by Johnson, the production was inspired by the Canadian Comedy Award winner’s own mother, who as a teenager became an active contestant in the beauty pageant circuit in Ontario.
“At the age of 15 that seemed like a bit of a dream for my mom,” Johnson said.
During Miss Caledonia, Johnson plays 12 different characters including Peggy Ann Douglas.
Johnson says the production will resonate extremely well with those who grew up in a rural setting.
“For a lot of older people it is a great step back into time,” she said. “Young teens can also identify with the production. It resonates with people no matter how old they are.”
In recent years there has been a growing resentment around child beauty pageants. In 2013, the French government passed a motion to ban anyone under the age of 16 from participating in a beauty pageant.
However, Johnson says that pageants can still be a great experience for young ladies.
“For a young person it can be a great experience in terms of gaining confidence and creating a new community and learning skills,” Johnson said. “You start to become more involved in the community and the pageants just become another community for you.”
Johnson hopes that Miss Caledonia can remind people of the good things that come out of beauty pageants, such as skill development and human interaction.
“We see her [Peggy Ann Douglas] learning skills in the play, or at least attempting to learn skills like shooting a bow and arrow,” she said. “It opens the door to travel and camaraderie with other gals.”
Miss Caledonia runs at Vancouver Island University’s Malaspina Theatre from Wednesday (April 15) until Saturday. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. each night and tickets are $23 for adults and $15 for students on Wednesday. Tickets are $28 for adults and $15 for students on the remaining show dates.
For more information, including ticket purchases, please visit www.porttheatre.com or call the Port Theatre box office at 250-754-8550.
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