Senior Theatre Resources
Compiled by Nick Reichert
Two annual senior theatre conferences are vital to the field and offer a chance for seasoned veterans and upcoming artistic leaders and educators to meet.
• At Senior Theatre USA, hosted in Atlantic City, N.J., June 8–12, artists creating senior theatre convene and participate in workshops for drama, playwriting, gospel, musicals and dance. This year’s headline speakers include Atlantic City’s Dr. Beverly Vaughn, professor of music at Richard Stockton College, and Patti D’Beck, assistant professor of theatre at Virginia Commonwealth University.
• Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s annual conference, which meets July 24–27 in Scottsdale, Ariz., features a senior theatre program of lectures, seminars and panel discussions, along with events featuring touring senior acting companies and improv performances.
Organizations for seniors in theatre:
ArtAge Publications: The Senior Theatre Resource Center (Portland, Ore.) The organization publishes books, plays and a monthly newsletter; offers consultation and teleconferences for groups just getting off the ground; and takes part in conferences such as that of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.
Stagebridge (San Francisco) is a theatre company “for, by and of” seniors, offering professionally taught classes for seniors as well as storytelling and theatre programs in Bay Area public schools. Stagebridge also creates and produces theatrical works for the general public that showcase the rich and varied experiences of older adults to a multigenerational audience.
The National Center for Creative Aging (Washington, D.C.) focuses on providing substantial arts education and opportunities to senior citizens across the country.
Creative Age: Educational Theatre Company (Arlington, Va.) offers classes on theatre history and acting techniques to seniors. Part class, part community, part performance, Creative Age provides substantial theatrical services to seniors in the D.C. metro area.
Council Lifetime Learning: National Council of Jewish Women (New York, N.Y.) offers courses and workshops on the performing arts as well as the visual arts, personal health and fitness and college-level courses.
Oral History Program (Baltimore, Md.) was established in 1994 by the Heritage Theatre Artists’ Consortium. This program presents personal performance art as seniors take their own histories and create plays that dramatically tell the joyous and traumatic events of their lives. Shows are held at museums, universities and libraries.
Companies specializing in theatre for seniors:
The Vintage Players (Lawrence, Kans.) was formed in 2002. Since then the group has worked on “Kids at Heart,” a program that partners seniors with elementary kids learning how to read. The Players were part of a team that won Lawrence’s 2013 Comedy Showdown.
The Seasoned Performers (Birmingham, Ala.) consists of three troupes that have performed for the past 30 years at more than 130 venues throughout Alabama.
Young at Heartland (Bloomington, Ill.) is the resident senior theatre troupe within the Heartland Theatre Company and provides an outlet for both experienced and amateur actors and playwrights. Many Young at Heartland members go on to be cast in Heartland’s major productions.
Past Prime Players (Stone Mountain, Ga.) builds its own sets, costumes and props. The group also calls and manages all performances.
The Autumn Players (Asheville, NC) is nestled in the green pine hills of the Appalachian Mountains and has performed for its community for over 20 years. An entity of the Asheville Community Theatre, the troupe holds bimonthly meetings, poetry readings, play readings and outreach to community grade schools.
The Northwest Senior Theatre (Portland, Ore.) specializes in musical variety shows and cabarets and has its own constitution. Members incorporate their knowledge to create two new shows every year.
Street Theatre Company (Nashville, Tenn.) offers an educational approach to behind-the-scenes and onstage aspects of theatre. With a crash course in stage terminology and performance techniques, the company holds weekly meetings and evenings of short plays where all are welcome to participate.
SRO Theatre Company (Columbus, Ohio) is a semi-professional theatre company that has been producing original and revival work for the past 30 years and has developed a philosophy of “theatre for life.” In addition to main stage production, SRO offers educational outreach and touring shows in the area.
Roots&Branches Theater (New York, N.Y.) works to break down stereotypes between generations and began as a sit-down between Jewish senior citizens and at-risk teens. The two age groups’ stories were adapted to the stage by director and founder Arthur Strimling. Today the company provides a showcase for seniors and college-age actors to perform and share their stories.
Valley Readers Theatre Group (Phoenix, Ariz) provides classic and original play productions and radio theatre to the far corners of the Arizona desert. Led by writer and director Marilyn Warsofsky, the company travels to community centers, schools, historical societies and colleges.