The­ater — ex­er­cise your mind and have fun si­mul­ta­ne­ously

The Southern Berks News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Terry Al­burger

In the course of my job at a re­tire­ment com­mu­nity, one might as­sume I plan events such as bingo or knit­ting cir­cles. This could not be fur­ther from the truth. My res­i­dents are per­haps the “youngest” peo­ple I have the priv­i­lege to know. The best ex­am­ple of this fact is the the­ater de­part­ments. Yes, that is plu­ral. We proudly boast two — one of which, the Song & Dance Troupe, falls un­der my ju­ris­dic­tion.

When I was first asked to help out with this show, I was still the fit­ness trainer, fo­cus­ing not only on phys­i­cal health, but also on brain health. I had cre­ated a class called “Brain Games” that tried to chal­lenge the minds of all who at­tended. Puz­zles, cryp­t­o­gy­rams, lat­eral think­ing, for­eign lan­guage, trivia … I in­cluded a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing. The more I re­searched, the more I re­al­ized that par­tic­i­pat­ing in the­ater was one of the great­est brain ex­er­cises imag­in­able. So when asked to di­rect the shows, I jumped at the chance. By cre­at­ing scripts with chal­leng­ing roles, I en­cour­age cre­ativ­ity, so­cial in­ter­ac­tions and men­tal stim­u­la­tion.

From the minds of se­niors come some amaz­ingly cre­ative ideas. Cre­ativ­ity can be de­fined as the abil­ity to think out­side of the box. This is per­haps what I love the most in work­ing with this age group. They are not afraid to try new things, to stretch the lim­its of their com­fort zones and to throw them­selves whole­heart­edly into our shows with a level of ded­i­ca­tion that is un­prece­dented.

The key to a suc­cess­ful show is to have the right crew be­hind you. I am blessed to have many tal­ented peo­ple around me. Re­tired engi­neers, sci­en­tists, pro­fes­sors, teach­ers, etc. whose ar­eas of ex­per­tise work in my fa­vor. They are in­stru­men­tal in the most ef­fec­tive use of mi­cro­phones, light­ing and spe­cial ef­fects, in­clud­ing both sound and vis­ual. Stage­hands are also a huge part of a suc­cess­ful show. And lastly, it is cru­cial to have a good stage man­ager. Mine is my right hand, my or­ga­nizer and the glue that holds the cast to­gether in co­he­sion.

With a solid team be­hind us, we con­tinue with the task of cre­at­ing an in­no­va­tive show. We be­gin in Jan­uary when we call our four co-di­rec­tors, who I call my “think tank,” into closed-door brain­storm­ing ses­sions. The age range of my cre­ative team is be­tween 65 and 85 years old. I have found that work­ing with peo­ple of vary­ing ages leads to many per­spec­tives and ideas which I would not nor­mally con­sider. The blend of these ideas and per­spec­tives is what gives us a cap­ti­vat­ing and en­ter­tain­ing prod­uct.

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