Create / Make / Perform – 30 Micro-Plays
Sharon Ojanpa Mackey
Show Biz time again! The Finnish Heritage Museum once more sponsored a series of performance arts. This summer’s program was made possible by a grant from the Ohio Arts Council and is part of the Creative Aging Ohio Initiative (CAOI). The program was directed by Park Cofield and Lisa Yanofsky, and included two components – a theater workshop series and an original performance. The activities were intended to provide meaningful, person centered art experiences for older adults in Fairport Harbor and surrounding communities, and to support artistic mastery of theater skills, personal creativity, and social engagement.
On Friday, June 24, 2016, 11 FHM members ranging in age from 67 to 86, and three teens performed in the world premier of Create / Make / Perform : 30 Micro-plays (approximately) in 60 minutes (approximately). Each two-minute (approximately) play was written by either a cast member or another senior, thus making this performance chock full of world premiers.
Starting way back in February, workshops were held to study writing, movement, physical and vocal techniques for performance, and bringing text to life. Then came the rehearsals. How do you prepare to present 30 plays on one stage? The first thing is minimal settings. Chairs were the main props, augmented by steins, shoes, and a few smaller items.
And how do you choose which play goes first? You need a good stage manager. We had one in the person of Cathy Norman, who asked the audience to shout out which play they would like to see next. We had a lot of fun with that. Over the course of the three performances, no two plays were performed in the same order, so it was always a brand new show. I wonder how hard it was for the performers to remember their lines, given the fluctuating sequence from one performance to the next.
Helping to keep the show moving smoothly was illustrator Kevin Smalley. As each numbered play was called out, he drew a sketch showing some aspect of the play. It was fascinating to watch the sketches take shape. He also had available for examination the sketchbook he made during the rehearsals. The lighting and sound design was created by Kix Williams; and video documentation was by Jacob Hochendoner. David Katila of FHM served as crew.
Now let me tell you something about the performances themselves. Each sketch represented someone’s dream, or hope, or vision, or observation. Several had to do with getting older; others talked about friendships; a few had to do with dreams, both fulfilled and unfulfilled; some were simply reminiscences. No matter the topic, each was performed with passion and thoughtful caring. The audience was entranced, being moved from tears to laughter and everywhere in between.
Seeing these senior actors putting their hearts and souls into each performance was an experience that no one in the audience will ever forget; nor will the performers themselves. Given the option to do it again, or if asked whether someone else should do this, I am sure that they would tell you to jump in with both feet.
It wasn’t just seniors who provided the acting; three of Fairport Harbor Harding High School’s students really brought the performances to life. They were Amanda Kazsmer, Gabby Palmer, and Sierra Sadler. They moved sets around, helped set up the props, and, most importantly, took part in many of the performances themselves, playing off the seniors. My favorite was two old men sitting in a bar in the Midwest; but I guess you had to be there to really enjoy it.
The seniors involved were: Elaine Kangas, Juanita Cleary, Donna Lesiacsek, Lasse Hiltunen, Anne Pohto, Ron Toivonen, Shirley Northcott, Dan Smith, Bonnie Lackey, Virpi Buck, and Chip Knox. If FHM gets another chance to work with the OAC and its Senior Initiative, we hope to include additional people from neighboring communities and other organizations. And if you ever get a chance to participate in this sort of initiative, please take it. You will have a wonderful time.
THE CAST AND CREW OF 30-60 MICRO-PLAYS
30/60 Seniors go a walking. With Lisa Yanofsky's direction, seniors were exercized in many ways--all good. Not a joint was spared, but wisely no one was asked to do too much.
Seniors concentrated with brain activites too.
Thoughts, ideas, and feelings were recorded on paper.