Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 27, 2012

Senior Focus: Aged-to-perfection theater group

As we age, we often look back into the past and wonder "what if" — as in, "what if" you had a desire to act onstage, but never gratified your wish?

Any senior who has wanted to try acting onstage, but was apprehensive about acting in front of an audience or the hours of rehearsing, can now realize their wish. The Aged to Perfection theater group is open to anyone 55 or older, regardless of experience. Newcomers will find this a non-threatening way to experience the magic and fascination of the theater.

Barbara Goodearl fell in love with the reader's theater she attended in Empire. She went to Phil Murphy, executive director of the Old Town Playhouse, and asked why they couldn't do what she calls Theater of the Voice in Traverse City.

Phil told her it had been a dream of his for years, but there had been no one interested in starting it. So Goodearl organized a group of performers, which became the Aged to Perfection theater group.

"Our group is actually considered theater of the voice, because the voice is what is stressed — the expression of the voices," Goodearl said.

Theater of the Voice or Reader's Theater is an interpretive activity in which readers use their voices to bring characters to life. During performances, actors read from scripts using facial expressions and voice inflection to portray emotions. With a director, the group explores a script in detail and develops the characters. The final outcome is to perform for the community.

It requires no sets, costumes, props or memorized lines. The performer's goal is to read a script aloud effectively, enabling the audience to visualize the actions. Sometimes, Reader's Theater is even defined by what it is not — no memorizing, no props, no costumes, no sets.

Aged to Perfection performs seated in tall black chairs. Everybody dresses in black and they read from a lighted stand that is in front of them.

Goodearl's group consists of 55 and older, because the Old Town Playhouse has a theater company for youth; they have their MainStage, which is any age, and the Depot Studio, which also includes any age. Many older people did not want to commit their time for three months of rehearsals and shows for the Old Town Playhouse. Aged to Perfection's plays or radio shows have four rehearsals at most. And there is no memorization.

"Even though the memorization is not a problem for most of our older participants, the time commitment is what's so huge," Goodearl said. "Performing with Aged to Perfection, they also don't have to worry about costumes, blocking or anything else — only how they sound."

Although they do welcome donations, the performances are free to the public and feature a cross section of plays, radio scripts and poetry.

"Our first play was May 9, 2012 at the Depot Studio," Goodearl said. —¦from the donations of that performance, I was able to buy eight chairs. We hope to buy some stands and build a sound effects board with future donations."

Aged to Perfection will be performing at the Traverse City location of the Senior Center Network on Nov. 28. Murphy has written an adaptation of "The Child's Christmas in Wales," which they will be performing at that time. Billie Thompson is also directing two short plays, the "Christmas Rap Wrap" and "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Moore. The performance includes a holiday singalong with the audience.

"We are just trying to give back to the community in a fun way and show off the talent of our older people, who have wowed us," Goodearl said. "We are trying to schedule a production for every three months and we love to have new people join our group."

Performances are at 4 p.m. Nov. 28 at the Senior Center and at 1 p.m. Nov. 28 and 29 at Bay Ridge.

Meanwhile, Aged to Perfection's next meeting will be Nov. 10 at the Old Town Playhouse.

For more information on the Senior Center performance, call 922-4911 or email ehovie@grandtraverse.org.

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