Theatre By and For Seniors – Virtual Camp Week 3

Welcome back Campers! Last session we looked at ways to nibble around the edges of the local Theatre scene as an audience member,  getting a feel for who produces what and which companies a new or returning Thespian might aspire work with. This time we’ll look at a few ways to get involved with amateur productions in the Portland/Vancouver area.

First of all it should be said that we use the term amateur only to denote that, with rare exceptions, participants in these groups have no expectation of being paid for their efforts. It doesn’t mean that you won’t find deeply devoted practitioners of the acting, directing or backstage crafts working there. Quite the contrary! It just means that the love of participating is reward enough, and we think that’s a pretty cool thing!

Play Reading Groups are a Good Place to Start

Four seniors sitting and listening to a presentation.One way to bridge the gap between audience member and performer is to get involved with reading plays aloud. This is often done around a table or with chairs in a circle. Participants are assigned a role or roles to read, sometimes with time beforehand to prepare and sometimes as a first time, or “cold” read. There’s no attempt to memorize lines, and usually no blocking or movement around a playing area. Inhabiting a character is done strictly through voice and emotion, though eye contact between scene partners helps to foster the sense of give-and-take that is fundamental to most dramatic relationships.

The Senior Studies Institute at PCC has an ongoing weekly series of readings that are a great place to take part in these fun events. As with their other classes and presentations admission is free after payment of a $30 annual member ship fee:

Wanted: Adventuresome SSI members who enjoy a bit of fun and folly. No experience necessary, only the ability to read, speak and listen, resulting in camaraderie, good laughs, and the “aha!” of working out your character halfway through a play. We’re more living room than Broadway! Come check us out!
Neighborhood House:
Every Wednesday from 12:30pm to 3pm

Sometimes a table reading morphs into a “staged” reading. Here there is usually some rehearsal involved before a public presentation is given. Selected movement about the stage and a degree of character development bring the proceeding closer to performance level. There is a clear delineation between the actors and the audience, with the cast frequently employing music stands to hold their scripts in a uniform fashion. Many (most?) new scripts go through this process at least once and often many times to help the playwright get a sense of how their piece plays to an audience, and to give them an idea where rewrites might be needed. If subsequent readings are held after edits and tweaks we call this “workshopping” the play. It’s very exciting to contribute to the development of a play in this way.

Okay, we assume that if you’re still with us it means you haven’t fallen out of the canoe or gotten lost on the Nature Trail. You’re ready to look at actually acting in local plays! Here’s an article from that talks about a tremendous local resource for budding senior Thespians:

Senior Theatre Groups Offer Opportunities to Play

by Amy Wang

Call it creative aging. Call it senior theatre. Call it a way for older adults to engage with the arts.

Bonnie Vorenberg of Cedar Mill prefers “senior theatre” – and she should know.  A lifelong theatre devotee whose college major was education and who once taught drama at Medford High School, Vorenberg has worked in senior theatre since 1978. She’s president of ArtAge’s Senior Theatre Resource Center, wrote the first senior theatre directory, edited the first anthology of senior theatre scripts, and established the first talent agency for seniors. In May, Older Americans Month, the federal Administration for Community Living celebrated Vorenberg as a “trailblazer.”

According to the theatre resource center, there are more than 800 senior theatre companies in the United States, including several in Oregon. In Northeast Portland, seniors perform at the Salvation Army’s Rose Center. In Southwest Portland, they rehearse with Encore Senior Players at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church and get onstage with Northwest Senior Theatre at the Alpenrose Dairy Opera House. In Southeast Portland, they’ve performed for three years at Russellville Park retirement community under the name  Curtain Call. Read more at….

Lastly, here are some links to local community theatre groups that post audition notices on their websites:

New Century Players (community theatre based in Clackamas County)

The Nutz-n-Boltz Theatre Company (community theatre based in Boring, OR)

Beaverton Civic Theatre (community theatre based in Beaverton)

Hillsboro Actors Repertory Theatre (community theatre in Hillsboro).

Next time we look at starting or resuming a professional acting career in the Portland area. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to drop us a note below, or start a thread in the forums!

One thought on “Theatre By and For Seniors – Virtual Camp Week 3”

  1. Patricia says:

    Interesting article! I’d love to read more about older adults getting involved in the Portland theatre scene!

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