I was interested in Geritheatrics Theatre Productions & Repertory Company, a 55 plus troupe of actors doing stage productions, because I have many close friends who are older, and I’m curious to see something new.
The emotional, thought provoking, and satirical dramas directed by Rick Caslake took place last weekend (Nov 25, 26, and 27) at Lions Place, 610 Portage Ave. in the small auditorium on the second floor.
On Sat. Nov. 26, the production I attended was sold out, where I received VIP treatment thanks to Rick Caslake – Artistic Director and Founder, and Jason Cheung – Publicist of the organization.
Prior to the start of the play, Caslake thanked all three playwrights of “A Senior’s Trilogy”, acknowledging that a drama production doesn’t start when the curtain lifts, but with an idea.
This idea is followed by countless hours of drafting, revisions, and endless preparation of cast and crew to follow the script, including developing the many layers of the script analysis.
The first play was Sophie & The Weiner Man by Winnipeg playwright Carolyn Gray – a former Executive Director of the Manitoba Writers Guild.
Gray’s work has been produced at Theatre Projects Manitoba, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the International Children’s Festival and Toronto’s Factory Theatre; she has also worked as an actor, archivist and educator for 25 years.
Margaret Gwiazda played Sophie – a witty, feisty, and fun loving character in a nursing home. Melanie Shumilak played Nora, an overpowering and troubled nurse.
This was a great elaboration on a situation with many layers to dialogue and situations.
Gray explained that after she worked in the healthcare field, she wanted to show how people can abuse older adults, revealing situations where this could happen.
The second play was The Dance by Tyler Joy White, directed by Maureen Taggart, and Pat Lejko – Assistant to the Artistic Director Rick Caslake.
White also produced The Funeral Guest with Sarasvàti Productions that focuses on issues individuals, families, and communities face concerning mental health.
Dawn Hillstrom played May, a woman in her 60’s fighting the childlike role that Beverley Grace as Jane, her 80-year-old mother, wants her to remain in.
This play was based on situations common to people facing mental health issues in conversations with realistic dialogue, with no word out of place, as Caslake pointed out.
White said he wanted to reflect the aging process; a mother still sees herself in that role, even if her daughter is 60 and she is 80. However, we still have the power of how we react, deal with, and challenge a situation.
The final play was Janitor by Pam Calabrase MacLean, from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, who is a librarian at St. Francis Xavier University. She is a poet – creating Twenty-four Names for Mother, a book published in 2006 by The Paper Journey Press (Wake Forest, NC).
Her work is also in two US anthologies: Women Behaving Badly, 2004, and Blink, 2006, and also includes, The Dead Can’t Dance, winning awards across Canada, from Other Voices, and Room.
Cheryl Soluk played Florence, a dying woman in a nursing home. Andres Collantes as Ulysses (the only actor under 55 in this production), reveals to the audience the effects of his character’s unusual story, seeking forgiveness and ultimately reconciliation, even if from a stranger.
MacLean said she started hearing the dialogue between an older woman and a janitor infused with the idea of seeking forgiveness. She explained that with forgiveness, Ulysses is free to face life and Florence is free to face death.
This story is close to her heart, coming to terms with her own family situation as an adopted child, and having adopted one of her children.
After the trilogy, there was a time to meet the cast, crew, and the playwrights. I felt good after the production, knowing the audience had similar reactions, such as the enthusiasm of the actors, the satire of real life situations, and the deep understanding shared by everyone involved. That is, the situations were so real, and the expressions were so emotionally engaging.
I look forward to Geritheatrics future productions, and recommend them for all ages.
A big thank you to Jason Cheung and Rick Caslake for introducing me to these productions.
For more background info, listen to the River City 360 Podcast interviews with Rick Caslake and Jason Cheung of Geritheatrics.
Or check out previous CNC articles about Geritheatrics: