Last spring when Kathryn Wishlow agreed to take the lead on a new theatre project, she knew it would be lots of work. The Village Playhouse, operated by Hospice North Hastings, had received grant funding from New Horizon’s for Seniors for a unique program, so Wishlow was tasked with bringing together a group of older adults who had little or no theatre experience and then, she had to get them ready to write, direct, produce, and star in a show by December.
The experience for Wishlow, and each member of the Golden Players, has been transformative.
With nervous laughs and not a whole lot of confidence, a group formed last spring after reading about the project in the local press. Their first task was to survive an improvisational theatre workshop and they were naturals. From there, teams formed. Writers started meeting, props and costumes were sourced, lines were learned and through it all, relationships were built.
And now, with their theatrical debut set for Nov 30, Dec. 1 and 2 at the Playhouse, the Golden Players don’t want the adventure to end.
“This bunch of people, their commitment, their dedication, their ideas, their spontaneity – they’re so lively and fun,” says director, Kathryn Wishlow. “We’ve really bonded, and we’ve started to build a little community.”
The community of arts enthusiasts that created the Golden Players has worked hard on their show and when the curtain rises on “Tis the Season,” audiences will enjoy three short plays, three musical numbers and even some re-gifting.
Wishlow says this group has made such an impact on her.
“I just didn’t expect this,” Wishlow laughs. “Everyone is truly delighted to be part of this and they have worked so hard. If this is my theatrical swan song – what a great way to leave – but I hope this will continue.”
And so do the other members of the Golden Players.
Claudine Crete will be acting for the very first time in “Tis the Season.” She says an improv workshop at one of the Golden Player’s first meetings gave her the confidence she needed to take on an acting role.
“In half an hour, at that workshop, I was on my hands and knees, acting like a dog,” Crete says. “I always wanted to try acting and this was just so easy and available, so I decided to do it and now we’re at a stage where it’s just so much fun.”
Crete says she also hopes this program will continue and that others will get involved.
“You really don’t know what you can do until you try it,” she says. “And I’m so glad I did.”
Randy Sockovie is also glad he jumped it – although he admits, he was somewhat reluctant to act or sing.
“I couldn’t carry a tune if it was strapped to my back,” he jokes.
As a “details guy” from the business world, when he heard about the program, announced before a TIFF film at the Playhouse, he wasn’t too interested in acting but he thought there might be something else for him to help with and he was right. So, with no experience in theatre, he jumped-in and has now directed his very first play.
“A play is born of a writer and then, as a director, you make it into your vision,” he explains. “I’ve had to find ways to support everyone and now I’m ready to sit in the audience and let my baby blossom.”
Sockovie, who moved to the area five years ago, says this project has helped him meet more people in the community and he says he’s gained new friends in the process. He also hints that he’s learned a lot about sound effects and hopes that the audience appreciates the humour his team is eager to showcase.
As for a future in the theatre, Sockovie says he didn’t expect to be directing a play but it worked out well, so, who knows what will happen next.
“I feel like I have helped to cultivate a great performance from a group with little experience,” he says with pride.
Michelle Kirkaldy is also proud of her efforts with the Golden Players. As one of the writer’s she’s had a great learning experience and she’s met lots of new people.
“It was pretty cool and great for my self-esteem to write something and then have people want to be in it – to take on the roles,” she says. “I have now seen it performed for the first time and I think it’s going to get some laughs!”
Kirkaldy says she has had an amazing experience with the Golden Players, she’s learned new skills, pushed her own limits and met new people. And as one of the younger seniors in the group, she says she’s hopeful for the future after working with so many older seniors.
“This can be my future,” she laughs. “These seniors are fun!”
The Golden Players want to continue their adventures and so they’re hoping for a packed audience at the Village Playhouse when they make their debut. With their grant cycle now complete, their show revenue will determine if and how they will continue in the future.
For Wishlow, who watched this all come together, she says this is truly the magic of theatre.
“It just all happened so beautifully, it all just came together, and it’s been a huge undertaking since we all just met for the first time in late spring,” she says. “It’s been great, I’m proud and I’ll be bawling on opening night.”
The Golden Players present “Tis the Season” at the Village Playhouse in Bancroft on Nov. 30 and Dec 1 at 7pm and at 2pm on Dec. 2 and everyone is welcome. This humorous look at the holidays through the eyes of seniors will delight the whole family.
Tickets are $15 and they are available at Harvest Moon, Posie’s, Vintage on Hastings, Hospice House and online at www.bancroftvaillegeplayhouse.ca. The Golden Players were supported by a grant from the Government of Canada, through New Horizons for Seniors with additional support from Hospice North Hastings and the Bancroft Village Playhouse. Funds raised from their shows will help this group continue their theatrical adventures.