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‘Reader’s theater’ takes center stage

Early last month, a newly formed group of residents gathered in the community dining room for the first official performance of Newton Presbyterian Manor’s Reader’s Theater Troupe.

For those unable to attend the performance, or new to the genre, reader’s theater is a style of theater in which the actors present stories, poems or plays using only scripts and vocal expression.

The group was the brainchild of Dorcas Good, who, along with her husband, Dennis, was drawn to Newton Presbyterian Manor for a little over a year thanks to its emphasis on the arts.

A career drama instructor with a master’s in theatre from Cal State Los Angeles, Dorcas had been aware of the concept of reader’s theatre for years and believed it could be the perfect vehicle for the residents of an assisted living community.

“I saw the possibility of a reader’s theater for seniors because in reader’s theater you can sit and it’s wheelchair friendly,” said Dorcas. “We sit together and we interpret the stories through our voices—it’s just an ideal setting for reader’s theater.”

And when it comes to voices, Dorcas believes seniors have a unique gift to share.

“These seniors have years of experience, and they can bring all of that into their voices when they read the stories. That’s why it is so rich to work with them,” said Dorcas.

For its first production, the troupe featured a cast of nine who interpreted the timeless classics, “Casey at the Bat” and “The Little Steam Engine.”  

Rehearsals leading up to the performance took place once a week beginning in late April. When the troupe wasn’t rehearsing, they gathered to work on vocal exercises intended to improve articulation.

“These [exercises] are beneficial not only to improve delivery when performing but in their daily conversation. I think that’s important and one of the values of this—they are training their voices to articulate, which benefits the show but also their daily conversations. It’s just a good reinforcement of our vocal skills,” said Dorcas.

While Dorcas may be the leader of the group, she is quick to point out that Dennis—who she calls the troupe manager—has been a critical part of the team leading up to its first performance.

“He was involved in setting up the sound, he was involved in gathering important props…just an all-around participant in the experience,” said Dorcas. “We were a team, and it was much fun working together.”

In addition to Dennis, Dorcas would also like to give a special thank you to June Thompson who she says was invaluable in the formation of our group.

Looking ahead, Dorcas said residents should keep an eye out for a flyer inviting anyone who’s interested in participating in future performances to attend an upcoming informational meeting.

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