Friday, February 14, 2014

"Life Upon the Wicked Stage" Part Two

Okay, on to Part Two.....

As I said yesterday, I decided to see if I could put together a small group of theatre friends who approach community theatre in the same way I do....with a commitment to quality, pushing to make productions the best we can do, and presenting plays that are varied and interesting.....and most of all, entertaining!

So I talked to five individuals that I had met through the problematic theatre group.  Each of us has had years and years of theatre experience of various sorts.  Each was knowledgeable and talented and loved theatre.  Unfortunately, we all had encountered mounting frustrations in trying to produce a quality product despite the inherent roadblocks the group continually uses to keep tight control of their "vision."  Four of us had worked together on a romantic comedy a year or so before and the fifth had worked on several shows there but had left the group because of her frustrations.  I knew their standards were good ones and we agreed to explore the possibility of starting a group of our own.

We had several planning and discussion meetings trying to identify what exactly we wanted to do.  At first I was fearful that we wouldn't be able to come to a consensus on something we could all support and be involved in..... everybody had their own opinions on what type of group we should strive to be.  Should we be a regular community theatre that eventually presented a couple of shows a year aimed toward a broad range of audiences?  Should we focus on a specific type of play (comedy, musical, drama....?)  Should we be a for-profit or not-for-profit group?  Should we try for traditional or go for new or unfamiliar plays?   Or should we try to do something new and least new and different to us?

After a couple of meetings one of the original five realized she just didn't have the time or inclination to devote to such a large undertaking right now so, after wishing us well, she pulled out.  And so we were four.

As we talked we began to hone in on a concept that did not exist in the Austin area....Senior Theatre!  This is a type of endeavor that is springing up all over the country as the senior population is growing every day.  There is not, however, any one model that is being utilized.  There are many different companies that operate under the "Senior Theatre" umbrella, but each group is structured differently, with a different focus, a different target audience, a different approach, and a different concept.

We ultimately decided that we would make our group a traveling theatre company which would focus our attention on residences that are set up for the over 50 population.  Some of these residences are independent living facilities, some are more assisted living, and so on all the way to skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes.  In each of these facilities there is a range among the residents who have mobility issues that come from their declining visual, hearing, physical , and cognitive abilities.  We decided that we would go to them!!

So we are official now.  We are an Incorporated, not-for-profit, traveling company of actors who will (at least at first) develop a repertoire of fairly short one-act plays with small casts and limited set needs. Hopefully we will be able to contract with various facilities to present entertainment programs of 2 or 3 one-act plays that would appeal (we hope) to senior audiences.  Our company currently consists of Jo R., Geoff R., Tamara F. and me.  We expect that we will add performers as needed as time goes by.  We have named ourselves The Hourglass Players and we have adopted a logo (so that makes us official!)
The Hourglass Players
(A Senior Theatre Traveling Troupe)

As it stands the four of us have chosen, cast, and rehearsed four one-act plays each about 15-20 minutes long.  We had our first performance about two weeks ago at a lovely senior resident apartment complex.  Their facility is terrific and includes an actual theatre!  We presented two of our plays...."Lost" and "The Hotel Lobbyist" to an audience of almost forty people.

 The Hotel Lobbyist 
 by Bara Swain 
A recently widowed former political activist and her conservative daughter meet in a hotel lobby, where the mother has handcuffed herself to a chair!  They proceed to argue about whether the mother will agree to live in a retirement facility as her daughter hopes.....or will remain independent and continue to live in the same home she shared with her late husband for 47 years!

by Mary Louise Wilson

Two women of a certain age, roommates and best friends since child-hood, try to head out for an evening at the theater. Unfortunately, they each seem to have a bit of trouble remembering things.....things
like their keys, glasses, shoes, where they are going,
and especially, how to get there! 

 Both are comedies, and as it happens, I was in both of them.  We introduced ourselves to the audience and gave some information on our backgrounds and what our goals for the group were.  We made it clear this was our debut performance and was, in some respects a "test."  Both plays were very well-received and we had an open discussion with the audience at the end of the evening to gauge the audience's reactions and opinions on what we had done and what our plan for the future was.

They were extremely supportive of our effort and the general consensus was that they liked us and they hoped we would come again.  That was gratifying and very much a relief!!

So we are off and running.  We have another performance scheduled at a different retirement community in March.  We will be working on seeking out other venues where we might be able to bring our company for their entertainment.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but the four of us are committed to making this a success.   At this point we have no funding from any source other than our own investment into the company.  The reality is that like any business endeavor there will be expenses to meet, such as royalty fees, administrative costs, prop and set expenses, and so on.   In fact, we are accepting (and very grateful for) any and all donations (which, as we are a not-for-profit corp., are tax-deductible) from our friends, families, and interested parties.  If by chance any of you would like to help us in our start-up efforts, we'd be ever so grateful!  Please contact me via email and I'll tell you how to make a donation:  

I will most likely be sharing updates on our progress and experiences trying to make the Hourglass Players a viable, well-respected, effective and  fun theatre company for the senior set!  Over time as we proceed we will be open to adjustments in our mission or exactly what we do.  But right now, we are very excited about all the possibilities and looking forward to returning to "Life Upon the Wicked Stage."

Keep your fingers crossed for us!

P.S.  I'd love to hear your opinions or suggestions on our project.  So, what do you think??


  1. OMG! I wish I lived there. I would so be in on this endeavor. Sounds like a barrel of fun and so much needed in the Senior communities. Whenever my quartet performs at this type of venue, the seniors are so grateful and they make us feel like we have truly accomplished something remarkable for them.
    I think "Nunsense" is one of the funniest, small cast treatments I have ever seen. It would appeal to that age group.
    Wish I could support you with $$, but know that in spirit I do! Have you researched grants available for just this type of thing. I bet there are some out there! Break a Leg!!!


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