Filed under: art, Shakespeare, theatre | Tags: DCA, DFTA, flexibility, mutability, Senior Citizens, Shakespeare, SPARC
Through the NYC Department for the Aging and Department of Cultural Affairs’ SPARC program, I had the opportunity to work with the members of a senior center on Romeo and Juliet. As I watched the final rehearsal, I started to think about how I’d seen the participants change over the course of our work together.
Working on the play was challenging for everyone – not so much because of the rigors of the text but because theatre demands things of people, things like flexibility, collaboration and adaptation. There are things a play asks you to do that you have to adapt to and things that other people ask you to do that you have to find a way to reconcile. Working toward any common goal can increase collaboration and communication but theatre, it seems to me, does that on several levels at once.
There’s the basic level of having to work out where to put your body while you perform. There’s the listening level of waiting for your cue to speak or do what you must. There’s the creative level, when ideas come pouring out about how to make the show better. There’s the compromising level, wherein no one ever gets exactly what they want every single time.
I saw people become extraordinarily generous with one another, even in the face of some serious surliness. Many of the members of my cast were fixed in their ways and points of view but every single one of them found ways to bend.
It all made me think that one of the great benefits of the theatre is its mutability. The form requires flexibility and those who take it on must be mutable. It is difficult to remain hard, still and fixed while working on a show. And coincidentally, becoming more soft, mobile and flexible are the very things we need to help keep us healthy as we age.
The same weekend my group was wrapping up their Romeo and Juliet, I got to see Chita Rivera perform in The Visit on Broadway. She’s 82 and a lifetime in the theatre would seem to have served her very well in keeping her powerful and supple. She was more vital than many much younger performers and she is very bendy. I’d like to see all of us with the vitality, flexibility and general bendiness that Ms. Rivera exhibited. My cast found a taste of it in their performance and I hope they find a way to continue to bend in whatever they do.
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