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Positive reviews for seniors reading plays

by | Jul 14, 2023

Those who take part in the ‘Play Readings with-and-for Seniors’ program are benefitting from the social and cognitive challenge – and just having fun trying new things.

“All we do is get together and we read a play together,” Gateway Theatre Guild’s facilitator Loretta Di Eugenio said during an interview recently, adding they will be at Marina Point every second Saturday this summer and sessions at the North Bay Public Library starting in the fall.

It’s a busy year for the GTG as it celebrates its 75th anniversary with a successful trilogy of David French plays and hosting QUONTA in May. In June, they had a booth at a seniors’ day at the North Bay YMCA. Back in the Bay Magazine recorded a quick interview after getting some video clips of an impromptu reading session.

Gateway Theatre Guild’s Jack Jones, left, and Loretta Di Eugenio, ham it up behind their booth at the North Bay YMCA’s Seniors Day June 8.

“I hand out scripts and assign roles, so ‘You’ll be Bob, you’ll be Sue” and we just read out loud, there’s no memorization required, no audience. I bring refreshments, we sit around and chat” about the script and characters “and an extension of the program is that we go out to see plays,” Di Eugenio said.

The program is funded by an Ontario Seniors Community Grant and has been held in various locations, including homes for the elderly in the area.

“I’ll send out a notice saying we’re going to go see this play in two weeks, I’ll meet you there at this time,” she said. “And we’ve added going out for dinner or drinks ahead of time, it’s just a nice chance to get together with people who also like theatre.”

What do the participants get out of it?

“They get fun and interaction and intellectual stimulation and a little bit of a challenge but not so much, it’s just enjoyment really.”

Anybody with an organization that is interested in the program can inquire about having readings open for their members.

“We are going to be at the library once a month beginning in the fall where we read a full-length play and we’re also going to be at Marina Point, every second Saturday I believe, and if anyone is part of an organization that would like for us to come to them then they can contact me,” Di Eugenio said.

“The program is constantly evolving based on interest, that’s why we started adding the plays that we’re going to go see because I realized that people are interested but weren’t going to see the plays,” she said, “because they either didn’t know or didn’t necessarily want to go alone so we go with a group.”

A group of participants attended, for example, the Five: The Dionnes musical at the Capitol Centre June 2-3.

“I’ve had such positive feedback on that show specifically,” Di Eugenio said, noting it’s a good way for new people in the community, like herself, to get better acquainted with everyone. She said her involvement with GTG has given her a chance to network with other theatre lovers and actors.

“I’m networking more with people in the community and I knew a lot of people involved in the show, which is really great to see and it was, of course, based on local events,
offering a better historical understanding of the city’s past and people here.”

There’s no limit to what this program can achieve as far as enriching the lives of seniors.

“We’re looking to expand in any way…whatever the niche market is, such as offering play readings in French for example different.”

Upcoming script readings: Marina Point, Saturdays, July 8 and 22, at 1:30 p.m. North Bay Library, Tuesdays, Sept. 26, Oct. 24, Nov. 28, Dec. 19 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“We’re looking to expand in any way…whatever the niche market is, we’re looking at different languages, such as offering play readings in French for example different.

“I have a background in theatre and this is just fun for me,” she said, providing a number of comments from participants.

Trisha said she was very impressed after attending an event at the Trinity United Church.

“This was an excellent opportunity for seniors to get out into the community after almost three years of social isolation for many, and to interact with other people interested in theatre and the arts or in just getting together,” she wrote to support the project. “There were even the cognitive benefits of actually being able to “play” a character or two, while reading through a full play.

Marg said she’s glad they are continuing with an expanded program.

“I had always hoped to belong to a group like this. It’s pure fun. It’s just like the excitement of attending auditions, and hearing actors try out different roles.”

Her note GTG will use when reporting back to funders explained it best: “This laid-back yet gently challenging entertainment is wonderful for seniors who might not have the stamina to attend rehearsals for a period of months in preparation for a theatre production.

Jack Jones gave the project high praise: “Play reading for seniors was an extremely creative, positive experience for everyone who attended. The Board is to be commended for such a successful project.  It was a non-threatening experience with many benefits.  It provided a vehicle for seniors to socialize.  It made the participants aware of the many skills that our actors must possess in order to make the audience become totally immersed in a particular play. It made everyone appreciate that it takes an abundance of people to ensure that a particular play accomplishes its goals. The experience also provides a potential recruiting tool for GTG.”  His full letter below.

Irene said she looks forward to more events.

“I really enjoy the opportunity to read out loud. I read to my granddaughter when she stays over and I enjoy putting the inflection into my tone for each character that I read from the book & believe that it brings the story alive for my granddaughter. This is how I feel when I join in the group. Each of us brings the story alive with the use of our voice.

“The stories are compelling because they make me think of a new perspective in the given situation we are reading about, and seeing life from other perspectives is an important part of growth as well as acceptance of others who differ from ourselves,” she said.

Schedule of some upcoming script readings:

Marina Point, Saturdays, July 8 and 22, at 1:30 p.m.

North Bay Library, Tuesdays, Sept. 26, Oct. 24, Nov. 28, Dec. 19 continuing into 2024 with last Tuesdays of each month 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Email for more info.

By Dave Dale, Publisher

Dave Dale
Dave Dale

Writer, photographer and proud father. My mom’s family is from the Soo with its Algoma Highlands, dad hailed from Cobden in the Ottawa Valley and I spent my teen years in Capreol. Summers were at the beach on the Vermillion River and winters at ‘The Rink.’ Born in East York but Toronto never was my thing. Ever since a kid looking out the window on long trips, I imagined living on the highway in a little house with a big yard and trees growing all around me.

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