Sometimes you just have to let your home town pride show. That’s why I’m writing this particular column from a personal viewpoint, sharing an experience that relates to both Freedom Plaza and Sun City Center.
I recently returned from Phoenix, Ariz., where I was invited to make a presentation at the 2014 national conference of ATHE, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. I was one of more than 800 attendees.
One objective of ATHE is to share new information about theater and performance, linking professionals and community-based theater. One of the focus groups related specifically to senior theater, hence my involvement.
According to statistics from Art Age, the Senior Theatre Resource Center publishing company, the number of nationally recognized senior theater organizations has blossomed over the past two decades, from 79 to over 700. There are probably an equal number of senior thespian groups without ATHE association, as nearly every age- restricted community, large or small, has its own theater-oriented compliment of residents. I was privileged to meet and interact with many of them at the ATHE conference.
My assigned topic was Theater in the Retirement Community, a subject I felt well qualified to address. As a 30-year resident of Sun City Center, I have participated in its diverse theater programs as performer, writer and director. In my professional capacity at Freedom Plaza I have mounted 23 all-senior stage productions.
In the ATHE presentation I explained, in words and graphics, the various stages of the retirement lifestyle and how theater plays a vital role in each. I began with theater in Sun City Center, describing its two main venues – Rollins Theater and Borini Theatre – plus several churches with theatrical facilities and mentioning its two principal theater groups, The Performing Arts Club and Pelican Players. Then I moved on to Freedom Plaza’s theater program.
I explained the different approaches to performance taken by the Plaza Players and that of the Freedom Frolics and presented material appropriate to a stage production at the assisted living level. My objective was to illustrate the importance and viability of active participation at any stage of life. My presentation was titled On Stage at Any Age.
I listened to lectures and saw short plays offered by senior communities from the Phoenix area. All were interesting and some quite impressive. Yet none of them out-shone Sun City Center and Freedom Plaza in either variety or quality. I felt fortunate and proud to be connected to both entities.
Paraphasing Alan Jay Lerner, there is simply not a more congenial spot for happy-ever-aftering than our own Camelot!
Peggy Burgess is an associate of Freedom Plaza and a columnist for The Sun.