P.E.I. seniors get into the act

Sally Cole
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When Mary Callaghan read in The Guardian that seniors were needed for an upcoming theatre production, she jumped for joy.

“The idea of being in a drama appealed to me. Although I hadn’t acted since grade school, it seemed like so much fun,” says the Summerside senior.

Similarly, after spending his life behind a camera, photographer Richard Furlong longed for an opportunity to jump into the action.

“I’ve always worked behind the scenes, recording everything. Now I’m creating an event,” says the York resident who, with Callaghan, is among the 25 participants developing new skills while mounting The Soul Bird Holds the Key.

Sponsored by A.C.T.S. (Adults Coming Together Socially) at First Baptist Church and funded by L.E.A.P. (Learning Elders Arts Program), the show hits the boards of the Fellowship Hall of First Baptist Church in Charlottetown on March 13 at 2 p.m. (storm date, March 20).

Based on the book by Michal Snunit and adapted for the stage by director Joscelynne Bordeaux, it’s the story of a special bird that lives inside the human heart and opens and closes the drawers of the soul, the place that contains all feelings.

“I wear the happiness mask. It represents love and compassion that comes from the brain and spreads throughout the body,” says cast member Lynn Crosby, who is thrilled with the new skills she’s acquiring.

“We’re learning about blocking, cues and how to express our emotions on stage as well as co-operation and moving to music,” says the Charlottetown senior.

For Faith-Marie McKenney, it’s an opportunity to Getting learn about black light theatre, which is being used in the show.

“One time, a long time ago, I saw the Famous People Players. And I was very impressed. They used black light and I always wondered how it worked. Now I’m finding out,” says McKenney, the former director of the P.E.I. Sing For Joy Choristers.

While the narrator, Bill McFadden, reads the script, cast members, dressed in black, move across the stage.

“Although everything is visible now, things will change when we switch the black light on,” explains Boudeaux.

Last week, Julia Sauve of Luminosity Black Light Theatre dropped by with one of the black lights that she will lend the group for the show.

“Cast members were thrilled. They all had their masks on and the colours just popped out. It was so magical. With the brightly-coloured props, this show is going to dance,” says Boudeaux.

Watching the elements of the production come together pleases Marlene Bryenton, project co-ordinator.

“The play is coming to life. Joscelynne has spent an enormous amount of time on the props. We’re making it an interactive show, one that all participants can take part in, whether they’re on stage or standing, ready to come on next. Everyone has something to do and something to contribute,” she says.

Furlong is also pleased with his first performing experience.

“I’m wearing a mask so I don’t have to get stage fright. And, there are no lines to learn. So it’s an intermediate step to acting.

“Then when the black light comes on, it doesn’t matter how poorly you thought you painted your mask, it looks colourful and terrific.”


Behind the scenes

- Doug and Nancy Lee, who lead a ministry for seniors at First Baptist Church, and Marlene Bryenton came together as a team to do something for seniors.

 - The Lees had a copy of The Soul Bird. "We asked, 'what can we do with it?' So we contacted actress Joscelynne Bordeaux. And one thing led to another and the next thing you know we had decided to do it in black light," says Bryenton.

 - The Soul Bird Holds the Key is one of the projects of L.E.A.P. (Learning Elders Arts Program).

- The L.E.A.P. program is administered by the P.E.I. Senior Citizens' Federation and funded by the P.E.I. department of culture and tourism, under the direction of minister Robert Henderson.

Organizations: First Baptist Church, P.E.I. Sing For Joy Choristers, Luminosity Black Light Theatre Senior Citizens P.E.I. department of culture

Geographic location: Charlottetown, York

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