About 15 years ago, Stan Guttman of Bayside retired from his job and was looking for something to do with himself. Through his local library, he found out about an acting workshop for senior citizens, and though he'd never had any formal theater experience or training, he gave it a shot.
In the workshop he met other retired seniors, both those with professional acting experience and some who were just looking for a creative and social outlet like he was. During the workshop he learned the basics through scene studies: blocking, character development, line memorization and delivery. He had so much fun doing it that when the course was over, he stayed on with the troupe, called the Senior Theater Acting Repertory, and became an active member, performing in most of their shows throughout the year in nursing homes and libraries in Queens.
When Guttman joined the group, it was only a few years old, but now it's been touring around the borough and meeting twice a week for going on 20 years. Currently, the group has 13 members and does about five or six hour-long performances each season (September-December and March-June).
The performances consist of anywhere from four to six scenes from popular plays by well-known playwrights such as Neil Simon, Sam Shepherd and Edward Albee, as well as original works written by the members themselves. There are also musical numbers — one, namely Albert Freberge, originally from France, who croons French songs in particular to the female members of the audience.
"He steals the show," Guttman said. "He comes out in a top hat, he holds the ladies' hands, he's always a hit."
STAR's fall season begins Sept. 17 at the Fresh Meadows library at 2:30 p.m. The troupe draws a mainly senior audience. After seeing the shows, several audience members have been inspired to get involved, either reviving an old career or hobby or finally chasing an old, unfulfilled dream. STAR member Ronnie Arond of Bellerose, for example, had always wanted to act but had never pursued it when she was younger. "I'm a late bloomer," she joked.
While STAR receives funding, it is usually minimal, and most of the production costs are paid for out of pocket by the group's members. They aren't ambitiously scouting larger venues or more skillful actors, however — the troupe's raison d'etre is simply to continue meeting and performing for other seniors and encourage people to join in.
"Don't worry about formal acting training," Guttman said. "We teach you what you need to know. Just come down and have fun."
For those frustrated actors yearning to get on stage and meet new people in the senior Queens community, Guttman advises coming to one of their twice-weekly rehearsals to meet everyone, observe what they do, drop any inhibitions at the door and join in.
If you go:
Senior Theater Acting Repertory
When: Next show Sept. 17, 2.30 p.m.
Where: Fresh Meadows Library, 193-20 Horace Harding Expressway, Fresh Meadows
For More: www.star-queens.org.
Rehearsals: Wednesdays, 10.30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Hollis Library (202-05 Hillside Ave.) and Fridays 10.30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Queens Village Library (94-11 217th St.)
©2008 Community News Group
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