May 11, 2013. It was Saturday morning 10 am. After days of hard driving rain and more expected, this Saturday morning my preference would have been to sit in the local coffee house with a second cup of coffee, a bagel and the NY Times. Instead I attended the final culmination project for the Creative Aging in the Libraries Project at the Town of Pelham Library. I am so glad I was there – aside from being less caffeinated, I was inspired! This amazing group of women and men, ages 55 – 85 presented a reading of their original one act plays, as part of the Library’s program for older adults: From Page to Stage: Creating Stories through Plays. Working with the phenomenal, award winning teaching artist Frank Ingrasciotta for 8 consecutive weeks, the participants explored the fundamentals of writing a scene for the stage and learned how to transform it to a performance reading. Through writing prompts and exercises in a supportive two hour class environment alternating with work at home exercises, they examined dramatic structure and character development through understanding conflict, subtext and dialogue.
After editing and polishing their work in class with Mr. Ingrasciotta, each playwright had their piece read to the audience at a public performance held in the Library’s Program Room. Friends, family and neighbors listened intently, along with the writer as the short one act plays were read with heartfelt emotion by classmates. Each and every play had characters that came alive for us. The audience laughed at the funny parts, shed a poignant tear or two, and shared the writer’s pride in accomplishment. The take away for these freshman playwrights – that feeling of satisfaction in meeting a new challenge, developing a new skill, and the pure joy of creating. More than that, they made new friends and connected with a new community of emerging playwrights. Overheard later at the reception two participants exclaimed in unison – “This was fun!” with a slight pause for emphasis, “No it was life changing!” For older adults Creative Aging in the Libraries Program offers a friendly, familiar place to make connections and learn. As one new playwright told me – “Life for older adults is not about bingo and going to the casino, I want to stretch my mind and be treated like an adult with the ability to learn something new”.
From Page to Stage: Creating Stories through Plays was made possible through a grant to Westchester Library System (WLS) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Demonstration Project in collaboration with Lifetime Arts, Inc., New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, the Clinton, Essex, Franklin Library System and the American Library Association. Twenty four WLS member libraries have offered similar hands-on art making residencies for older adults through this project. Residencies have included a wide range of visual and performing arts, such as memoir writing, dance, collage making, watercolor, choral singing and photography. If you are interested in attending a future Creative Aging Program in Westchester libraries you can find information at www.westchesterlibraries.org. If you would like information on how you can be a Creative Aging supporter in Pelham and or other Westchester libraries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 914.231.3241.