When you think of Senior Planet course offerings, you might envision technology classes on subjects like computers, smartphones, and email. Recently, a new subject debuted into the virtual classroom: acting.
After the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Seniors in Play theater program teamed with Senior Planet San Antonio, allowing members and participants to step onto the digital stage and express themselves in a brand new way. The result? A flourishing community filled with enthusiastic learning, impassioned performances, and blossoming friendships.
The Show Must Go On
Seniors in Play is a theater program for older adults, founded in 2017 by award-winning actor Tony Plana (see right).
This past March, when senior centers, libraries, and community centers in San Antonio began closing due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Seniors in Play program was in jeopardy of being temporarily shut down. Mr. Plana however, was not about to let anything halt his students’ progress.. “Why should we stop what we’re doing, when it’s obvious that now they need this kind of programming even more?”, Plana asks. “They’re going to be isolated more than ever, so they’re going to need connectivity, creativity, and community.”
Through local connections, Plana met Senior Planet Texas State Director DeAnne Cuellar, and the Seniors in Play program was soon brought into the fold as a weekly virtual class offering on seniorplanet.org. “Technology has revolutionized the way older adults can express themselves during COVID-19,” Cuellar says. “The performing arts is no exception.”
Senior Planet San Antonio supplies the technical support for the program through its Zoom video conference rooms. A trainer joins each session as a “virtual stage manager,” helping to ensure stability throughout the two-hour sessions. Mr. Plana brought in Bill Gundry, accomplished actor and theater director, to lead the course. Gundry has been pleasantly surprised by the seamless transition from in-person classes to virtual meetings behind computer screens. “As everyone has gotten more comfortable, it’s worked out great,” he says. “It’s not what we could do if we were on a stage, but at least they’re getting their voice out, and I think that’s what’s important.”
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