Rather than just reading books to seniors, a Red Deer group has been going the extra mile by putting on script-reading performances at nursing homes.
For the past six years, the Red Deer Readers Theatre Society has been presenting comedies, such as W.O. Mitchell’s The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon at Points West Living, Revera Aspen Ridge, and other residences for older people — as well as at the Golden Circle Senior Resource Centre.
Although there are no sets, costumes or stage movements to speak of, the script-readers manage to get laughs by acting out their lines in front of audiences.
“We sit on chairs and stand up when we read our lines and use the odd prop… We keep it very simple, as simple as we can do it,” said the group’s secretary and performer Lorraine Sproxton.
Unlike the Red Deer Players’ Breaking Cover script-reading series, which helps local playwrights develop brand-new plays, the Red Deer Readers Theatre has mostly been sticking with established material.
Comedies such as Showdown at Sand Valley, by Saskatchewan playwright Ken Mitchell, tend to go over well because the plotting is quick, with lots of jokes interspersed, and the plays don’t tax people’s patience or attention spans, said Sproxton.
Keeping a script-reading down to 45 minutes can be a challenge, she admitted, since most plays run longer. But Sproxton noted there are varying attention levels at nursing homes, especially with dementia clients, “so you have to meet the audience where they’re at.”
Sproxton had volunteered for years as a stage manager for productions by Central Alberta Theatre and other local groups, but never felt a desire to go out on stage. She does perform about five script-readings a season with the Red Deer Readers Theatre Society, however, “because I don’t have to memorize lines. And I always liked reading.”
She’s also finding “it’s fun taking on different roles. And I love the camaraderie.”
The group has about 12 regular members, who are mostly retired or semi-retired. They meet on the third Thursday of the month in the Timberlands Branch of the Red Deer Public Library to read plays and make decisions about which scripts to work on.
Sproxton said new members of all ages are very welcome to join. The first meeting of the next season for the non-profit society is on Sept. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m.