Exploring Age On Stage
For the last 20 years, the GeriActors & Friends theatre company has brought unique stories into the spotlight.
When it comes to story creation, the GeriActors & Friends theatre company has a wealth of diverse life experiences to draw from. During a rehearsal for an upcoming show, 78-year-old member Pearl Edwards shared how, when she was a girl in Trinidad, women gathered at the standpipe in her town to bathe their children, trade news and gossip before returning with buckets on their heads. Later, 86-year-old member John Grootelaar described when, as an eight-year-old, he sat on the roof of a truck and watched as allied planes flew over the Netherlands. Through acting out vignettes like these, the “Geris,” as they’re known, share their rich experiences with audiences of all ages.
Founded in 2001, the Edmonton-based company has become internationally known for creating and promoting intergenerational theatre. The Geri's range in age from 60 to 90 years old, with“friends”—students and alumni from the University of Alberta—averaging about 22 years old.
The Geris’ stories are entertaining, but they also challenge stereotypes, strengthen memory, develop skills associated with performance and articulate issues of ageing.
According to the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta, older adults who engage in the arts receive a wide range of positive health outcomes including personal functional independence, cognitive function and lower mortality rates.
How to make sure the arts are accessible to everyone, including those unable to make it to a theatre, has long been a question on founding artistic director David Barnet’s mind.
And when the pandemic restricted access to friends, family and social programs, the need for connection became even more urgent. “We live in historic times,” says Barnet. “We will use theatre to explore how they have changed us.”
The company has recently embarked on a new creation process that will allow them to reach audiences in their homes. Funded by the Canada Council for the Arts as well as EPCOR’s Heart and Soul Fund, the GeriActors & Friends recently completed a new play entitled Way Back, to be available through live stream and audio recording.
By exploring the theme “small human events set against the panoply of great world events,” the Geris are sharing ideas and stories that will be the foundation of the piece
“We are bringing alive a past that would have faded away,” says company member Diane Jonsson, describing how the Geris create.
Through the practice of creative aging, the company encourages older adults to express themselves. The Geris hope to entertain but also inspire audiences at home to share their own stories.
GET MORE INFORMATION
For more information on Way Back, as well as recordings of past GeriActors productions, visit geriactors.ca
SHARE THIS ON SOCIAL MEDIA