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Grinnell Hall in Beloit raises curtain on theater group

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Shelly Birkelo
May 17, 2013

— Paula Schutt is taking dramatic measures to provide a creative outlet for seniors at Grinnell Hall.

Her opening act was May 2, when she scheduled an organizational meeting for a new Senior Theatre Group. The group is for people age 50 and older who have an interest in theater.

Thirteen people attended that first meeting, and officers were elected Thursday. Now the group just needs a volunteer director.

“Until we get a director, a focal point will be a little difficult,” said Schutt, senior center coordinator.

But that won't keep the group from raising its stage curtain.

“We're going to check out of the condition of the curtains (stage and backdrop) and start painting in the theater upstairs where we have a stage and an auditorium,” Schutt said.

Ed Skwarlo, a veteran theater hand and member of the senior center, will be in charge of this part of the project.

Schutt said the goal of the new theater group is not to compete with community or professional theater but to provide seniors with a chance to perform.

“We're here to give an older person an outlet for their talent if acting is something they want to explore in a safe venue,” Schutt said. “It's about them finding their voice and how they want to express themselves.”

And that's important, she added.

“I want people to explore their full personalities and talent throughout life and not feel like they have to stop because they're a certain age. You can be immensely creative as you age, and I want them to never give up dreaming that dream,'' she said.

Roselyne Ackley, 74, Beloit, is joining the group for that very reason.

“I've always been wanting to do something in acting yet always afraid to (until now),” she said. “As I've aged, I've lost my fears. I like to try new things and see what happens. This is something to outstretch myself a little bit more.”

Once a director is found, the group will begin selecting skits to rehearse and perform in-house. In the future, Schutt would like to take the seniors' performances on the road to nursing homes, other senior centers and assisted living centers.

“Once our actors get confident with their abilities, they can go out and be role models and share that with other people,” she said.



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