Baby Boomers are filling up the rolls of Social Security and Medicare. They are also starting to fill stages around the country, finding their Inner Ham in more than 800 senior theaters in the U.S.
Our own Siskiyou Senior Players have been around since 2006 at the College of the Siskiyous. The troupe was started by a former Rockettte, Joan Lucas, and is currently under the direction of DeLeon Grabowski, a retired heavy equipment salesman. This 80-year-old born-again impressario has been directing the senior ensemble for the past six years.
How did you got started in live theater?
DeLeon Grabowski: While holding down my day job I’d do sporadic acting. My very first role was as a singing and dancing sailor in “South Pacific.” After retiring, I joined the Siskiyou Senior Players when it first got started in 2006.
What do you see as the main purpose for the Senior Players?
DG: It’s simply another way for seniors to entertain themselves, find a creative outlet.
There's a general life pattern for people who end up in senior theater: You do some theater in high school, maybe some in college, then life catches up with you. You get married, have children, have a career, maybe do a little something on the side like sing in a choir. But when you retire you’ve got the time to get back into acting. Right now we have among our actors a retired Army captain, a former Safeway manager, a teacher, former mayor, and Air Force staff sergeant.
You seem to have a lot more women on the senior stage than men. Why is that?
DG: Women are more social than men. And in their retirement years they tend to look for creative outlets, join book clubs, volunteer in the library. Men build bird houses and go fishing.
What portion of your material is original?
DG: About 80 percent. Most of it is comedy, but we also try to work in real-life drama, as in our skit “Canine Contact.” Two seniors, an older man and woman, meet with their dogs in a park. They share with each other certain issues they face as older people, and they end up bonding together for mutual assistance.
We love to have fun with local politics, making fun of anything that crosses our radar. We’re equal opportunity skewers. We spoofed the idea of a State of Jefferson with a bunch of skits titled “State of Confusion.” I guess we upset some people with that, because the flyers for the show got pulled down in quite a few places.
We have some regular stock characters that include morning TV host Martha Sue Skidmarker and Winona Busty, who runs a naughty lingerie shop at a truck stop in Weed. And by the way, all the advertising for our shows clearly states that they “contain mature content.”
In addition to our one big production in the spring we also do shows for various fundraisers, at schools and retirement communities.
Do you have a favorite skit?
DG: Oh, lots of them. But for genuine knee-slapping belly laughs you can’t beat “The Complaint Department,” about a guy trying to return a rectal thermometer.
Classes for the Siskiyou Senior Players start September 18. They are held Mondays and Wednesday afternoons at the James Witherell Black Box Theater on the COS campus.
Registration is $70 and can be done on campus or online at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information contact DeLeon Grabowski at 938-3504 or email@example.com.
Students can expect to spend 60 hours in rehearsal for the Senior Players' major production in the spring. The Senior Players are also collaborating with the New Frontier Theatre Company in a comedy, “The Boardinghouse,” Oct. 12-15.