GeriActors and Friends’ role and purpose in the community

GeriActors and Friends (G and F) is an intergenerational theatre company, now in its ninth season that creates and performs original plays about the lives and concerns of seniors. It is supported by the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE) and the University of Alberta Drama Department. It receives funding from ECALA, New Horizons, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the University of Alberta (Faculty of Arts and Drama Department).

Recent G and F productions have included ‘Invisible’, about seniors invisibility;   ‘Que Sera’, about Alzheimer’s’ caregivers;  ‘Goose ’ about life on the family farm;  ‘Fancy German Automobiles’, about a woman going to Alberta Hospital; and ‘Betty and Jane’, about a sixty year old friendship that started in jail. Other plays have focused on seniors’ abuse, childhood reminiscences and senior romance.

Over the last nine years G and F have given approximately 95 performances to more than 3,000 people. Audiences have included seniors, healthcare professionals, and the general public. Venues have included seniors’ centres and lodges, hospitals, conferences, libraries, the Winspear Centre and the Timms Centre for the Arts.

The program experience

G and F meets for two and half hours once a week and has elegant coffee breaks. No previous theatre experience is required to join the company and people with mobility problems or physical handicaps are welcome. The company believes in the concept of creative aging: a level of mastery in the creative arts leads to an increased sense of well-being and overall health, as well as the development of social and civic engagement.

Music and humour are integral parts of the work, however serious a play’s intent. Ideas develop from reminiscence or  social and personal issues with which the actors are engaged. Scripts evolve from improvisation and discussion, in a safe and playful creative environment. Workshops and rehearsals are led by a professional team from the University of Alberta: Matthew (Gus) Gusul, MA (Drama); Dhana Cartmell, BA (Drama); and David Barnet, Drama Professor and 3M National Teaching Fellow. 

September to December every year is focused on developing improvised plays with undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Alberta who are studying intergenerational theatre. In January – March G and F refine and rehearse the scripts for performances in April – June.

Other G and F Activities:

FEST (Festival of Edmonton Seniors Theatre): this is part of the Creative Age Festival, and is held in the Timms Centre for the Arts. It consists of performances of plays by seniors, a multigenerational performance party, and professionally led theatre workshops for seniors.

‘Under One Sky’:  a multicultural theatre project for immigrant seniors, from the Spanish speaking, Korean and Philippine communities.

The Artist-Teacher project: professional theatre artists present workshops for seniors in Stand Up Comedy, Clown, Musical Theatre, Acting Shakespeare, Performance Storytelling and Comedy Improvisation. The Artist Teachers were:
  • Paul “Sparky” Johnson, a specialist in Stand Up Comedy, a Second City alumnus, and protégé of  the late Paul Sills
  • Jan Henderson, an internationally recognized clown and teacher of clown, and award winning instructor at the University of Alberta
  • Alyson Connolly, BFA (Drama), respected music educator and Drama Facilitator, Glenrose Hospital.
  • David Barnet, 3M National Teaching Fellow, specialist in acting, Shakespeare and improvisation, University of Alberta drama professor.