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Seniors take center stage

RAAC member John Loch teaches Second Act Players John and Robyn McKay about set design and construction as they prepare the Steeple Center stage for an upcoming production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.

Thanks to a $10,000 Minnesota Legacy grant and a group of dedicated volunteers, the Rosemount Area Arts Council has launched its first ever senior theater group, the Second Act Players. Members will learn all aspects of the theater, from acting onstage to working behind the scenes in roles such as costuming, props, lighting and sound.

RAAC member Jeanne Schwartz said she hit upon the idea while reading some articles about the health benefits of theater for seniors.

“Of all the arts, the theater is the most interactive and most healthy for older adults, mentally, physically and socially,” she said.

RAAC received a $10,000 grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, funded in large part by the Minnesota Legacy Fund, and all that was left was to plan some classes, get the word out and wait for the Steeple Center to reopen its doors.

An initial meeting in early September drew a large number of seniors interested in learning more about the program.

“We thought we would see about 15, but we ended up with 43, so we were thrilled,” Schwartz said.

A set design & construction class kicked off in January, and several new classes are on the schedule for February and March, including script reading & analysis, stage management & props, and introduction to stage movement & dance. The set design & construction class, which teaches students how to design a set from scratch, has been busy planning the stage for RAAC’s upcoming production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.

Schwartz said the group hopes to organize some theater tours and offer a larger variety of courses, such as props and costumes and storytelling, down the road. She even sees potential for turning script reading & analysis into something bigger than a one-session course.

“We’re hoping that class will evolve into an ongoing group, sort of like a book club,” Schwartz said.

The Second Act Players are aiming for their first play production in late spring or early summer. Members have not yet decided whether they’d like to produce two or three short plays or one longer production, but Schwartz said they are leaning toward several shorter plays.

Schwartz wants seniors to know that no memorization or prior experience is necessary. Anyone age 50 or older looking to have fun, form friendships and learn new skills is welcome.

“I’m hoping first of all that (members) have fun, that they they will find social opportunities to make new friends, and that they will learn new skills,” Schwartz said. “That is the main thrust of senior theater — to have fun.”

The Second Act Players will hold a general meeting for all members and interested seniors at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19 at the Steeple Center. To register for a class, contact John Loch at 952-255-8545 or e-mail him at jjloch@charter.net. More information is available at www.rosemountarts.com

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