“Silver Circuit” Offers Great Classes and Entertainment
~ By Abby Angell ~
Laughter is the best medicine. Combined with physical and mental exercise, it may well be the best answer to coping with the aging process. Ask professional actors Ellen Ranson and Gary Crow-Willard, members of the Baby Boomer generation, and co-owners of ” Silver Circuit”, a two-person theatrical company offering theater pieces to senior communities, recreation facilities, and theaters throughout Colorado.
“Our premise is to entertain senior citizens, to make them laugh, and to help them remember poignant moments in their lives,” explains Ranson, who conceived the idea and brought it to life four years ago. “I thought it was an unfilled slot. I believe I was right. We’ve had so many people tell us they think it’s a wonderful idea.”
At this writing, the company’s repertoire consists of four popular mainstays, “Senior Moments”, by Don Fried, “The Gin Game”, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by D. L. Coburn, “Love Letters”, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama by A. R. Gurney; and “The Fishing Hat”, a humorous sketch written by Ranson and Crow-Willard.
The couple exercises their musical chops by incorporating some classic show tunes from such Broadway hits as “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Cabaret”, and
Ranson has added some of her own material to the mix. “I’ve created a lot of monologues and short scenes geared to an older audience,” she says. “We often walk into retirement homes to find some people in wheelchairs. Some will be very alert, and some will be inattentive, but we can always tell that most of them are basically relating to the songs we sing from an era they remember, or to incidents they have experienced as older people.”
Most recently, the couple has incorporated an exercise routine into their repertoire. “We use more of a yoga approach, where we do breathing and stretching exercises that are workable for people who can’t get out of their wheelchairs,” Ranson says. “People don’t like the word exercise, so we call it “MOOOV!” We combine this exercise with music, using tunes like “Down By The Old Mill Stream”, which we introduce and then get them to give us their version. Then we do ours, so it becomes a round.”
Mental exercise is also a basic element of the program. “The next step is working on memory,” she explains. “We talk with them about how to memorize, using the music as our vehicle. After each round, we have a little test, in which we ask them to recall their various parts. We also give each person in the audience a name tag. When we call on someone to identify the person sitting next to them, we ask them to do so without looking at their name. So far, this technique has proved most successful.”
Crow-Willard, whose theatrical background includes opera, explains the format of the program, in which he utilizes his vocal and movement training. “To get things going, we open with Ellen’s rousing cheer, which we follow with the exercise portion, and then we segue into singing,” he says. “We introduce a new song each week, but only after we have reviewed the song that was performed the previous week. For the last part of the program, we perform one of our sketches.”
The concept of an exercise program evolved when a social worker at a local assisted living facility asked Ranson and Crow-Willard if they could put together an exercise class for her clientele. “She had an unfunded mandate to provide the class, but had no money,” Crow-Willard explains. “We believe this kind of program must have funding through grants,” he says. “It’s a mandatory program that is required by low-income housing facilities, many of which have no budgets for such activities.”
Silver Circuit continues to enjoy an ever-growing popularity. “The idea is to give our audiences something they can relate to. They seem to enjoy the opportunity to reflect on their pasts, and to exercise their minds and bodies,” Ranson says. “When we leave, we feel we have really given everyone something meaningful to think about.”
To find out more about Silver Circiut or for booking, visit http://www.thesilvercircuit.com/The_Silver_Circuit.html, or contact Ellen at 720-480-1022.