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02.07.19
Independence Day
Please be advised that in observance of Independence Day Polish Slavic Center will be closed on Thursday, July 4th, 2019. More»


PROGRAMS NEWS

05.02.2012

Seniors Off Broadway

by Peter Lang-Stanton - Every day, around 130 neighborhood seniors shuffle down to the Polish and Slavic Center on Java Street to gab over a free lunch. Last Friday, April 13th, meal time got dramatic when playwright and theater director Kate Bell and her bilingual partner, Monika Deeran, brought their weekly theater workshop to the members of Krakus Senior Center.
"If people are creatively engaged, they’re healthier," said Bell, who has been teaching theater arts to K-12 students for the past eight years. Although she is now applying this philosophy to an older demographic, Bell is certain the 65+ crowd will benefit from converting life experiences into art.
 
"[The seniors] all have stories to tell,” said Monika Deeran, who was cast for the role of resident translator for the program. “We will take those stories and turn them into theatrical performances,” added Bell. Opening night will be in July.
 
The theater class is part of a large-scale city-wide program known as Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC). Artists of all disciplines have been awarded SPARC grants for designing courses for the city’s aging population. Artist proposals were evaluated by the Brooklyn Arts Council, Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), and the Department for the Aging (DFTA), which provides primary funding for the program. In exchange for developing and implementing creative workshops for senior citizens, artists are given a stipend and access to valuable workspace often available in senior centers.
 
"The city wants to invest in the senior population," said Deeran. Since Mayor Bloomberg, Council Speaker Quinn, and New York Academy of Medicine launched Age-friendly NYC in 2007, 59 initiatives aimed at improving quality of living for seniors have been announced, including SPARC.
 
Bell and Deeran performed two short skits for around 70 lunching elderly in order to demonstrate the workshop’s proposed theme: “Are You What You Eat?” One of the skits was a dialogue between a grandmother and granddaughter about the value of bread. The grandmother had lived through a time when bread was scarce enough to be considered a delicacy; a subject some of the audience found relatable. But when the skits ended and the spotlight was turned on the seniors, Bell and Deeran were met with some hesitance.
 
"Most of them have done things a certain way their whole lives,” said Artur Pustula, program director at the Polish & Slavic Center. “It’s hard to engage older people in new things. And the language barrier is a problem, always.” The majority of the seniors at the Center speak only Polish and other Slavic languages.
 
"I have lived in Greenpoint 13 years," said Bell. "Unfortunately, I don’t speak Polish." That’s where Deeran comes in. The two met through a mutual passion for theater.
 
"I was doing an internship at Marquis Studios, where [Kate] works,” said Deeran. “She needed someone interested in theater who speaks Polish, so, that’s me."
 
Pustula remains optimistic about the program. “When they see what they’re doing, it’s gonna grow,” he said. “That’s how it always goes."
 
Bell and Deeran’s enthusiasm seems to be catching on. Despite the earlier stage fright, once the signup sheet for the workshop had made its rounds through the cafeteria, it was filled with at least twenty signatures of soon-to-be thespians.

Source: www.greenpointnews.com

 

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