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It's never too late to give local theater a try


Senior workshop comes to Hillsboro senior center

by: COURTESY PHOTO - There are two upcoming opportunities in Hillsboro for folks who want to experience the stage.Local seniors can discover their inner actor — or perhaps their inner ham — in two events planned this summer by the Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro.

A one-day readers theater workshop with Nicholas Kessler, a professional actor from Portland, will be held July 17. A summer readers theater class with Kessler will be held Thursdays, July 31 through Aug. 28. Both events will be held at the Hillsboro Community Senior Center, 750 S.E. Eighth Ave. in Hillsboro.

The senior theater workshop is part of an ongoing collaboration with  the Walters Cultural Arts Center.

There are no costumes, props or memorized scripts in readers theater, said Kessler, who has acted professionally for 20 years and is a regular performer at Portland Center Stage, where he teaches a variety of community programs.

“Readers theater combines two of my favorite parts of theater: table work and acting,” he said. “First, hearing everyone’s signature roles read out loud is a personal introduction of the actors to one another.”

Second, as soon as the first word is read, there is the acting.

“Everyone who reads a script out loud with a group of people is affected by hearing it,” Kessler said. “Lines become dialogue and dialogue is responsive.”

Each class will include simple voice-acting exercises, reading scripts as a group and opportunities to play and re-play a variety of characters. “My task is to cultivate an atmosphere in the class where people feel safe to try a bigger and bolder choice, which expands their comfort level,” Kessler added.

“Nationally it’s exciting to see all that is happening with the growth of senior theater, said Bridie Harrington of the Walters Cultural Arts Center. “It’s a very low-risk way to experience what makes the process of creating theater so engaging, exciting and collaborative.”

All experience levels are welcome.

Readers theater is ideal for retired teacher Dick Miller, who has already signed up for the class, along with his wife, Mega McGrew, a retired massage therapist.

“My parents were active in amateur theater in Staten Island, N.Y., where I grew up,” said Miller, once the leader of a small Dixieland band. “Most of my on-stage experience has been as a musician and I’ve performed in front of groups small and large for 50 years or more.”

Miller, who now uses a wheelchair, is hoping to learn some “tips on ways to display various emotions with the voice.”

McGrew said she might be nervous because this is the first class she’s taken with her husband. But, she’s been performing for about 40 years, mostly playing mountain dulcimer, and currently sings with a senior choir in Beaverton.

While Miller and McGrew have some performing experience, Kessler said neophytes will also enjoy readers theater.

“The longer and broader a person’s life experience, the more they have to draw from when approaching a script,” he said. “The flip side to that is the sincere reward a person can feel when they prove they can still surprise themselves.”

“I’m a strong believer in the concept of lifetime learning,” Miller added.

For information, go to hillsboro-oregon.gov/Walters or call 503-615-3485.