New Horizons Newspaper – Omaha, August 2014

Grande Olde Players Can Still Do It

by Bonnie Gill & Mark Manhart

A Grande Olde Player gets on stage and acts their age. Alec Guiness once said, “Don’t act, be the character.” We had lots of older adults who wanted to get on stage and just needed a little nudge in that direction. When teetering old Bob appeared at an audition once, he read with a shy, baritone voice that died at the second row of the house.

“Hold it, Bob! Let’s start over,” I yelled from the back row of the theatre. “Can you make that a little louder?”

“Sure. But that’s about as loud as I can do,” he grumble, a bit out of sorts.

Bonnie whispered, “No one’s going to hear this old guy. Go talk to him.” So, I walked down and pulled him aside. “What do you do, Bob?” “Nothin’,” he spit out. “Nothin’ I don’t want to do. I’m retired.” Bonnie shouted from the back. “Well, what do you do, when you want to do something?” “I play cards and wait to die,” he growled with a distinct period!

Mississippi River at SunsetWhoa, I glared at Bonnie. We’ve got to find this guy a part in this play. “Ah, Bob, what do you do just for fun, I mean besides play cards?” I asked. “I sing. I like to sing… “‘Ol’ Man River” he bellowed out. “You know, those oldies.” “Well, can you get up there on stage and, sing those lines?” Bonnie suggested. “What for? Yeah don’t sing the lines. This ain’t no opera,” he protested. “Yeah, but you’ve got to project those words,” I chimed in. “Whadaya mean project?” he balked.

“You’ve got to throw them way back here to the back row,” Bonnie boomed at him, “to everyone. Like singing. Can you do that for me?” “Yeah, I suppose,” with the reluctance of a worn out old soldier. He found the page in the script and mumbled a few choice words at me. I headed back to my perch and before I could join Bonnie to listen to the old codger, Bob’s baritone lines thundered throughout the theatre. We all turned to hear, “’Ol’ man river, ya just keep rollin …“ as if Bob were Porgy with Bess on the pier in Showboat.

Bob learned what he already knew. He just had to be reminded. He went on to play and sing on stages all over town. Bob didn’t have to act, merely be himself and sing his heart out every chance he got. Even played cards once in a while.