The Surry County Senior Center’s drama group, under the direction of Senior Center Director Brack Llewellyn, has officially launched, and is re-defining the idea of what it means to be a senior citizen.
The Well-Seasoned Players will present their first production — an original script written by members of the troupe — “Ghost Light” on May 8 through May 11 at the Jones Family Resource Center in Mount Airy, in the L.H. Jones Auditorium.
Terri Ingalls, Donn Key, Su Olchak, and Vicky Town wrote the script based on an idea hatched by Ingalls, with guidance and input from Llewellyn.
“One of the things that drew me to the group, is how we could incorporate all of the arts…we wanted to try a format where we could bring in different acts and modalities of the arts and someone came up with the idea of setting it in a radio station, where we could bring in jokes, singers, storytellers, with the audiences serving as the audience of the broadcast,” Ingalls described.
“Ghost Light” is a comedy-drama with a cast of 13, based around an old radio station, WEDU, that is shutting down after many years on the air. A young woman and her husband are considering the purchase of the facility, but they want to turn it into a restaurant. She meets one of the station’s long-time employees, and he takes her on a trip down memory lane, through decades of programming history — and as his memories unfold, the audience witnesses history and the passage of time.
Ingalls said that through the course of the play, the potential owner begins to “hear and understand the importance of the spoken word, stories, and history itself.”
The production even includes the on-air commercials for fake products, such as “Betty’s Little Bladder Pills.”
The writers all come from various backgrounds, but the process of completing the project was like putting together a puzzle — with the pieces all falling together nicely, they shared. Town came up with what Llewellyn said Town described as “half-baked potato ideas” and the rest of the group worked together to fill in with segments. Ingalls and Key worked on the body of the script, and Key said Ingalls was “fundamental in the order, arranging, and timing” of the script.
The process came together well, and “nobody punched anyone” Ingalls jokingly shared. “We really had a lot of fun together,” Key said.
“We loved bouncing ideas off of each other, which would trigger other ideas…it was a fun experience, Olchack added.
Llewellyn said the play was somewhat inspired by Mount Airy’s own small-town radio station, WPAQ, with some of the segments in the play mirroring what is still heard on the airwaves at WPAQ: school lunch menus, advice to loved ones, music, farm reports, and more. Plus, WPAQ is assisting, loaning a few things for the set, and serving as a partner in the production, Llewellyn said.
The Well-Seasoned Players
The moniker of the drama group, Well-Seasoned Players, was chosen by the group, Llewellyn shared, as a way to show the senior center and the drama group’s intention to “break the stereotype” of who a senior citizen is: “We are well-seasoned, but not old,” Key described with a chuckle.
“We are experienced, knowledgeable, and just because we are over 50 does not mean we are ready to give up. Just because we have drawn breath a little longer than other people doesn’t mean we are useless,” Ingalls added.
On that note, Llewellyn chimed in to add his thoughts on aging: “At this age, time is more precious for you, and you want to make the most of it. A lot of the little stuff that used to bother you isn’t a big deal anymore.”
Ingalls said that this attitude lent itself well to the idea of a drama group — a desire just to have fun, enjoy life, and share that joy with others…”This is entertainment. If you are looking for deep, soul searching, gut-clenching theatre, this ain’t it.”
On that note, Key chimed in: “You know, I think the little things in life become more joyous than they once were.”
“Yeah, like how mine wants to go to bed a little earlier than it used to,” Llewellyn added.
“But that is wisdom,” Key said, and the rest of the group howled with laughter.
‘Ghost Light’ script writers
Donn Key was born in Surry County, and said he had the opportunity to see the world, but still called Surry County home. He has performed in theatre in Raleigh and Georgia, as well as performing as a musician in bars and restaurants. He also spent over a decade working on various community theatre productions at Surry Arts Council with Llewellyn.
Su Olchak said she is not originally from the area, but was born in western Pennsylvania and grew up with a family who had their own acting troupe in a barn, called the Franklin Civic Operetta company, with her father serving as electrician, her mother selling tickets, and Olchak herself performing in the chorus, running the spotlight, and more. She moved to this area in the late 1990s from working in a position as a social worker for the blind, to a rehab counselor for Surry, Stokes, and Yadkin counties.
Terri Ingalls grew up in South Carolina and lived various places before she moved to this area about 30 years ago. Ingalls has a degree in theatre from the University of California-San Diego, and has been “involved steadily in theater since pre-teen years.” She started the Imagine that Storytellers group, and said she really loves all aspects of theatre, but felt like she needed to focus somewhere, and storytelling is that area. In fact, several of the members of the cast, including Olchak, are a part of the storytelling group.
Vicky Town is a professional storyteller who lives at Haven Farm in Fancy Gap, Virginia who has a love of international folktales. She and her husband host an agritourism event at their farm called Stories Under the Stars from June through October.
Performances will be held in the L.H. Jones Auditorium at the Jones Family Resource Center, located at 215 Jones School Road in Mount Airy, on May 8 at 2 p.m., May 9 at 7 p.m., May 10 at 7 p.m., and May 11 at 2 p.m. The performance on May 8 is free of charge, with multiple senior groups from around the region invited to attend. Admission to other performances is $5 per person. Tickets are available at the door. 15 Beans will be at several performances with coffee and refreshments available for purchase.
For more information on “Ghost Light” or the Well-Seasoned Players, call the senior center office at 336-755-6155, extension 255 or email Brack Llewellyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.