Marnie Perrin is standing before a room full of seniors, this mid-February afternoon. We have gathered in an activity room at the West End Seniors Centre to see the play, View From A Window.
Marnie explains how it all came about. “Four years ago, my dad turned to me and said, ‘What happened? I’ve become invisible.’ That made me wonder: what is it like, to be a senior in today’s youth-oriented society?”
Marnie’s curiosity — with support from the South Granville Seniors Centre, as well as funding from the City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver, and a sponsorship by Prospera Credit Union — sparked a two-year project. Phase 1 included gathering information about being a senior, by holding workshops with seniors. In Phase 2, all those comments were shaped into a four-character, one-act play, and performed for the people whose lives it reflects by professional actors Yvonne Adalian, Bernard Cuffling, Richard Newman, and Gina Stockdale.
Marnie steps aside. We’re looking at four empty chairs and a ladder. Suddenly the Beatles song, “A Day in the Life” fills the air, and then, as it dies down, four people wander on-stage and settle into the chairs. They look just like the rest of us, and they’re picking up a familiar conversation with each other, just like we all do with our friends.
[Pictured, L to R: Bernard Cuffling, Richard Newman, Yvonne Adalian, Gina Stockdale]
We know this material! It’s the chit-chat of our own daily lives, at this stage of our lives. One character talks about the heedless young man who knocked her cane flying as he rushed by on the street. “Did he stop to help? No! I was invisible!” And an audience member says to her friend, “Yes, that’s what happens!” A character talks about someone telling him he’s doing well for his age — “as if that’s a compliment!” Chuckles, as heads nod in agreement. “Well, there’s this — white hair guarantees you a seat on the bus!” Huge laughter, throughout the room. Much gentler, softer amusement — recognition, more than amusement — as one character tells the same story, for the third time.
[Pictured: Yvonne Adalian and Gina Stockdale]
Back and forth it goes. How we get ourselves out there, for a daily walk. The importance of social contact, as well as physical activity. How we enjoy visits from our children, but see them wondering how much longer to stay. How we can use the invisibility society imposes on us, to be free, to become fully ourselves. How we get over trying to make everyone see things our way, and instead relax into letting everyone have their own view from a window.
[Pictured: Richard Newman and Bernard Cuffling]
One character talks about feeling “bewitched, bothered and bewildered.” Cue the music, and they’re dancing. They begin singing the lyrics, and we audience members sing along with them.
[Pictured: Bernard Cuffling & Gina Stockdale, dancing]
A frank discussion about dying follows. “I want to be alive and mentally curious until one day I unexpectedly drop dead!” says one of the women characters. More nods and agreement from the audience.
And then … the characters leave the stage, and the play has ended. No big summing-up, it’s not that kind of play. It’s snippets of our own lives, as we lead them now.
Story and pictures by Penny Williams.
We are continuing to raise funds to support the project through GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/seniors-create-project-performance) to enable us to bring the show to more seniors centres, residences, and community centres! Help us meet our fundraising goals so we can continue to share these special stories with our community.