GeriActors and Friends at ELLA

Yesterday the GeriActors had the honour of performing a section of “We Decide When” at the lunch feature of ELLA.

ELLA, which stands for Edmonton Lifelong Learning Association is an annual conference for seniors as a part of the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension. This three week event features courses in a broad range of topics such as photography, biology of the immune system, mathematics or watercolor technique. Seniors are able to sign up for as many or as few courses as they would like.

For more information about ELLA visit their website:

Many of the GeriActors take part in this event, as ELLA shares the same belief that creativity and lifelong learning is the gateway to healthy aging.

The event started with a speech made by our artistic director, David Barnet. It featured a description of our process, the intergenerational course and a series of exercises by the GeriActors.

Here were some highlights from the events.

“Never say anything you don’t want to be put into a play”

“Don’t shoot it down (online dating) until you’ve tried it David!”

“Every year at ELLA I feel a bit younger, that play made me feel even younger, something no medication can ever make me feel.”

“Laughter is our form of the handshake, it’s our way of showing that we are all equal.”

“Peaches! Kelowna Peaches!” (describing her favorite food)


Standing beside Liz (left) is Therezinha Kennedy (right), local poet, a former GeriActors and now world traveler. She will be travelling the Himalayas next year.






GeriActors Performance in St. Albert

The GeriActors are honoured to do a performance for Shakespeare’s 400 year anniversary in St. Albert library.

Join us Thursday, April 28 at 6pm. Shakespeares400.jpg

Creating Theatre without Tech

We usually perform in non-conventional theatre spaces: seniors homes, libraries, even outside in a park. Which means our performances have little to no technical requirements so that we can perform pretty much anywhere, we can open up our Tupperware of costumes and props and be ready to perform. In fact, we prefer this.

Here’s why. When we lose reliance on lights and sound to assist in transitions, evoking a moment or location or even to signal the end of the play, the actors work a lot harder to create the world of the play for the audience. The convention of the fourth wall no longer exists because the actors need to walk the audience through the story. This creates a more open performance which allows the actors to have a conversation with the audience through their performance.

So how do a group of intergenerational actors evoke a train collision in Leicester, England in 1950? Well first, the text needs to be incredible precise. The words evoke the world, the stakes of the situation and includes essential details of the situation and minute details to personalize it. Second, because we’ve created the convention of “minimalist theatre”, the audience is now primed to use their imagination. Suddenly a group of four actors linked hand in hand making “choo-choo” sounds becomes a light engine. In fact, the audience rarely ever questions it. Lastly, when a storyteller creates a sound from memory, there is a quality of authenticity that can’t quite be captured by a sound clip. “I remember the train made this deafening SCREEEEEEEEEECH sound from the brakes before the huge BANG when the train crashed.” The actor verbalizing the sound isn’t quite as accurate to the actual sound, but it is more evocative, causing the audience to personalize the sounds in their minds.

In the end, though we may not have the dramatic qualities of a blackout or the immersive qualities of a recorded soundscape. We have found that our bodies and voices have a way of presenting the story in a more open and uniquely authentic way. With the added advantage that it saves us a pretty penny as well…

Here are a couple sounds we are exploring for our “Trains We Remember” play this year.

  1. This is the sound of a fire engine during the Blitz
  2. This is the sound of a steam train leaving:

Next week, the GeriActors will be performing in Delburne, Alberta. Stay tuned to see what we were up to there!

From Story to Play

Many of our plays are inspired by real stories from our seniors, but how do we further develop them into script and performances? It starts with an image.

From hearing the story, the facilitators or directors begin to envision an image in their minds. The director will then take any available bodies in the room to begin sculpting the image they see. Layers of details such as sounds, mood and environment are then added to create a physical picture of the once verbal story.

As it develops, the story in some ways becomes less personal and more universal. Members of the cast begin to find ways to make the story their own: developing characters, depicting their understandings of the experience while honouring the essence of the original story. There is usually a narrator that takes everyone on the journey, but sometimes we discover that its more effective to have multiple narrators.

This blog will highlight some of the research involved in developing our current work-in-progress play: Trains.

One of our story takes place in Finsbury Park Train station during the Second World War in London.


The air raids prompted a siren to alert Londoners to go into the tunnels. There was another siren alerting the citizens it was safe to come out again. Here is a clip of the two sounds. We would mimic these original sounds with an actor’s voice.

When the raids were over, this is awaited Londoners outside. How would you evoke this with a group of intergenerational actors?

Thoughts from a Friend.

Editor’s Note: We had the pleasure of having Kandis Gilks join us as a friend last semester. Here are a few thoughts she had about Intergenerational Theatre.

Intergenerational theatre is complied of many, many things. Willingness to take risks and challenge personal perspective, filling the room with the raw truth whatever that truth may bring, working together to discover the small ‘ah ha’ moments with our pieces… These things are what creates genuine theatre art. The stories and experiences that each of us, Geri or Friend, bring to the work space is beautiful in that they support the common ground we walk on: the passion to present the real.

Drama is a process. It is forever growing and developing, changing and progressing. The process will thrive on patience, passion and commitment to creating pieces that are sincere because they come straight from the soul. It is absolutely necessary to understand that drama is a discovery process. We discover things we knew but did not necessarily knew we know. Our stories were a part of us, but are now even more deeply embedded into our every word, line, phrase, and movement. It all becomes necessary. The sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste that had existed once before now comes rushing back to the storyteller in an overwhelming wave of sensory that those listening can too soak up all the story has to offer.

We all come together with different backgrounds and opinions but this is what brings us even closer. Listening to one another and supporting each persons history is what makes community theatre so alive and tangible. We do not all have to be the same and believe the same things in order to create something great; it is our diversity that makes us exceptional. Each individual is valued and an instrumental part to the GeriActors and Friends because our variety in vocal tone, physical mobility and artistic expression all contributes to our successful story sharing with society as a whole.

Nothing is wrong or bad within theatre; this is what I have learned from the Geri’s. Whatever you decide to do or say you must do with your entire heart and be true to yourself. If something does not work, you accept it and look at the why’s and how’s it did not work, not the story itself. Every piece is in constant review because as we change and grow, our message could alter as well therefore the need to be accepting and patient is so incredibly great. By being able to accept yourself and others, you then are able to accept the magic that will come from being a part of the GeriActors and Friends.

Artist Bio: 

Kandis is in her fourth year of BEd at the University of Alberta and am loving every moment of it! She is constantly keeping busy with taking various courses of interest and becoming more involved with mindfulness. Kandis is excited to graduate from university and take her knowledge of intergenerational theatre wherever life takes her!