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The Sages of the Local Stage

Helen Klemm is a member of GeriActors & Friends, an Edmonton-based seniors' theatre group with members from a variety of backgrounds performing for the general public.
GeriActors & Friends Artistic Director David Barnet (left) demonstrates a warm-up exercise on during a group rehearsal at SAGE. Left to right: Sherry Smith, John
GeriActors & Friends Artistic Director David Barnet (left) demonstrates a warm-up exercise on during a group rehearsal at SAGE. Left to right: Sherry Smith, John Grootelaar and Angela Smythe.

Helen Klemm is a member of GeriActors & Friends, an Edmonton-based seniors' theatre group with members from a variety of backgrounds performing for the general public. “I joined GeriActors because I was finally getting parts at Walterdale Theatre,” says Klemm. “And I stay because I need to emote,” she laughs.

If someone wants to get involved in the creative arts, they should plunge in, says GeriActors' artistic director, David Barnet. “The research says that when people get involved in any creative art, it makes a distinct improvement in overall health and social and civic inclusion.” Barnet established GeriActors in 2001 at the invitation of the SAGE (Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton) executive director, based on his experience in classical and community theatre. “They thought the latter was the most interesting thing to do, and of course it is the most profoundly interesting thing to do,” says Barnet. “At the end of the session, I asked them if I should come next week. Those famous last words."

GeriActors & Friends has evolved into a group that believes in the principles of "creative aging" by sharing an exuberant approach to theatre. Their productions challenge stereotypes by focusing on aging rather than age, while celebrating everyone's commonalities. Klemm joined 14 years ago, after her son heard an interview with Barnet on the radio. Today, the "friends" of "GeriActors and Friends" are students and alumni from the University of Alberta. “We didn't have students in the beginning, but that's an added incentive to come back,” says Klemm. "We've been so lucky at having such wonderful people joining us.” She credits Barnet for creating a supportive learning experience. The group meets every Thursday afternoon at the SAGE location. They rehearse in the auditorium, and potential members are encouraged to stop by and chat. John Grootelaar, 81, joined for a couple of reasons: the first is social contact, he says. "I do not want to sit at home and let the world pass me by. Secondly, I love acting. I never thought would, but I love it.”



For more information, go to www.geriactors.ualberta.ca