Senior theater: Simmons a 'driving force'
The Senior Theater Workshop will begin auditioning for its January production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” Sept. 7.
When it comes to Ormond theater, Cindy Simmons is a pioneer.
Director of the Senior Theater Workshop, Simmons acted in the Performing Arts Center’s inaugural production, back in 1991. She was the first in town to give kids as young 3 years old a venue to sing and dance and be seen on stage, by founding 34 years ago the Children’s Musical Theater, a group for which there was so little space that it was forced to hold its opening show in city handball courts.
“She was actually the driving force behind having this building built,” Performing Arts Center Director Marc Schwartz said, motioning around him, at his venue. “It was her dream to have a theater in Ormond Beach.”
And now that she has one, it’s been her dream to share it with others.
One of the only free programs found at the Ormond Beach Performing Arts Center, the Senior Theater Workshop will begin auditioning for its January production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” Friday, Sept. 7.
The musical is directed by Simmons, who got involved in the program three years ago. But the senior play group has been around more than just a couple seasons.
Started by Ruth Horan and Jane Renz, the workshop began the same year the Performing Arts Center opened, as a converted church at the corner of U.S. 1 and Wilmette Ave. And ever since, Simmons says, it’s given local seniors an outlet to make new friends and a place to call their own. It’s given them something to get excited about.
“Every year, we have someone who has never acted before,” Simmons says, slightly swiveling in her chair. “Nothing’s going to be perfect, but as long as you’re having a good time up there, the audience is going to have a good time, and that’s the key.”
But it goes beyond simple fun. For kids, Simmons believes the theater helps build confidence. For seniors, it increases stamina, flexibility, energy. It helps develop friendships. The actors get to learn new skills.
“I try to find something special for everybody to do,” Simmons added, noting that she never casts the same people in lead roles twice, “so that they’re as special as anyone else, and that they have their moment to shine.”
And that explains why so many return to the group the following year, Schwartz said.
“They bow at the end of the show. They hear applause.” He nodded. “That’s a big thing.”
With a cardboard box full of scripts under her arm, Dee Carpenter, the program’s producer and assistant director and costume maker and “heart and soul,” according to Simmons, agrees. And she knows from experience. In her late 60s, she performed a solo ballet number last year that Simmons, with wide eyes and a hushed tone, called “beautiful.” Ask her what seniors get out of this program, though, and her answer will be simple, and honest, and so obvious it’s easy to miss.
She’ll stomp down a ramp backstage toward double doors that clank when they shut then snap hard when they lock. Then she’s stop a second before disappearing past the threshold.
She’ll look back. She’ll say: “Life.”
Senior Theater Workshop
Audition for the Senior Theater Workshop’s production of “Anything Goes” will be held 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at the Performing Arts Center. Good memorization skills and a strong sense of humor are a must. Singers is also incorporated in the show, although not all actors will have solos.
There is no casting limit. Rehearsals will be 9-12 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays. All 50-and-over seniors welcome.
The Ormond Beach Follies
A more intensive senior program, The Ormond Beach Follies will hold registration 10 a.m. Sept. 13, in the Performing Arts Center, for their next show, “Let us entertain you.” It’s $5 to join.
Children’s Musical Theater
The Children’s Musical Theater, for kids ages 3.5 to 18, closed summer registration Sept. 4 but actors will continue being accepted for the next few weeks.
The next youth shows Cindy Simons, program founder/director, will showcase are “Pirates! The Musical” for the younger group — about 70 kids up to the fifth grade level — and Disney’s “Little Mermaid, Jr.” — for about 30 kids in the sixth-to-12th grade group.
All children are accepted. Scholarships are also offered to low-income families.