A play written and performed by members of NYCHA’s Sumner Senior Center in Brooklyn showcased the wealth of knowledge and life lessons to be learned from older adults, and how sharing that knowledge enriches both the lives of seniors and their communities.
“Making a Difference in Our Daily Lives” was written and performed by Aline Dubose, Martha Jackson, Elizabeth Lloyd, Jannie Monroe, Janice Murphy, Bessie Prince, Rachel Smith, and Crystal Todd, and directed by Marissa Metelica. Viewings of the play were held on two dates in June to packed audiences.
The play, based on the authors’ lives, was a window into a monthly meeting of a women’s group called “A Light of a New Day.” Over lemonade, the women talked about their youth, marriage and relationships, child rearing, education, and self-empowerment. There were heavy topics, including domestic violence and elder safety, but there were also stories of resilience and self-determination: being business owners, graduating from college, the joy brought by their children and grandchildren.
Audience members laughed, applauded, and gave the women words of encouragement throughout the performance.
For these women, most of whom had no theater or acting experience, the workshop was a chance to share their lives and work with their peers. Elizabeth Lloyd said she felt relieved to share her story publicly. Rachel Smith said she and her co-authors “really enjoyed just being ourselves.” Martha Jackson said she will never forget this experience because “it makes you feel better to let it out – the more you talk about it, the better; there’s nothing better than telling the truth from our own experiences.”
From January through June, the women worked with Marissa Metelica, a theater artist and social justice educator, to draft and rehearse their play. Ms. Metelica said she used storytelling games to help pull material from their lives and figured out common themes to help the women develop the play.
Inspired by watching her friend Jannie Monroe walk her dog in the mornings, Bessie Prince wrote the opening of the play, which dealt with issues the women face as seniors. “I wanted to talk about the condition of the world today, seniors being careful, ladies being careful,” Ms. Prince said. “It took on another life when all the ladies got together telling stories, sharing their lives. There’s humor, but there’s also a lot of sadness. These ladies are here to say they went through it and they’re here to talk about it now.”
“I’m very proud and excited to share this play,” Ms. Metelica said. “There were not enough seats for the folks who wanted to see the show. The work that’s being done here at this center is worthwhile, and we need to keep supporting them and this community.” Ms. Metelica and the women hope to perform the play at other senior centers to raise awareness about the importance of senior centers to their communities.