When John Grootelaar, 74, retired as a materials manager from Du Pont, he spent two years writing a self-published memoir — The Story of My Life.
But after that he was at loose ends. One day while at the Kinsmen Field House, he picked up a copy of the Edmonton Seniors Newspaper and read a short story about Geri-Actors, a start-up seniors’ acting troupe looking for new members.
To this day, Grootelaar remains unsure of why he contacted artistic director David Barnett, a drama instructor at the University of Alberta. “But to my surprise I can do it and I enjoy it,” says Grootelaar.
A six-year veteran of Geri-Actors, he’s slipped into different parts from a lovesick teenager to a retired husband constantly underfoot.
Once again from June 15 to 16 Grootelaar dons his thespian’s cap in Che Sera, a vignette on Alzheimer's disease. The 12-actor troupe will perform at the Timms Centre under the umbrella of the Festival of Edmonton Seniors Theatre (FEST), the theatre component of the Creative Age Festival.
Now in its third year, the festival, running June 9 to 16, celebrates grey power with a series of events such as workshops, film screenings, arts cafĂ©s, coffee parties, a choral fest, a symposium and theatre productions.
The festival is a way to help seniors find new beginnings through the arts. “It’s a festival whose time has come. All around the world, it has been found people’s overall health improves with their involvement in the arts. It reduces isolation and allows seniors to meet so many other wonderful people,” says festival producer Ros Smith.
Grootelaar agrees. “I’ve made good friends and have gotten good insights from people. I’m part of a group that I depend on and they depend on me, and if I have to miss a meeting, I really miss the interaction.”
This year Smith is really pushing an assortment of workshops reasonably priced at $5 each. There’s a wide range from pottery, handbells and acrylic painting to silver smithing, haiku writing and digital photography. The legendary Bobby Cairns is even leading a workshop on jazz guitar.
There are also free events such as the symposium and three-day Arts CafĂ©s of non-stop entertainment June 10 to 12 at the Central Lions Senior Centre. “Last year Arts CafĂ© was packed and the energy was incredible. You could sit for two hours and be entertained,” Smith says.
For cinema buffs, there are two free movies. Gotta Dance chronicles the first-ever senior citizen hip-hop dance team for the New Jersey Nets basketball team and Young@Heart follows a New England senior citizens’ chorus that sings everything from Led Zeppelin to Coldplay.
For a complete downloadable brochure visit www.creativeagefestival.ca.
Creative Age Festival
June 9 to 16
Tickets: $5 for workshop/dramatic presentation or $20 pass
Call Tix on the Square 780-420-1757