Theater for readers
Ageless Repertory Theatre
Think you’ve had the houseguest from hell? Think again. In Leslie Stevens’ The Marriage-Go-Round, a sexy Swedish guest visits a happily married couple (both college professors) and wreaks marital havoc with her unconventional ideas about hospitality. She’s supposed to be accompanied by her father, who’s a friend of the husband, but the European bombshell arrives alone—and she wants more than mints on her pillow.
The play is a production by the Ageless Repertory Theatre, as part of this month’s Artown festivities. Earlier this month, the group performed Ladies of the Corridor by Dorothy Parker.
The new play’s racy theme is a bit of a departure for the family-friendly acting company.
“We try to do not-too-provocative presentations,” says artistic director Len Overholser. “This one happens to be a little bit [suggestive].”
The group performs what’s known as “reading theater,” which means that the actors read directly from scripts instead of memorizing their lines. This method allows them to focus on their performance, rather than rote memorization.
“We don’t memorize lines, but we act through voice interpretations of the lines and the writer’s words,” says Overholser. Props and sets are minimal, and, often, the actors wear no costumes, dressing in plain black instead.
“You have to react vocally, not by movement and not by props,” Overholser explains. “You have to do it more with voice and inflection. The clue, really, to most of these productions, is good writing.”
The group performs about six productions per year. Most of the plays are from the 1950s and 1960s, because the themes and language appeal to the group’s target audience—mainly older women, he says.
For many of the group’s members, the Ageless Repertory Theatre is not an introduction to acting, but a return.
“Many of us have had acting careers in the past, going back many years,” says Overholser. “Some of us have been directors.” Overholser himself has been acting ever since a high school production of Guys and Dolls in 1950. Since he started acting profrssionally in 1975, he’s played many supporting roles and some major roles. He has been involved with the company for four years, and became artistic director earlier this year.
“We like to be part of the Artown festival because it attracts a lot of folks,” says Overholser. “So far we’ve attracted about 250 people to see Ladies of the Corridor, so that’s pretty good for what we do.” The actors hope that the shows, which are open to the public, will increase name recognition and lead to additional performances. The group performs at libraries, churches and assisted living centers.
“We hope to be able to attract some additional performances for some of our one-act plays with senior groups and senior residences,” Overholser adds. “And this may be one way to indicate to them that we’re available.”
The group has about 15 members, who range in age from 72 to 75. But all ages are welcome, Overholser stresses. Male actors are particularly needed. In a pinch, women have taken male roles.
“We’re interested in anybody that would be willing to commit some time and energy based on their experience—and you don’t have to have experience, by the way,” he says. “If you can read, you can be a part of this.”