Bits and Pieces 2009

by Dick Kerekes
It has been several years since I reviewed Jacksonville’s only senior repertoire theatre company, The Vintage Players. Oh, they have been busy for eleven months of the year performing at club meetings, schools, retirement centers, churches, nursing homes and other organizations. Every couple of years they do a show open to the general public, and last weekend was one of them at the Players by the Sea black box theatre.
This not- for -profit group, who performs for the love of it, has been around since l994 and has performed before an estimated 19,000 people in over 290 shows.
For the past 8 years, Esta Waddell has been their Artistic Director. She is a retired language arts and drama teacher who truly enjoys working with the senior actors and actresses who must be at least 50 to be a member. She encourages creativity by asking members to bring in short skits they have either written, heard or read about in various sources. If a member wants to do something new, they will present it to the group at their Friday meetings held at the Singleton Center. In order to be accepted, the new material has to get the vote of the majority of the members.
The Saturday night performance I saw had 14 skits ranging in length from 1 minute to 8 or 9 minutes. The topics covered were varied but all the material was good wholesome down-home humor. In fact, Vintage has a whole repertory of 70 shows and they tailor each show to the group they perform for. Vintage aims to please and they usually do, judging from the written comments they receive after each performance.
The evening opened with The Wrong Captive. Bea Gilliard and Frances Paul played two ladies who share the same home, and are worried about a new visitor to their back yard, a skunk. They enlist the help of two gentlemen neighbors, Ralph Balanesi and Bob Shellenberger to catch and dispose of said skunk, which turned out to be a pet skunk of new neighbor, Mary Metzler.
In that Old Feeling, Charlie White and Linda Allen renew an old old romance over the phone, in a very romantic bit of nostalgia.
JoAnne Stenski is a customer in Café Surprise expecting to get a very French meal, from what appears to be an authentic French waitress played by Gwen Cordes. In a humorous twist she winds up with hamburger and fries and a coke.
Monologues are popular with Vintage, and Martha Worsely presented a very funny one called Santa Claus where her efforts to help a young boy go down a chimney like Santa goes unappreciated.
My Quiet Neighbor with Dorothy Hall and Pat Peterson rang a bell with some of the audience. Ever have a neighbor that won’t leave you alone and takes advantage of your friendship?
Act II opened with The Silver Girls, a humorous take off on the TV show The Golden Girls. The three ladies, Beatrice Gillard, Carolyn Walker, and Mary Allman Clark, all wind up unknowingly buying the same dress to impress a prospective male each is interested in. Their apple cart gets upset when the man, Charlie White, arrives and has a date with Phyllis Rice, a fourth member of the household who does things her own way.
The Wife from Hades, has husband and wife, Anita Oltmanns and Bob Irwin, driving down the road when they are stopped by motor cycle cop, Bob Shellenberger for a violation. The big mouth wife reveals things about her husband’s driving habits, causing him to be arrested by the efficient cop. Lots of laughs in that one.
Larry Fairall in addition to being in two of the skits also did some short monologues in front of the stage while the furniture and set were being changed. It’s good to see Mr. Fairall in this group. He, like others in The Vintage Players has done roles in various community theatre productions.
The average age of the group is over 60 but they do it all. Besides the acting, they bring the lights, the costumes, the backdrops, the sets. “Have show, will travel” should be their motto.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any experience, part of the weekly 10 am to 12:30 pm meeting is devoted to acting classes conducted by the Artistic Director, Ms. Waddell. Call 645-3374 for information or if you want to book a show. There is no charge but they do accept donations to help defray the cost of costumes, makeup, and equipment.