South Charlotte

It's never too late to get on stage at Matthews Playhouse

Starting this week, Matthews Playhouse will be offering three different acting classes for seniors, 55 and older.

The class "LOL" is based on the television show "Laugh In." Techniques will focus on improvisation, vaudeville and theater games.

Participants in the "Life Stories" class will learn writing, storytelling and acting skills that will enable them to create a performance piece using stories from their lives.

In "Short Attention Span Theater," a variety of techniques, including character creations, monologues and 10-minute plays, will be used to develop acting skills.

The price is $200 for 10 to 12 sessions, including classes and a performance. Classes are two hours long and meet during the day. At the conclusion of the course, participants from all three classes will give a free performance for the community.

These senior acting classes are the brainchild of Concord resident Wrenn Goodrun. Goodrun, 60, who has been involved in the theater for more than 35 years, is founder and director of ACT, which stands for Activate Community Through Theater.

Over the years, ACT has offered a variety of programs targeting youths and intergenerational participants, and in recent years has expanded into senior theater.

Goodrun conceived the idea while visiting her mother in an assisted living facility. She saw that the residents needed something to stimulate their minds and foster social interaction. In 2004, Goodrun started acting classes for the residents, eventually developing programs specifically for those 55 and older. She recognized the growing field of senior theater and, through ACT, developed theater programs.

In 2010, Goodrun partnered with Matthews Playhouse, and her senior classes were a big success.

Participant Lynnsy Logue said she felt she had a second chance at life after beating cancer and took the opportunity to "get out of myself, learn to speak up and out about my innermost feelings."

Dave Smyk said he enjoyed the bonding experience. "I expected to just learn acting basics, but in the process I made 14 new friends that were interesting, kind, loving and accepting," said Smyk.

"Listening to the stories they wrote made us laugh and at times sob with them."

Smyk's sentiment was echoed by Barbara Johnson: "I took Dr. Wrenn's 'Life Stories' class because I have always wanted to share some of my rich experiences with other people and to listen to other people stories. The human bond becomes more real as stories are being shared."

Some enjoyed the classes so much that they wanted to continue their theater experience, and with Goodrun have formed the Forever Young Players of Matthews Playhouse. In December, the company will put on a performance at the playhouse titled "Tis the Season."

Goodrun said she finds it rewarding to see the positive effects the senior acting classes can produce, such as "seeing people lose their inhibitions, making new friends and finding more laughter in life."

She is enthusiastic about the contribution the senior acting programs can have on those in the Charlotte community and sees retirement homes, senior centers, nursing homes and houses of worship as viable communities to be "ACTivated" as the program grows.