Shakespeare & Storytelling @ the Isabella House Today

Isabella Geriatric Center (515 Audubon Avenue)

Friday July 1st 2 PM

 On July 1st at 2pm, an intimate group of elderly residents of Isabella Geriatric Center will perform scenes and monologues from Shakespeare’s canon as well as their own stories for the community. Exhibiting their understanding of the bard’s language as well as their own writing and performance skills, this presentation is a celebration of learning, discussions and fun the group has been enjoying since the fall of 2009 in twice-weekly theatre residencies facilitated by teaching artists from People’s Theatre Project. The performance will be held in the 1st floor library of the Isabella Geriatric Center at 525 Audubon Avenue and is free and open to the community.

The theatre residencies at Isabella were one of the first programs developed by People’s Theatre Project, a local nonprofit organization, and are administered throughout the year by teaching artists Benjamin Posner and Andrew Clateman. Leona Chen, director of Isabella House (the independent living apartments at the center), recognized the value of theatre to engage her residents mentally, emotionally and physically while having a great deal of fun, and hired the community-based theatre company to begin storytelling classes on a weekly basis. Once this class proved to be a positive force at the center, Chen signed the group on to teach Shakespeare once a week as well.
Isabella resident and retired educator Vinsor Fraser said, “the classes are something that I look forward to because they bring out things in us and keep us going. They keep our intellect going. Without them we would not be as sharp as we are, we’d lose it in time. We need more things like this! Shakespeare and other things to discuss on intellectual levels.” Bill Harkins, another resident and retired Columbia University professor said of the Shakespeare studies, “This is my highpoint of my week here, this class.”

At the July 1st performance, the residents will present three stories entitled “Uncle Jack Falls in Love” by resident Anne Mulee, “Slaughter in Central Park” by Harkins and “Ode to My Eyes” by resident Helen Singer. The Shakespeare selections will include scenes, monologues and songs from Hamlet and The Tempest.

People’s Theatre Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, community-based organization which has served the people of Northern Manhattan since 2009. Using socially relevant and participatory theatre, People’s Theatre Project aims to empower all residents of Northern Manhattan to become artists and activists in their own lives and the life of their community. Through its Pay-What-You-Can public programs for children, youth and adults that address issues facing the community, its educational residencies at local public schools and senior centers as well as the development of professional works relevant to the community, People’s Theatre Project has become a vital part of the Northern Manhattan arts landscape. In 2010 People’s Theatre Project was awarded the Union Square Arts Award for its innovative approach to serving youth and families in low-income communities.

Isabella, a non-profit, non-sectarian, organization, has pioneered in the care of the elderly since 1875. Since its inspired beginning, Isabella has grown from a traditional nursing home to a leading healthcare organization providing a continuum of services on its own campus and in the community at large. Isabella’s high-rise independent living apartment residence offers the best of both worlds to adults age 62 or older: a safe, spacious, enjoyable place to live, with a wide range of medical and social support services nearby when and if they need them.

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