Dearest Readers,

Today I am going to do a play reading at a Seniors’ Residence in Westmount, the chi-chi Anglophone section of Montreal. The reading is part of a program sponsored by the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts, which allows community audiences access to playwrights and their work and provides the playwright with a decent honorarium. It’s a great gig.

This particular venue is a place I hold very dear to my heart because I used to work there. Each week on a Monday night I would spend an hour with the residents reading a play. Actually, they would read the play and I would facilitate. As in, “Mildred, would you read Juliet? And Harold, would you now read Romeo?”

It was a joy to listen to these elders read characters from Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams. I kept the position for over 2 years and it opened the door to another job I landed at a nursing home. For awhile I thought I might give up life in the theatre to serve the elderly. I was good at it and found it very fulfilling. Then I got a gig at Stratford. That changed everything.

This morning, as I was trying to choose what to read to the residents I was struck (not for the first time — I’ve had to select excerpts before for a similar gig) by the challenging nature of my work. I write about characters who have experienced trauma and are in the process of finding the Way Out. Maybe not the best subject matter for afternoon tea with the old folks.

And yet “old folks” have lived a long time. They’ve seen a lot of things. My brain says, “Oh no, this will shock them,” but am I not underestimating their experience? At the same time I would like them to enjoy themselves. I don’t want the experience to be too dark. So the passages I ended up choosing are both (somewhat) challenging and uplifting.

What I remember most about spending time with the elderly is that they have a lot to teach me. I may be going in there to give them a reading but I’m pretty convinced I’m going to come out of there with a learning.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I look at an old person do I see the whole life or do I simply see the “old”? Today I will stay open to learning something from an elder.