One Tuesday in mid- May, Global Action on Aging (GAA) met with Gail Elberg, Director of All Stars Inc.(ASP), a volunteer driven non-profit organization that embraces three distinct programs: the All Stars Talent Show Network, the Development School for Youth, and the Castillo Theater. Located on West 42nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenue, the All Stars Project Inc. dates back over 30 years. It has remained independent of government funding in order to ensure its dedication to “promoting human development through the use of an innovative performance-based model.” ASP does leadership training, offering educational and performing arts activities for disenfranchised and minority youth. GAA wanted to know more about ASP’s Senior Theater Workshop, called The New Timers!, led by Director Vicky Wallace and Producer Dr. Susan Massad.
A group of fifteen to twenty older persons, called The New Timers!, refuse to conform to the labels of “senior” or “senior citizen,” thanks to the ASP philosophy that “everyone is a star.” The three-year old program has members ranging from their fifties to their eighties who meet each week to “play and explore issues of growth and development for older Americans” through improvisational games and exercises. The group demonstrates that through performance older people grow and develop. Additionally, many The New Timers double as volunteers at ASP and can be found helping out in the costume shop, the box office, or as house staff. Most members don’t come from theater backgrounds. They can find comfort in the laid-back, experimental atmosphere that facilitates personal growth and group harmony. Improvisation is the primary technique The New Timers! use to create a culture of solidarity. Characteristically diverse as an extension of the All Stars Inc., the group provides a performance space where everyone can find others who will respond and listen. Members say they have benefited tremendously from these experiences, reporting increased ease in talking in front of groups and gaining confidence to join other theater groups as well.
The New Timers! give back to New York City as performers at senior centers where they introduce older New Yorkers to the joys of improvisation. In the past year ASP has visited senior sites such as Encore, JASA, and Penn South; they plan to continue outreach to senior groups. One recent performance was based on a 10-week workshop that focused on “creating one’s day” rather than just keeping busy. Ms. Wallace considers this project as one of the group’s most successful and inspiring. She adds that older persons often see themselves as invisible consumers, limited by the constant barrage of commercialism that targets their age group. Instead, The New Timers! seeks to break through daily routines that promote inactivity by practicing pro-active techniques that help seniors ‘create’ their day. Through exercises such as “laughing yoga,” older New Yorkers find rejuvenation with The New Timers!. It allows anyone and everyone to show their hidden talents, find new ones, and express even their silliest of sides. Thanks to Gail, Vicky, and Susan for taking the time to meet with Global Action on Aging and tell us more about these creative social initiatives. The New Timers! is a free program and open to everyone that wants to join. Those interested may sign up by calling 212-941-9400, ext. 439.