- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A variety of play scripts were spread out on the table in the social room at the Northern Senior Activity Center in Charlotte Hall on Friday morning. Members of the Northern Stars acting troupe sorted through the choices, finally deciding to read through “The Golden Door,” a one-act play about an immigrant’s interview with a government worker.
They were out to select a play for their next production, which they are hoping to have ready by April.
“We try to do something that’s easy for us seniors to remember,” said Betty Hill of Helen.
“Nothing sarcastic, depressing, put-downs,” said Barbara Fleming of Mechanicsville. Early on in the troupe’s history, “we decided … why go there?”
So the troupe has gravitated toward mysteries and comedies in its more than six-year history. They were active even before the Northern Senior Center on Charlotte Hall Road was built, back when All Faith Church served as the senior center for the northern end of the county. “We just chatted about [starting a group] and thought it might be fun,” said Bill Fleming of Mechanicsville. “And it has been fun.”
The troupe has also leaned toward locally written material, because when something goes wrong during a production or an actor forgets their lines, the Northern Stars want to have the freedom to ad lib. If they ad lib an unknown play, the audience is none the wiser.
At Friday’s meeting, Hill and Marilyn Smith of Mechanicsville each took a part for a read-through of “The Golden Door” script. The other members listened, chuckling at certain points as the two characters struggled to understand one another, and then applauded at the end.
“You mean two people have to memorize all of that?” asked Dallis Hill of Helen.
“Well, one person will be sitting at a desk and can read their lines,” Barbara Fleming said.
The members discussed the pros and cons of the play its length, its message.
The membership of the Northern Stars has gone up and down over the years. Some of the members have moved away. Betty Hill flipped through photos of productions, pointing out members who no longer live in the area.
Right now, the membership is on the low end, and the group is issuing an invitation to area seniors who would like act, help with costumes or sets, or help with publicity. “Anyone at all. We’ll find something for anybody,” said Connie Arnold of Charlotte Hall.
There is no need to have a broad background in the theater to join in, the members said. Before getting involved with the Northern Stars, Bill Fleming’s last theater involvement was a part in a first-grade play back in upstate New York, where he grew up.
The group meets the first Friday of each month and performances are usually twice each year at the Northern Senior Activity Center. Additional performances are also sometimes presented at the nearby Charlotte Hall Veterans Home and at Cedar Lane apartments in Leonardtown.
“Just to see older people smile,” said Harry Arnold of Charlotte Hall.
“As [Dallis] says, it’s the seniors entertaining seniors,” Betty Hill said.
Participation in the group is also a way to get to know other people, Barbara Fleming noted.
Jennifer Hunt, community programs and outreach manager for the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging, said she likes seeing the group at work, “laughing and enjoying each other. It’s really nice to be able to see.”
“Oh, they’re great,” said MarieNoelle Lautieri, operations manager at the Northern Senior Activity Center. “They provide an extra dimension at the center.”