Laughing Matters–Pine Run Retirement Community
By Christy Brudin
Photography by Mary Clark and Natalie Wi
Comedy only resonates if it contains a kernel of truth. That’s why comedians have to know their audiences—and their lives—well.
Such is certainly the case with The Curtain Call Players, an acting troupe made up of residents of Pine Run Retirement Community.
The Players perform skits largely based on everyday life at Pine Run; they, like their audience, understand that retirement living can be a laughing matter.
Located in Doylestown, Pa., Pine Run is a full-service retirement community that is owned and operated by Doylestown Hospital. Residents enjoy an array of amenities, including a robust enrichment program featuring clubs and committees to fit the interests of every resident.
Like many of Pine Run’s activities, The Curtain Call Players developed organically when a group of like-minded residents started an acting class. Following a community talent show, the former and aspiring thespians put together a class so they could learn more about theater. The class included a significant amount of improvisational work, and the group quickly decided they should share their largely comedic skits with their fellow residents. So the group—complete with stars—was born.
The acting bug bit Rita Klein, one of the co-chairs of The Curtain Call Players, early. She starred in a production of “I Remember Mama” in high school. While her acting later took a backseat to raising five children and working as a teacher and a principal, she always retained her interest in the theater. She remained an avid theatergoer throughout her life. As a teacher, she even incorporated skits, singing and dancing into her elementary school classrooms, much to the delight of her students.
After retiring from her post as an elementary school principal, Rita, and her husband, Harry, decided to move to Pine Run. That was seven years ago, and the couple has never regretted their decision. “My family was actually very concerned about how I was going to adjust to leaving our longtime family home,” Rita recalled. “I laugh and tell people that it took me about 10 minutes to adjust. This lifestyle is just wonderful; it provides a lot of social options—and I don’t have to cook anymore.”
Beyond the time she no longer spends in the kitchen, one of the most rewarding aspects of Rita’s new lifestyle has been her return to the stage. From their initial start as an acting class, The Players have grown into an established group with a professional director—PJ Schweizer, a working actor with a theater arts degree, who also happens to be one of Rita’s grandchildren.
PJ helps the group find, adapt and create skits based on their everyday experiences. The group always focuses on delivering performances that resonate with the audience at Pine Run.
“We are being our own age and recognizing and appreciating the humor that comes with that,” explained Rita. “The audience is right there with us because they understand what we are talking—and laughing—about. We are always very sensitive to the fact that this is laughing with each other, not at each other.”
The humor that the group brings to retirement living is one of the reasons their performances are so well attended by residents and families. It has also fostered strong bonds among the performers.
“The rehearsals are probably funnier than the shows; we have such wonderful camaraderie in the group,” Rita said. In fact, the group has become so much more than just an outlet for her love of the theater. “During the finale of our last performance, we were singing ‘That’s What Friends Are For,’ and I recall thinking that there was no place I’d rather be. I felt comfortable and energized, and that’s what this group is really all about,” she remembered.
Frank Fay couldn’t agree more. As Rita’s fellow co-chair of The Curtain Call Players, he is also rekindling a lifelong love. Much like Rita, he started performing in high school. One of his first major roles was in “Harvey,” and he went on to star in community theater productions throughout college.
After graduating from college, Frank joined the army and served in Korea. Once he returned home, he married Anne, and the couple had six children and now has 15 grandchildren. While his large family and thriving career forced his love for the theater to the backburner, he began returning to the stage after his children left home.
The Fays decided to move to Pine Run after their youngest daughter, who lives nearby, announced she was having twins. The couple decided that a move would allow them to help out with the children while enjoying a carefree retirement lifestyle.
Shortly after moving, Frank became involved with The Curtain Call Players. For him, the best part of being back on stage is the genuine connection between the actors and the audiences. “When you see people laughing and clapping, you can sense a real bond with the audience,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to get in front of them and know that they really are enjoying themselves.”
That connection also extends to Frank’s fellow actors. “These plays can be hilarious, and we all laugh and have fun, especially when we are ad-libbing. But ultimately, we are all very dedicated to making the plays the best we can,” he said.
Obviously, The Curtain Call Players are doing something very right. Their performances are always packed, with standing room only for families and guests. Perhaps most notably, both the Players and the audience always leave the theater with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts—proving that laughing matters.
Published: July 2014