Actors over 50 take center stage

Port Jervis, N.Y. Most of the monologues in the Presby Players' 'A Tribute to Neil Simon' will be delivered by older actors, who are mindful of their craft's many benefits.

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  • Alda Pendell and Patrick Warnshuis (Photo by Linda Fields)

If you go

More than a dozen performers, including a couple from Stocker’s young adult class, will take the stage. Here are the details:
What: "A Tribute to Neil Simon"
When: 7 p.m. on Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where: 60 Sussex St., Marsh Hall, Port Jervis, N.Y.
How much: $10 at the door
For information on the acting workshops, email Jeffrey Stocker at or visit Presby Players on Facebook.

By Linda Fields

When the Presby Players community theater group presents its always-popular monologue night on May 3 and 4, the audience be treated not only to some of the best work by playwright Neil Simon, they will see that age is no barrier.

Most of the monologues will be performed by adults over 50 — and at least a couple of them exceed that age by decades. They are members of Director Jeffrey Stocker’s acting class, where each session begins with relaxing breathing exercises, warm-up vocal exercises, movement exercises for flexibility, and listening exercises for working that memory muscle.

Stocker says all of this goes into making each performer his or her very best when on stage.

“The acting workshops build self-confidence, challenge the mind, strengthen memory, and work on the actor’s ability to focus, listen and concentrate," Stocker said.

The benefits aren’t lost on the students. Ninety-year-old Patrick Warnshuis started the class as a form of speech therapy nine years ago after a stroke.

“Jeffrey put me on stage for 30 seconds that first time," Warnshuis recalled. "It was an ideal process because of my age, a very rigorous program of mental gymnastics."

There are other benefits too.

“The friends and camaraderie also have been a great reward," he said.

Sixty-two-year-old Carlina Vasquez, whose first language is Spanish, says acting helps her in different ways.

“I always wanted to act, and since I started, I enjoy practicing the lines," she said. "It helps me improve my English. Everybody here is nice, and they give me a lot of hints about how to improve memorizing my lines.”

Alda Pendell has a lifelong love for the craft.

“On my 80th birthday I thought, ‘Isn’t it great I still have a place to come to for acting?’ because I first fell in love with acting in the second grade," she said.

She says it's good for “working the mind — If you don’t use it, you lose it."

The social benefits haven’t escaped her, either.

“I found my ex-husband here," she said, "so I always refer to my daughter as a Presby Player production!”

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