Los Angeles, September 2, 2021…Beginning with their New Year’s show in January, NewStages, a Los Angeles based theater company for seniors, has had a busy year, in lieu of Covid, with thousands of seniors tuning in to their online programming. This past April, their Tennessee Williams workshop launched the company’s Zoom Lecture Series. In June, Secret Lives was presented on Zoom and Vimeo over the four weeks of Pride month and was a huge success. Since 2012, New Stages has been a part of the City of West Hollywood's One City One Pride Arts Festival producing a show with the seniors of the LA LGBT Center each June. Currently they are presenting Sondheim: Flecks of Light and Dark. In September (as long as Covid holds out) Broadway's Kay Cole will be presenting her Musical Theater Conservatory to the online community.
NewStages was originally an offshoot of Stagebridge in Oakland, CA, the country's oldest senior theater company and in 2014, they became a part of the award-winning Oasis Theater Company. Through a partnership with the LA LGBT Center’s Senior Services and with support from the City of West Hollywood and the Grace Helen Spearman Family Foundation, NewStages was born. Since then, the company, under the direction of Mark Salyer, has brought classes, workshops and performances to thousands of seniors, including a yearly production for the One City One Pride Arts Festival.
“Surprisingly, this year has been our busiest yet,” says Salyer who is currently teaching a workshop on the life and work of Stephen Sondheim. “Zoom has made it possible for us to reach people who hadn’t been able to attend our programs.”
Salyer, a theater artist with over twenty years of experience as an actor, director and producer, says teaching is his passion. “Teaching is storytelling. Throughout my career as an actor and director, I was always teaching. It just seemed the natural extension of my work.”
In a 2015 study sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, researchers found “true health promotion and disease prevention effects” in participants in creative projects with professional teaching artists.
“I think the benefits of our program are undeniable,” says Salyer. “We are forming creative communities and helping our clients connect to make art happen.”
NewStages’ work has often centered on personal narrative and storytelling. The program at the LA LGBT Center, for instance, offers LGBTQ+ seniors the opportunity to tell their own stories in a cabaret show presented each year during Pride Month.
The company boasts a dynamic group of professional teaching artists. In September, Broadway’s Kay Cole will teach a musical theater conservatory class. Bringing her many years of experience as both an actress and award-winning director and choreographer, Cole will work with students over the course of eight weeks to develop their music, movement and song interpretation skills. Among the program’s many benefits, she sees it as a way to bridge the generational divide in today’s society.
According to Cole: “Seniors are the foundation of our world but are often forgotten and overlooked. New Stages has remedied this dilemma by their classes in the creative arts and their heartfelt productions. Nurturing these experienced yet vulnerable artists is important because it not only celebrates their lives, it also teaches the younger generation how to survive every challenge with grace. Creating that special dialogue between young and old is vital to everyone’s joy of life.”
This month, NewStages began teaching classes for Jewish Family Services senior programs. “We are doing a fun acting class, followed by our Tennessee Williams workshop. I’m delighted to bring our work to a new audience,” says Salyer.
For more information about NewStages or to join an upcoming class, please visit their site www.newstages.org or follow on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/artandaging.