What does it mean to age? It could mean a drawer full of hair dye and wrinkle cream; it could mean a metaphoric drawer full of life experience and wisdom; or it could mean you share your good, bad, dramatic and comedic stories with a Florida Studio Theatre interviewer. In its new community project, “Older than Dirt,” starting Oct. 14, it will use the interviews to explore what aging is all about.
It started in October 2009, when “Life in the Middle” was first presented at Asolo Repertory Theatre. For that production, New Jersey-based playwright KJ Sanchez worked with FSU/Asolo Conservatory third-year students to interview area middle-school students. She turned these interviews into a comedic, documentary-style script and, eventually, into a production. Richard Hopkins, artistic director of Florida Studio Theatre, was in the audience — he introduced himself to Sanchez following the show.
“He said, ‘I saw your show, and I liked it,’” Sanchez says in a phone call from New Jersey. “We’ve kept in touch since then and have been looking for the right project (to collaborate on).”
Sanchez operates American Records, a theater company that creates plays from real-life interviews; each aims to tell the bigger picture. For instance, “ReEntry” is a hard-hitting play that used interviews with Marines who had returned from Iraq and Afghanistan to create a story of the challenges servicemen face when they attempt to reenter civilian life. “ReEntry” was a project, like every one of Sanchez’s projects, that sought to promote understanding and change.
Sanchez hopes to serve the same function with a focus on specific issues of aging using Sarasotans’ stories to create a plot.
A team of FST interviewers will conduct interviews with as many people who want to participate. Sanchez estimates they’ll conduct between 40 and 100 interviews and expects the bulk of interviews to come from people ages 60 years and older, although, she hopes to speak with teenagers and middle-aged people, as well.
Some people will become the main characters, whom they might interview on a few different occasions. All of the interviews will be anonymous once they are turned into a script.
Sanchez isn’t fishing for certain answers — she lets the interviews lead the way. It always starts with a question, similar to: “Do you experience any sort of biases relating to your age?” Sanchez calls it a “thrill ride” because there’s no way to know what the end result will be.
“What’s so cool about being willing to participate — these people are actually impacting the play,” she says.
She hopes that the eventual outcome, the play, will get people talking and thinking and will be funny, smart and entertaining.
“Hopefully it will help the younger members of our country understand the issues and how to take better care of (the elderly),” she says.
IF YOU GO
Older Than Dirt: A Conversation for the Ages panel discussion
When: 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14
Where: Florida Studio Theatre (Keating Theatre), 1241 N. Palm Ave.
Cost: Free with RSVP
Info: Call 366-9000
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