CHESTERMERE – The performers of the CRCA Musical Theatre group made a special trip to the Prince of Peace Manor on Sunday, Dec. 18 to put on a two-hour show for the senior residents and their guests.
Although the performance was designed to bring some holiday cheer to the residents, the stories and songs performed weren’t the traditional Christmas offering.
Instead, the group performed specially written songs and short acts based on the stories of the people in the audience. Beginning in October, the young CRCA performers visited Prince of Peace on a few occasions. They sat down and chatted with the residents and listened to their stories, which they then took and made into a musical theatre piece for the holidays.
Local musician and arts instructor Candie Schmidt, who runs the CRCA program, said that she got the idea from a story she had read in Readers Digest.
“It was about a performing arts teacher in Ontario who had partnered up her high school students with seniors,” Schmit said. “Then they would paint a picture, or write a song or just a tell a story in some medium of art that honored the seniors and their stories.
“I just thought it would be a really great thing to do with our group, so we gave it a try.”
Schmidt said that having the young performers sit down with the seniors was not only a good way to bridge the generation gap in some way, but that it also gave them a chance to learn about what is important during the holidays.
“It was really great for the kids to be able to sit across the table from these wise old people,” she said. “I think they learned a lot, and gained a beautiful understanding and even made some new friends.
“They really enjoyed the time they spent with them and getting to hear their stories.”
After meeting with the seniors, original songs and scripts were written based off of what they had learned. They included a few poignant stories, all of them linked together by why it is important to appreciate your family and what you have during the holiday season.
“With some of the lines and the music we suggested doing “all you can” and “making things count” during the holidays,” Schmidt said. “We wanted them to see that it’s not always about having presents under your Christmas tree, but that it’s also about family and coming together.
“I really think the kids saw a whole different side of Christmas. It was really rewarding.”
Schmidt said that they couldn’t have put together such a performance without the help of the seniors at Prince of Peace.
“For them to get all dressed up and come down and talk to us and share their stories so openly, it meant a lot to us,” she said. “Some of their stories had the girls in tears.
“It was one of the most serious things we’ve done, because even though we do fun things like improv and games and learning, this was was all about work. But I think it was pretty gratifying for them, and I think we made a difference in a few peoples lives.”
Everything was put together in six short weeks, but the final product was a success. Schmidt said that the response from the Manor was all positive, and that they have already been asked back to do another performance next year, but as a dinner theatre instead.
The CRCA Musical Theatre group will do a second performance on Jan. 5 at Cardel Theatre in Calgary. It will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
All proceeds from ticket sales will go toward buying permanent microphones for the program. Schmidt said that they are also looking for companies or individuals who might be interested in sponsoring some tickets to the show, so that underpriviledged seniors can attend.
Anyone who is interested in purchasing or sponsoring tickets can contact Candie Schmidt at 403-870-8775, or tickets can be purchased through Cardel Theatre ( www.cardeltheatre.com).