Theater aims to change stereotypes

Intergenerational theater
UCCS student Molly Garrison leads a group of preschool children at a Manitou Springs preschool.

A UCCS children’s theater course with a focus on intergenerational relationships is helping change stereotypes of older adults.

Joye Cook-Levy, education and outreach coordinator, Theatreworks, and adjunct instructor, Department of Visual and Performing Arts, taught the course with a mix of UCCS students and community members more than 65 years old. For the course final, the troupe presented  plays adapted from children’s stories that deal with aging. The pieces were performed at the Colorado Springs Senior Center, a local elementary school, the Manitou Art Center and the “e11″ Playschool.

“When I ask my students to role-play old folks, they typically hunch over and move as if they’re using a cane,” Cook- Levy, said.

Exposing students to older people changed the way they think about aging.

“Having a diversity of conversations in class, the older adults bring so much depth,” she said. “I’m excited to create more opportunities for this kind of Intergenerational rapport at Theatreworks as well.”

The members of the theater company pose for a group picture.
The members of the theater company pose for a group picture.

The students adapted “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein into a play. The story is about a boy who grows up sharing a relationship with an apple tree in his backyard. In the theatrical version, women in the class played the tree while men played the role of the boy as he aged.

“Many of the students don’t grow up with grandparents and don’t have long-standing relationships with older people in their lives,” Cook-Levy said. “Now they’ve developed creative relationships. They are real relationships that are growing out of this common core around art.”

The Kraemer Family Library provided tuition for the seniors who enrolled in the class.

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