Harley and Katy Marshall couldn’t find acting roles suitable for older actors, so they created their own.
The husband-and-wife team presents the autobiographical comedy, “The Mennonite and the Bartender,” this weekend at Schoolhouse Arts Center in Standish. The show is produced by the Daytime Players, a troupe of older actors who present plays written by seniors – and often present them during daylight hours so retirees don’t have to go out at night.
“The Mennonite and the Bartender” begins a busy spring season for community theaters across southern Maine, featuring actors and singers who perform for the joy of being on stage and making an audience laugh, cry or sing along.
For the Marshalls, it means doing what they love in retirement as they did in their professional careers. They moved from Kansas City to Portland in 2010 to be closer to their daughter and her family, who live in Maine.
In Kansas City, Harley Marshall ran a professional theater company, the Actors’ Ensemble. Katy Marshall taught high school theater. They’ve done a few acting things in Portland, but not as many as they’d like. “There just aren’t many opportunities for seniors, so we decided to write our own,” Harley Marshall said.
“The Mennonite and the Bartender” tells the story of two lovers who meet in college in the 1960s and experience life to the fullest over the next five decades, from the psychedelic ’60s up through retirement and grandparenting. Ultimately, it’s a love story, Harley Marshall said. “I am going to get up before a small portion of the world and tell how wonderful the woman by my side is,” he said. “That may sound corny and old fashioned, but it is real. It is true.”
Jerry Walker directs. He was instrumental in getting the Daytime Players functioning. The troupe operated until about a decade ago and came back on the scene in October with performances at Schoolhouse Arts of “The Days Are As Grass.” The troupe has about a dozen actors and performs in theaters, halls and meeting rooms.
The Daytime Players are part of a larger national trend. According to the Theatre Communications Group, senior theater is hugely popular, growing from fewer than 100 senior theater companies in 2000 to nearly 800 today. The growth reflects the aging demographic of America, Walker said.
Generally, people are living longer and healthier lives. “If you’ve been a performer all your life, you don’t just stop because you hit a certain age. Why can’t you act forever?” he asked.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Schoolhouse Arts Center, 16 Richville Road, Standish
TICKETS & INFO: $10; schoolhouseartscenter.org
Stephanie Ross had many reasons for choosing “Pippin.” First, there’s the music, which is fun to perform and full of energy and sing-along possibilities. These songs stay in your head for years.
There’s also the choreography, which is challenging and complex and in this production also includes opportunities for aerialists, tumblers and jugglers.
And there are great special effects – firebox tricks and levitations.
But the core reason for doing this show is the message, Ross said. “Pippin” tells the story of a young king searching for happiness and feeling tempted to give in to his doubts and bouts with self-confidence during his journey. “It’s a great play for teens because it teaches them not to let the negative thoughts they have be more important than the dreams we have,” said Ross, who directs. “We fail all the time in pursuit of worthy endeavors. That’s OK. That’s how we learn. The only time we don’t get to where we want to go is when we quit.”
This is a huge play, with 50 kids participating.
It debuted on Broadway in 1973, with Bob Fosse directing. A revival in 2013, which starred Portland native Andrea Martin, won nine Tony Awards.
South Portland High School presents “Pippin” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; and 7:30 p.m. April 8-9 and 2 p.m. April 10; $15 adults, $10 students and seniors; 207-767-7711, ext. 3837 or myticketportal.com
Community theaters across southern Maine are busy this spring. Here are five shows that caught our attention:
Schoolhouse Arts Center in Standish presents “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” one of Neil Simon’s funniest and most-produced plays. Young Eugene, who is just discovering his manhood, begins dreaming of baseball and girls. Get used to it, kid. It opens April 8 and runs through April 24 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. schoolhousearts.org or 642-3743.
Portland Players in South Portland continues its production of the American classic “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller and directed by Michael Donovan. It’s about the Salem witch trials, but Miller wrote the play about McCarthyism and the dangers of hysteria. It’s timely still and continues through April 9, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. portlandplayers.org or 799-7337.
Biddeford City Theater stages the love-triangle comedy “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s,” beginning May 13. It’s about a woman, her lover and her husband, a combination that always ends badly. citytheater.org or 207-282-0849.
At Lyric Music Theater, also in South Portland, look for a staging of the musical comedy “Spamalot,” opening May 13. Think armed knights, impalements and silliness. And, of course, meat. lyricmusictheater.org or 207-799-1421.
On the Maine-New Hampshire border, the venerable Garrison Players of Rollinsford, New Hampshire, open the Dolly Parton musical “9-to-5,” beginning May 6. The Garrison Players have been doing shows since 1953, which is saying something. Dolly Parton was 6 when the theater opened. garrisonplayers.org or 603-750-4278.