White Pines Productions had received $2,000 from the Henrietta Tower Wurts Memorial to support its Senior Theater Initiative. The Henrietta Tower Wurts Memorial is a charitable foundation formed to carry out the wishes of Henrietta Tower Wurts, who died in 1933. It supports programs in which a modest grant can play a significant part, and which have meaningful goals in relation to the total resources committed to them. The Philadelphia Foundation provides administrative and management support services for the memorial.
Led by program director Jerry Perna, the Senior Theater Initiative transforms the lives of seniors in low-income senior living sites. For the past three years, we have partnered with federation Housing, Inc. to serve seniors in three of heir sites: The Samuel F. Green House in Elkins Park, Sidewater House in the Northeast, and currently the Saligman Apartments on Roosevelt Blvd.
"We use a fun and in-depth memoir process," says Perna, "in which the participants are asked to share memories and tell stories about their lives. And we also play some theater games and do some gentle exercises to get the creative juices flowing!" Perna then weaves these stories together in an original piece of theater, supported by professional teaching artists from our ensemble Bright Invention. These residencies meet once per week, last between 10 and 12 weeks, and culminate in a performance at the site shared with friends and family.
"The Residents of Federation Housing have been so thrilled to have been a part of White Pines' Senior Theater Initiative. They found it to be very interactive and they enjoyed sharing their stories with each other. White Pines and their staff have been wonderful to work with and we look forward to future opportunities to work together," remarked Donna Boyer, Director of Community Services at Federation Housing, Inc.
"At White Pines, we are convinced that performance creativity can improve the quality of life for seniors, and for everyone!" say Executive Director Benjamin Lloyd. "The communal process Jerry creates, with its focus on memories and stories, benefits participants in many ways. We are deeply grateful to the Wurts Memorial and The Philadelphia Foundation for supporting us!"