Saturday, February 16, 2013
Voices Foundation members, Will Schneider, Barry Lemoine, and Katherine Lemoine speak with students at Archbishop Molly High School.
Last week, Stanners affected by Hurricane Sandy, as well as a supporting cast of friends, gathered in the Ralph DeChiaro Theater for a visit from Barry and Katherine Lemoine, William Schneider and Alex Le Pres of The Voices Foundation. Made up of Louisiana natives who survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005, this non-profit organization and performing theater group often travels to areas affected by the forces of nature to discuss the effects these events have on survivors and how they can best cope with their new realities. One of the main points of the presentation was the importance of neighbors coming together to help one another. In the face of hardship, relying on each other can be the best method toward perseverance. William recalled his story, in which he was forced to move to a completely different city and accept food, shelter and clothing from complete strangers. While telling his tale, he was nearly brought to tears at the thought of these men and women, whom he had never met, unconditionally coming to his aid. Some happiness did come to Barry through tragedy as he revealed that serendipity not only brought the three of them together, but even resulted in his marriage to Katherine. “Remember that there is always life after tragedy,” said Barry. “With life comes hope. Things will come together in time.” In the cases of Barry, Katherine and William, they forced the change in their own lives by taking up theater, creating the production Voices of Louisiana and hitting the road to perform topical comedy shows to help ease people’s heartache. “Comedy is universal,” said Barry. “We wanted to spin some positivity and be ambassadors for our own people. We also wanted to show that there has been a rebirth in Louisiana, which is encouraging to others who have seen their own hometowns destroyed.” What led Barry, Katherine and Will back to Molloy in 2013 was not just the opportunity to help after Hurricane Sandy. Barry revealed that Voices of Louisiana had performed their comedy show at Molloy in February 2006, and 7 years later they were honored to be able to share their thoughts and experiences with Molloy students affected by Sandy. Special thanks to The Voices Foundation and Molloy’s Guidance Department for helping to set up this informative visit for our students.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
They say with age comes wisdom, but for some seniors in St. Bernard Parish, with age comes stage. For the second time in two years, the Silver Linings, St. Bernard’s Senior Acting Troupe, brought laughter and joy to hundreds of audience and family members.
Last August, a dozen brave seniors took to the stage at Nunez Community College for the Silver Linings Variety Show. Last month, nearly two dozen seniors performed at the Chalmette Cultural Arts Center for this year’s production of Senior Moments, an hour-long medley of sketches, monologues, and music.
Ruby Micheau returned as one of the hosts for the afternoon, while Jim Turner made his debut as a co-host. Other returning performers in standout roles included Albert and Gerry Avenal, Shirley Campbell, Gloria Ciaccio, JoAnn Constance, Rita Corcoran, Judy Gutierrez, and Judith Landwehr. Making their Silver Linings debut were Robert Corcoran, Leona Galley, Arlene Hughes, Rosemary Merwin, and Loriana Risey.
Another new component this year was the Silver Sneakers, the Silver Lining’s dance team. The squad consisted of Carolyn Armstrong, Celey Cruz, Leona Galley, Judy Gutierrez, Arlene Hughes, Judy Landwehr, Sherry Malbrough, Rosemary Merwin, Loriana Risey, Elaine St. Angelo, and Janet Towns.
Doing any kind of theatre is always a collaborative undertaking. The COA provided the talent pool and the rehearsal space, the Meraux Foundation provided the funding, and the Voices Foundation produced the show with the help of the tech crew at Chalmette High School. Kudos also go out to Jason Rusk and his Silver Linings Orchestra – Kaleb Lambert, David Duplessis, Joseph Kiechem, and Tyler Seube – and special thanks to my two assistant directors, Katherine Lemoine & Katie Carmicheal. None of this would be possible without you all. The idea to write and direct a show with senior citizens happened several years ago, when I first saw the film, Young at Heart. It tells of a musician who organized a chorus of senior citizens, and it inspired me to want use my time and talent to do something positive for the seniors of our community. And thanks to Rita Gue of the Meraux Foundation and Doris Voitier and Wayne Warner of the St. Bernard School System, we not only produced a good show, we were able to do so in the best venue around. And best of all, because this venue allows our actors to wear microphones, everyone in the audience could hear!
In the lobby after the show, one of the adult children of a Silver Linings actor told me how happy she was for her mom.
“You just don’t know how much she looks forward to doing this. Instead of her watching my kids, we were all watching her. It’s just great,” she said.
My only regret for this year’s show was that Evelyn Hawkins, one of our original troupe members, was not able to participate because of health reasons. But while she was not with us on stage, Evelyn was with us all in spirit. We look forward to seeing her and all of you at next year’s show.
As is often the case in teaching, you learn more from your students than you actually teach them. From our troupe members I learned some invaluable lessons about aging gracefully. About hardship and heartache. About teamwork and gentleness. About friendship and family. And when it was over, to see them so proud of themselves made the journey worthwhile.
Spending time with these special people each week at the COA was incredibly rewarding and each person shared their life lessons. About appreciating each day and being thankful for what you have, but more importantly, for whom you have.
I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with our Silver Linings and thank all of you who supported this effort.
On stage our seniors also gave some good advice. To live, laugh, and love because the more you love, the luckier you are. And of course, if none of that works, you can always just play the slots