Silver Kite Intergenerational Theatre: Performing Stories, Sharing Lives
Silver Kite Community Arts was founded in 2013 as an organization dedicated to using the arts as a tool for community building, connecting participants to themselves and each other, bridging generational gaps, and creating an understanding of how we are connected across the lifespan.
Silver Kite designs, facilitates, and creates intergenerational arts experiences and arts programs for older adults for communities, residences, libraries, and schools throughout King County. All of our arts programs use the life stories (past, present and/or future) of their participants as an inspiration from the art created and shared in the program.
Silver Kite believes our life experiences are the things that connect us. By telling our stories, we find we are connected in small or large ways to people we may have never met. We find our stories are interesting and inspiring to others. We find sharing our stories helps us to understand our own journey, be influenced by another person’s journey, and remember the valuable lessons we have learned.
Intergenerational Theatre Company
In 2015, Silver Kite created its Intergenerational Theatre Company (ITC), which develops original theatrical performances based on the life stories of each production’s cast members. The casts and artistic teams of our productions represent six or seven different decades of life, bringing a unique mix of stories, experiences, and performance styles to the stage.
Since the theatre company began, Silver Kite has produced three touring productions (“A String,” “Wheel,” and “Chairs”) and has entertained over 2,000 audience members throughout King County.
After each ITC performance, its intergenerational cast engages the audience in a discussion, encouraging the audience to share their own stories related to the production.
“Chairs” cast member Alaji Marie, age 21, commented on her experience working on the production: “Not many people receive a chance to come into a room and have the magical experience we have with the community. People come up to us afterwards—hugging you and crying—opening up about their own life stories. The connections Silver Kite has opened for me has not only made me excited to live my own life, but motivated to share it with people from all walks of life.”
The rehearsal process started by using an umbrella to spark memories and prompt storytelling.
Ed Gangner, the oldest cast member in “Chairs,” remarked on his experience performing with the troupe this way: “When I first came to Silver Kite’s intergenerational theatre troupe, I was new to Seattle and recently retired. I spent my days visiting with baristas and folks I met on the street. Then I heard about an audition for a theatre troupe, I tried out, and was cast. This turned out to be a total blessing. The troupe had someone from every decade of life, from a teenager to me at age 71, and the kind of energy we felt and released when we were children. A warm and jovial friendship developed in the troupe. Personally, I felt a sense of rejuvenation and the return of a skip in my step.”
Theatre company manager Zoe Wilson, age 24, said working on the production helped her to reconnect with the older adults in her life. “It has inspired me to become closer with the elders in my life, specifically my grandparents. When I visit them, the conversation is normally about my life, but now I’m asking them more questions about theirs. I’ve learned everyone has many stories to tell. It doesn’t matter how older or young, everyone has lived fascinating lives.”
Silver Kite’s Intergenerational Theatre Company is currently in rehearsal for its original production of “Umbrella.” We held open auditions at the end of September and selected five men and women ages 17–80 to create and perform in the production.
We began our rehearsal process for this production by using the common object of an umbrella to spark reminiscence, discussions, and story sharing between members of our intergenerational cast. From those stories, several themes emerged, including openings/closings in our lives, ways we have sought shelter, and things we have hidden from.
Based on these themes, the cast selected several of the stories generated in rehearsal to include in the performance. There are humorous stories, poignant stories, stories of loss, and stories about families in the production. The stories are stitched together with music and dance, and each cast member will share a personal story related to the theme.
The troupe experiences the energy and jovial friendships they felt as children.
“No matter the age, there is always something one can gain from hearing each other’s life stories,” said Umbrella cast member Xanne Sarka, age 48. “Participating in Silver Kite’s Intergenerational Theatre Company has raised my awareness of the healing power that is embedded in the act of both sharing and hearing each other’s stories. Today’s society is so overly consumed with electronics, it has been a breath of fresh air and extremely therapeutic to engage in a process of opening our lives to one another.”
“Umbrella” will premiere on November 12, 2016 at Wesley Homes in Des Moines, WA. The production will be on tour from November 12, 2016–January 31, 2017 throughout King County.
Interested in having “Umbrella” come to your community? We have a few touring slots still available. Contact theatre company manager Zoe Wilson at 541-430-9474 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a performance.
Interested in seeing “Umbrella?” Public performances will be held on January 20 & 21, 2017 (7:30 p.m. each night) at the Seattle Armory Black Box. Tickets are $10 for students/seniors and $15 general admission. Buy tickets in advance via Brown Paper Tickets (http://silverkiteumbrella.bpt.me).
Silver Kite Intergenerational Theatre Company holds open auditions for each of its productions. All ages and experience levels welcome. We will hold auditions for our next production, “Paper,” on November 29 and December 1, 2016. For more information or to schedule an audition appointment, contact theatre company manager Zoe Wilson at 541-430-9474 or email@example.com.
Contributor Jennifer Kulik, Ph.D., is founder and CEO of Silver Kite Community Arts. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the production, tour, and theatre company, visit www.silverkite.us/intergenerational-theatre.