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Curtains to Open on Los Al Senior Improv Troupe

The director of the three-person improv class said she hopes it'll help grow their fledgling Senior Theater at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base.

Three singers lost in a rainstorm begin arguing.

Desperate and drenched, one of them decides to go for help in the harsh Austrian downpour.

“We have to put on our snowshoes,” Lauren said.

“Why do we have snowshoes?’ Lorene said.

“We’re in the Alps,” Lauren said.

“I thought we were in Palm Springs,” Lorene said.

Then the three singers perform a few lines of “The Hills are Alive” from the musical The Sound of Music, and suddenly someone mows all three of them down with a machine gun.

That’s improv for you.

Hearts In Sync, the name of a new senior improv class that meets in the Liberty Theater at the Joint Forces Training Base is preparing for their first show this Friday.

The class is part of their director’s dream to establish a Los Alamitos-based theater program for people 55 and older. On Friday morning, Hearts In Sync will be performing for residents of Park Pacific Tower in Long Beach. (Sorry, it's for residents only.)

They'll do short readings, sing a song, and, of course, do improv.

Unlike traditional theater, improvised performances rely on the actors to come up with the dialogue and action on the fly. Entire plays can be improvised.

As for the senior improv class, the cast members are the same three that were … ahem … killed in Austria/Palm Springs at the top of this story: Lauren Williamson of Old Town, Seal Beach, Carmen Den Dekker of Rossmoor and Highlands and Lorene Christian of Leisure World.

Along with their director, Nancy Hathcock, the group describes themselves as "way over 65” and between “40 and death.”

Hathcock said she had the idea for a Los Alamitos-based senior theater two years ago after attending a conference on aging in San Francisco.

“I began looking around the area, and it’s virtually non-existent,” said Hathcock, also the vice president of the Los Alamitos-based Theater Guild, the Southeast Civic Light Opera and the local Children’s Repertory. “I feel that there is a terrific need for it.”

And so in September of this year, she started the one of the first Senior Theater's classes: improv.

“Seniors tend to get isolated,” Hathcock added, “This helps to bring them out.”

As her troupe of actresses performed a rendition of Happy Trails on stage, Hathcock said she had other goals for the senior theater program: “to enrich their lives and give them a chance to go out into the county and share what they’ve learned and encourage other seniors to seek the spotlight.”

Some of the other improvised scenes at Wednesday’s practice included a hot day on the moon, a WWII-era bus station and a family home where two quarrelling sisters get ready for a dance.

“How do you think I look, sis?” Christian said.

“Average,” Den Dekker replies off the cuff. “I look fabulous.”

The three look like they’re having fun, too.

After losing her husband in 2007, Christian said improv helps cheer her up.

She said that she went to a support group, and it was too sad. Then in 2008 Christian, a retired school secretary who now works on the Leisure World security force, found an improv troupe in Leisure World and got hooked. 

Another thing she likes about improv?

“I don’t have to memorize any lines,” Christian said.

Den Dekker, a former vice president at a savings and loan that doesn’t exist anymore (Den Dekker said it's not her fault it's gone) said she joined the improv to make sure she kept her mind active.

“I wanted to test myself,” Den Dekker said. “I know that I’m going downhill fast. I wanted to know I could remember.”

And she adds," I’ve discovered I could I could possibly be (accepted) … and have a good time doing it.”

Williamson, a retired massage therapist, said that she used to do theater and dance when she was in high school and is returning to her roots.

Plus she’s had four strokes, and music and performing helps her feel better, she said.

She’s made friends too.

“I feel loved and welcomed,” Williamson said.

The trio said they know their class is small.

“We’re all so good, we make up for it,” Christian jokes.

“We’re three but mighty,” Williamson said. 

The next class theater improv class is scheduled for January. It runs about six weeks, and costs $55 dollars.

For more information call Hathcock at 714 827 9141 or email her at southeastcslo@gmail.com.

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