Photo by Lee Ryan
Members of Lee Ryan’s seniors acting class at Burien Community Center practice for their close-ups.

Seniors take Burien acting class for different reasons

What could a lawyer, librarian, insurance agent, bus driver, corporate executive, nurse and school teacher possibly have in common? How about a love of acting?

Until Bophary Du, recreation specialist for Burien Parks and Recreation, asked me to teach the Acting & Scene Study class, I had no idea that this class even existed.

However, after meeting with the core students, it’s become apparent that the group not only exists, but also is very dedicated and has been since 1988.

The ten-week sessions are held at the Burien Community Center and run throughout most of the year, with the exception of the summer break. At the end of each session, the group performs a one-hour show with various scenes and/or monologues at community centers, retirement homes, etc.

However, the class seems to be pushing for the sessions to carry-on right through the year. Having met the students, I have no doubt that they’ll somehow figure something out.

Each of these seniors comes to the class with different desires and needs, which isn’t a surprise because that fits the basic makeup of every human being, right?

Most all of them like having something to look forward to, each week, but they all seem to enjoy the laughter and other benefits that come from studying the human condition –- and it is study –- no free rides.

To participate, you must be at least 50 years old. Other than that, the class welcomes up to ten participants.

Mary Jo Hoffman is a retired nurse and one of the original students. She started way back when the class was birthed. She likes the fun and challenge of improvisation.

Sheila Woodward was a school teacher and librarian. She used to do summer theater and wants to learn more.

Lloyd Coble is a lawyer and uses what he’s learned to speak out in court.

Gloria Clemans was once in the military and also in insurance. She loves the camaraderie and friendships.

Arline Cook was once a bus driver and has enjoyed the increased confidence from acting.

Kate Salmon (not pictured) was a corporate executive and likes the challenge.

Sandra Smith comes all the way from Bellevue. She was a school teacher and has dabbled backstage in the theater and wants to try something in front of the curtain.

As you see, acting isn’t for a specific type of person, nor from a certain class of people or a particular area of town. It’s truly an activity that can benefit anyone and everyone.

And while I’m talking about acting, there’s one thing that’s always bugged me; people will offhandedly say things like “Oh, she’s just acting” or “He’s just acting up.” “JUST acting”? It’s almost a negative comment, as if acting is just a matter of being disingenuous.

The craft of REAL acting is no different than the work an architect goes through to build a structure. There are plans, tools and procedures that must be implemented if you want the structure to hold up, no matter whether it’s a simple garage or an ornate skyscraper.

What I personally love about the study of acting is how it teaches us to really watch and listen to other people. You can’t effectively portray another character, until you truly understand them, from the inside out. This requires study, not only of who they appear to be (the obvious), but also what made them that way (their back story).

Once we deeply understand someone or a character, we can learn to love them. And in order to play a character well, whether it be a hero or villain, we have to love them and champion their desires.

In everyday life, how often do we take the time to really understand each other? Perhaps everyone in the world needs to study the craft of acting. How amazing would it be if we were proficient in a craft that could teach us how to love the unlovable? After all, aren’t we all unlovable at one time or another? I sure have my days!

All this to say, if you’re over 50 and are ready to learn a new craft and stretch yourself as a human being, maybe a senior’s acting class is for you. It sure is for Arline, Lloyd, Mary Jo, Kate, Sandy, Sheila and Gloria.

To join, visit or call 206-988-3700.

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