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JCC to offer theater program for people age 50-plus

When Shirley Fenner Reidenbaugh asked if the Jewish Community Center could provide rehearsal space for a new seniors' theater group, JCC Executive Director Marci Erlebacher said she jumped on it.

Reidenbaugh is a professional actress who created and successfully ran the program, "Seniors Reaching Out," for three years while living in Greensboro, N.C.. She has an impressive resume she built up right here in Central New York that includes several seasons with the Fayetteville's Famous Artists Playhouse, Syracuse University's New Playhouse and the Syracuse Repertory Theatre. Her late husband was the Syracuse University Drama Department chairman and associate dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

"Shirley is amazing," Erlebacher said. "She is a high quality lady and performer and we are very proud to be associated with her."

Seniors Reaching Out is open to the entire community aged 50-plus, and you don't have to be an actor - or JCC member - to join. The group's goal will be to entertain residents of senior-related facilities and other local venues, with a potpourri of considerations including short excerpts from Broadway plays, monologues, poetry, tap dancing, vocal and instrumental solos. There will also be opportunities for people to work as stage managers, writers, crew members and assistant directors.

"[Shirley] is willing to work with anyone who wants to go onstage or work behind the scenes," Erlebacher said.

SRO informational meetings will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday Jan. 16 and from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday Jan. 17 at the Jewish Community Center. Reidenbaugh will meet individually with interested seniors to talk about how they can contribute. For those who would like a part in the spotlight, auditions are acceptable but not necessary.

"I'm rather good at training people myself," said Reidenbaugh, who conveys a delightful and eager personality. "By the time they get to the point of performing, they may be a little bit nervous but I won't have to help them. They'll look very professional [and] they'll be very much appreciated."

As a guest artist with the program's cosponsor, Salt City Center for the Performing Arts, Reidenbaugh held lead roles in "The Glass Menagerie," "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Private Lives."

"This is a wonderful opportunity for us on many levels and a fantastic way for us, as a community center, to reach out to the entire community," said Erlebacher, adding that Reidenbaugh, an utmost professional, will give nothing but her best.

For more information, contact Julie Fleckt at 445-2360 ext. 104 or e-mail jfleck@jccsyr.org.

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