Exceptional work involving creative drama and senior adults is a major topic of the fall conference sponsored this weekend in Alexandria by the mid-Atlantic chapter of the American Theatre Assiciation (ATA).
"Senior drama is one of the hottest contemporary trends in theater," said Patricia Archer of ATA, a national membership organization for persons involved in community, educational, army and children's threatrical arts.
Archer said that anyone interested in senior adult problems might want to attend the Saturday afternoon lecture and workshop of Isabel Burger, a national leader in what she calls "creative dynamics" for the elderly.
Burger works with Notre Dame College in Baltimore and speaks enthusiatically about the work she started last year with a small grant.
"We set up a free 10-week workshop called 'Dynamic Living in Retirement' and dared not mention the world 'drama' in the title for fear people would stay away. But I've been working in creative drama for 50 years and believe in its power to help people become more comfortable, more active, more interested in themselves and others," said the 75-year-old educator.
"The basic problems with senior citizens are feelings of aloneness, hostility, and lack of self-worth. The benefit in using drama is that in acting or becoming another person, these seniors learn what it's like to feel self-esteem and come out of themselves," she said.
"I use creative drama techniques to subtly inject them with feelings of self-worth and caring."
Burger's pilot project won national acclaim and she is now in the process of developing resource materials for others to use in applying her techniques. Her participation in the ATA convention will include a brief talk followed by commentary and a demonstration by five seniors from her Baltimore project. Members of this group range in age from 65 to 85 years, Burger said.
ATA's extensive series of "Current Trends in Theater" sessions is being hosted by Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA) in its community headquarters at the corner of South St. Asaph and Wolfe Streets. Registration begins Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the LTA lobby.
Burger's presentation leads off a three-hour "Third-Agers Theater Workshop," including an afternoon performance of "I'm Herbert" by the Autumn Players, followed by a panel discussion on "Active Theater for the Senior Citizen."
Other highlights on Saturday include a children's creative rhythmic movement session by Gladys Andrews Fleming of Virginia Commonwealth University; a reader's Theatre of Washington; a mime workshop by local pantomimist Craig Babcock; a tour and performance of the Alexandria Puppet Theatre's production of "Peter and the Wolf," and a demonstration of alternative movement methods by Don Cox of Fair-fax County's Oakton High School.
Lectures and workshops throughout the day will also cover the topics of women's theater, black theater, medieval church music and drama, history of colonial revival productions, theaater in recreation departments, new scripts in children's theater, and trends in costuming, lighting, and sound.
A variety of theatrical productions and performances begins with LTA's presentations of excerpts from "1776," "Oh, coward" and "Lover" on Friday night.
Saturday afternoon shows will include two children's scripts: "Starklers" by Archaesus Productions and "The Not So Ugly Duckling" by a group called Dream Makers. Performances that evening include "Mime and Yarns" by Howard University, "The Diary of Adam and Eve" by Pennsylvania's Cresson Lake Playhouse, and a Craig Babcock mime show.
A special event on a Sunday morning will feature noted theatrical director Alan Schneider, who will speak at a 10 a.m. brunch. Scheider staged the premiere American performance of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and directed the award-winning original Broadway production of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woold?"
There is a registration charge for all events. For more information, call Pat Archer at 273-0999 or the Little Theatre of Alexandria at 683-0496.