Act Your Age!

The Players in the Groove acting troupe provides entertainment for seniors, by seniors.

Published in Maple Grove Magazine, June 2011.

When meeting Harriette Krasnoff, it’s easy to see why she started a seniors acting group. Her face is naturally emotive, she is bright and energetic, and she doesn’t speak—she projects.

Krasnoff has taken a winding road to founding her seniors acting troupe, Players in the Groove. As a child growing up in Sioux City, Iowa, she organized her neighborhood friends to put on talent shows to raise money for polio research. She is a retired teacher from the Robbinsdale School District, where she directed elementary school plays. She has taken some acting and improv classes, and was even involved with a marionette troupe for a while.

It was only last year that she decided she would offer her own acting workshop for other seniors through the Maple Grove Community Center. Six people signed up, and five of them stuck around to help her start Players in the Groove. After their first performance, Krasnoff was approached by a few audience members who expressed interest in participating. The troupe now boasts a roster of 12 senior actors.

One of the original five is Natalie Brostrom, a retired social worker who has gained significant value from her participation. “I think it’s remarkable what [Krasnoff] has done in such a short time with our group,” Brostrom says. “I just never expected this would be so successful.”

In the past year, Players in the Groove have put on six productions at the Maple Grove Community Center and local senior living facilities. The performances fit subject matter and humor fit for the audience. In fact, the catch phrase of the group seems to be “by seniors, for seniors.” “All the scripts take a light look at the mature adult.” Krasnoff explains.

Take, for example, the troupe’s most recent performance, Halftime, which featured a floundering senior women’s basketball team in the midst of losing the game to a group of nuns. The losing team’s coach attempts to inspire his players. “But of course, we are really not getting it,” giggles Krasnoff, who could not have been happier with the performance. “It was just amazing how, because of the energy, everybody rose to be the best they could be.”

But, Krasnoff says, directing seniors is also an exercise in judgment and patience. “I have to be very careful that the script fits,” she says. She contrasts her experience directing elementary school students and senior citizens. “The little guys are squirmier, but they are not as afraid to get outside of themselves and be the character,” Krasnoff explains. “I work with [the seniors] all the time on that.”

But Krasnoff has not lost sight of the true goal of this acting group. “We are having fun,” she says, “and we hope people want to be a part of the fun by coming to our shows.”

Krasnoff says involvement in the arts is essential to the health and well-being of any senior. She encourages seniors to get out and pursue an artistic endeavor. “Any kind of arts,” she says. “It could be painting, pottery, poetry, acting. It doesn’t matter.”

Brostrom, who hadn’t acted in front of an audience since high school prior to joining the Players, agrees. “It fulfills a need for seniors,” she says. “Getting together with people of varying backgrounds and producing a product that’s by seniors and for seniors—I think it’s really rewarding, challenging and fun.”