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Seniors are staging a comeback in Pascagoula

Acting helps seniors improve memory

A quartet of women participating in an acting class at the Pascagoula Senior Citizens Center say that learning lines has improved their confidence in their memory, and is a lot of fun.
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A quartet of women participating in an acting class at the Pascagoula Senior Citizens Center say that learning lines has improved their confidence in their memory, and is a lot of fun.

A Pascagoula native is helping senior adults expand their creativity on the stage.

Mac Nelson’s acting class, which meets at Pascagoula’s Senior Center, will perform at the Center on Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

“Scenes,” the theme of this showcase, will highlight adaptations from “The Curious Savage,” “Nunsense” and “The Glass Menagerie.” Performances are free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served. This will be the small troupe’s fourth showcase and a contribution to the Mississippi Statehood Bicentennial Celebration.

The class came about through Nelson’s own stage experience.

“Pascagoula is my hometown. I was gone for 49 years, acting and teaching in Los Angeles and New York,” Nelson said. After he returned home, Senior Center Director Melanie Caver approached him about teaching an acting class at the Senior Center. He gave it some thought and agreed to the suggestion.

“We started out with five women and two men, and we started with basic acting,” he said. “When it came time to talk about performing in front of others, both men said no, they couldn’t do it in front of an audience. So these five women are the ones who have stayed with me.”

The women are Kitty Bardwell, Pam Beecher, Peggy Cooper, Faith Magallanes and Betty Green St. Amant.

“They have no previous acting experience. Their lives before now were taken up with family and work — husbands, jobs, children and grandchildren — and now they have the time and opportunity to pursue this,” he said. “It really fills a niche because before now, the only opportunity they had was to go to Biloxi or Gulfport, and older women don’t like having to drive long distances at night.”

The challenge for Nelson has been finding the right scenes for them.

“It’s hard to find examples written for just women,” he said. In this weekend’s performances, the actors are reprising the scene from “The Curious Savage” by popular request. “The Glass Menagerie” scene from the play by Mississippi-native Tennessee Williams features just women and, of course, “Nunsense” has an all-female cast.

Practice is every other Thursday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Senior Center. The showcases are a way to culminate what Nelson’s students have learned.

“And in March, we’ll start all over again,” he said. “In fact, we have some men who are returning.

“It’s so fulfilling to watch this group have a good time and work so hard,” he said.

For more information on the acting class, call the Pascagoula Senior Center at 228-769-8329.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1

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