Mark Dean (left) plays Noah, while Jacque Robertson (right) plays Lucy, in the upcoming production of “The Last Footlights,” a musical comedy written and directed by Eugene’s Jan Felton.
Jan Felton pours a lifetime of experience into her theater group, Past Prime Time Players.
It’s a vivacious theater community set apart from others in Lane County because it was started by older adults for older adults.
“This is a performing arts group that was started by seniors, for seniors, and is probably the only place where seniors can audition for something like this,” says Felton, who has been directing Players’ plays for almost seven years. “I’ve been in theater all my life, and my experience has been that people who are older have so much more experience, obviously, than very young newcomers, but they rarely have an opportunity to show their talents.”
That’s because, she says, particularly in musical theater, there are very few roles written for older adults. Past Prime Time Players seeks to be different by casting productions exclusively with older adults.
Felton started musical theater at a very young age when her mother took her to Cornish School (now Cornish University for Performing Arts) in Seattle. There, she learned drama, dance and piano.
“I just got bitten by the bug and it never quit,” she says.
While living in Santa Cruz, California, Felton founded Broadway by the Bay, a musical theater company. Now living in the Eugene area, she has directed the Springfield Jazz Singers and The Rivertones. She also sings in an a cappella trio called The Sweet Refrains.
She likes that Past Prime Time Players comprises a wide variety of experience.
“There’s quite a diverse group of performers here,” Felton says. “This is an interesting group of people. There is everything from one man who has never ever, ever, in his entire life been on stage before, through quite a few people who have done a lot of community theater here, up to and including a woman who is a powerhouse singer and in her younger days was a back-up singer for Barbara Streisand, Jose Feliciano, people like that.”
Felton says that although Past Prime Time Players’ productions are cast exclusively by seniors, their shows will entertain all ages, including their most recent production, “The Last Footlights,” Felton’s original musical comedy.
“This upcoming play is a rollicking good time musical comedy for everybody,” she says. “It will resonate with older people because it does talk about some of the things that will happen after they retire.”
The content wrestles with how retirees feel they are no longer contributing members of society, something Felton believes “for younger people would be very enlightening. Some people feel like, as they get (much) older, they are invisible to the rest of the world.”
But, she stresses, it’s a comedy. “It’s going to be a fun show with delightful music and some comedy here and there,” Felton says. “So, it’s for everyone.”
Felton has big plans for her theater troupe.
“I’ve always wanted to have a repertory company, but so far we’ve just done it by the production,” she says.
For now, the time commitments are restricted to play production, with rehearsals typically meeting twice a week. “The Last Footlights” began rehearsing in February.
Cutlines-photo credits Photos by Deb Allen
Robert Nelson and Pat Weaver also have roles in the upcoming musical, which gives them an opportunity to share a dialogue about aging.