“To be, or not to be" is a line that residents at Allen Temple Arms have frequently recited over the past two years.
William Shakespeare's famous phrase from Hamlet may have crossed many residents’ minds upon discovering their community was forming a partnership with the local California Shakespeare Theater—also known as the Cal Shakes. Little did they know that a unique bond would form between resident and thespian, and that the experience would amount to more than just reciting lines from famous plays.
The theatrical partnership Allen Temple Arms shares with Cal Shakes was created two years ago when the theatre approached social service coordinator Donna Griggs Murphy about providing onsite performances for their residents. Murphy, as was her habit when evaluating potential programs, organized several focus groups to gauge resident interest and was met with exuberant enthusiasm about the prospect of onsite performances. As a result, Cal Shakes proceeded to visit several times over the next two years, performing Othello and The Tempest for the Allen Temple Arms Community.
Several months after igniting the partnership, at one of Murphy’s focus-group meetings, she asked residents to simply engage in small talk. After a few minutes, many residents became confused over why the meeting wasn’t proceeding; however, confusion turned into surprise when they discovered what was really transpiring.
Cal Shakes had asked Murphy to record her residents’ voices, as it was their plan to include them in the theatre’s upcoming live adaptation of “Fences,” the 2016 Oscar nominated film starring Viola Davis and Denzel Washington. At the end of the focus group, when the residents learned this news, they were thrilled at the prospect of one day hearing their voices in a real performance.
Fast-forward four weeks later, and performers from the theatre picked up residents from their homes, wined and dined them, and even honored them as special guests at the opening night of “Fences,” where their voices made their big premier. Afterwards, residents were allowed backstage where they mingled with the artists to discuss the show and revel in what had just happened.
It was efforts like this that made Allen Temple Arms the recipient of Cal Shake’s prestigious 2017 Luminary Award, which is given to one organization and one individual from the community each year who has engaged with Cal Shakes and shows a commitment to encouraging relationships between the two organizations.
“Our residents were truly honored to receive such an award in partnership with Cal Shakes,” said Murphy. “The community engagement we’ve seen with our residents stems from quality time with local artists as the crews prepare for their various performances.”
The gala, where the award was presented, honored community partners such Allen Temple Arms for allowing Cal Shakes to perform live adaptations in the community. Several residents, alongside Murphy, attended the gala and received the award on behalf of all the residents at Allen Temple Arms.
“The award is special because of the community relationship we have formed with Cal Shakes and their efforts to bring live theater to our community,” said Murphy. “The friendships formed between the residents and actors continue to thrive today.”
Founded in 1949, ABHOW is widely known for its pioneering leadership in senior housing and health care. The company serves 6,200 residents in 50 retirement communities in California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oklahoma and Idaho and employs more than 2,400 team members. To learn more about ABHOW visit www.abhow.com.
This article appears in the April 2017 issue of ABHOW Words.