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Queens Chronicle

Senior actors still have chops for the stage

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Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2014 10:30 am

The blazing lights of Broadway might be a borough away, but that doesn’t stop members of Belle’s Players: The Actors’ Workshop of Kew Gardens Community Center from giving their all when they take the spotlight.

The spark that was first ignited nearly two decades ago by the late Belle Weiss burns no less brightly now, as the group, devoted to seniors with the acting bug, prepares for its latest performance.

While the group has seen its fair share of new faces over the years, Lawrence Bloom, who took over the reins three years ago, said there are still a few folks who have been there since the beginning.

Bloom, who retired from a 40-year career in the financial world several years ago and also runs Theatre By the Bay Community Theatre Group in Bayside, said in a recent telephone interview, “These folks really take it seriously. They put in time and effort. It’s meaningful and purposeful to them.”

Bloom said he originally came down to the group at the suggestion of a friend, who knew of his long-standing interest in acting. He sounded regretful when he said he never had the opportunity to meet Weiss.

After she had taken ill, a couple of group members took over. When one of them passed away, Bloom was asked to fill in. Then his co-director wanted time off and Bloom was left to run the group on his own.

Acknowledging that “each director has his own approach,” member Regina Damon, who will turn 81 in June, tipped her hat to Bloom. “He has pushed us gently to bring out the best in us. He has taught us many acting techniques,” she said.

According to Bloom, the group specializes in presenting monologues and scenes, mostly for two characters. Actors are allowed to have scripts in hand.

The upcoming performance will feature a wide variety of pieces. One, written anonymously, is called, “Where Are the Boids?” Bloom said it is a monologue “reminiscent of someone living in Brooklyn in the 1940s.”

Scenes culled from recognizable plays and lesser-known sources are also on the bill; among them “Moroccan Tonight,” which focuses on a woman who uses crossword puzzles to encourage her husband to try new foods.

The performers, mostly retirees, tend to live near the group’s headquarters in Kew Gardens, but some come from as far away as Howard Beach and Long Island.

Damon is working on a comedic scene in which she plays a woman whose husband is having an affair.

A retired elementary school teacher, Damon, like most in the group, derives “personal satisfaction” from being part of it.

The group is scheduled to give free public performances at the Queens Library at Forest Hills, 108-19 71 Ave., this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and at the Kew Gardens Community Center, 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, 2nd floor, on April 29 at noon. The group will also be appearing at several area nursing homes.

Anyone interested in becoming involved with Belle’s Players should show up at the weekly gatherings on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at the Kew Gardens Community Center located 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, 2nd floor. For further information, call the center at (718) 268-5960.

“We don’t turn anybody away,” Bloom said.

Welcome to the discussion.