The older adults participating in the Town of Hempstead’s Senior Writing Workshop presented their original works recently at the Merrick Theater and Center for the Arts.
Audience members of varying ages sat in the theater’s red velvet seats as the writers read their works aloud. One by one, and often more than once, the seniors stepped up to a lectern in the middle of the semicircular stage, with a bright red curtain as the backdrop.
The program has been a creative outlet for senior writers for 26 years. The town’s Department of Senior Enrichment and Poets & Writers, Inc., a national, nonprofit literary organization, sponsor the workshop. Each year, participants publish their works in a book, “Musings of Maturity.”
The group meets 16 weeks a year, under the direction of Paula Rodenas, who has been with the program for more than 20 years. Before that she wrote for the Leisure Sports section of Newsday and for the Merrick Life. She has also worked as an editor and written books of her own.
“I’m called an instructor, but I think of myself more as a director,” said Rodenas. “You can’t teach as much as you can guide. I feel sort of like a mother hen with her chicks.”
Rodenas extended special thanks to the Merrick Theater and Center for the Arts for inviting the group back to the stage year after year.
Before Rodenas’s tenure as instructor, Helen Marie Keogh directed the program. Keogh came to the Town of Hempstead in 1981 and began working with the program soon after. “By that time, the program already had an established relationship with Poets & Writers Inc.,” said Keogh. “I just enlarged the program and added more weeks.”
Keogh, who was in the audience this year, said, “It’s a joy for me to see how they are not only good writers, but they are good people who support each other.”
The pieces presented at the event ranged from sonnets to short stories. Some members read pieces from an assignment, “Those Were the Days.”
In a humorous vignette titled “The New Yankee Stadium,” Angela Stagno examined the high cost of attending a professional sporting event these days. “Greed caused the recession and greed built the new Yankee stadium,” she read, playing the part of an angry father longing for the days of yesteryear.