Shakespear Comes to Life at SF State
November 20, 2004 1:32 PM
In room 134 of the Creative Arts building, on a foggy Thursday morning just after 9:30 a.m., a group of 34 SF State students listen intently as their instructor excitedly expounds upon Shakespearian classics from generations long since past.
Near the back of the room, just inches from the door, sits 64-year-old Karen Grech, and she, too, is from a different generation. Unlike many younger students in Theater Arts 401 – Theater Backgrounds, Grech occasionally stops her furious note taking and just sits back and enjoys the video clips from Shakespeare’s Henry the VI, which her instructor, Mohammad Kowsar, shows on a 25-inch television set in the front of the classroom.
Grech, as a member of SF State’s Sixty-Plus program, has the option to audit
Occasionally, Grech lets out a pleasant sigh, or an “ohh” or an “ahh” at a particularly powerful or emotional moment in the play. When one actor in the video calls another character “Dick” instead of “Richard,” Grech reacts along with everyone else in the class.
“You didn’t know the language was so contemporary, did you?” says Kowsar as snickers and titters scatter around the room. “Nooo…,” says Grech as she joins in the laughter at the unexpected comment in the play.
Few SF State students have probably ever heard of the university’s Sixty-Plus program, which isn’t surprising since the vast majority of students wouldn’t qualify for membership in an organization reserved for senior citizens. But Irwin Kelly, president of the BETA chapter of Sixty-Plus, one of two chapters in the 600-member strong program, hopes to change that.
Kelly, along with leaders from the GAMMA chapter, plans to hold a 30-year anniversary celebration for the Sixty-Plus program in May of next year. If he can get the kinds of big-name speakers he wants for the gala event, Kelly said he’s confident that both SF State students, and especially university administrators, will have no choice but to recognize to the presence of so many senior citizens on campus.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease – and we’re not squeaky,” said Kelly, a retired professor of economics who taught at SF State. “We want the university to become aware of us. Probably the bulk of our people are SF State alumni.
Although the visibility of Sixty-Plus program has waned in recent years, Professor Anabel Pelham, a faculty member in SF State’s gerontology program, believes this is temporary. Pelham notes that as more and more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the SF State’s need for programs like Sixty-Plus is likely to increase.
“We may be looking a future with exponential growth,” Pelham said.
In the 1980s, when potential Sixty-Plus members faced a two-year long waiting list, the original chapter, ALPHA, expanded into the two new chapters, BETA and GAMMA. In the 1990s, with a dwindling number of active members, ALPHA merged back into the two current chapters.
When the Sixty-Plus program started in 1975, Pelham cited the energy of SF State professor Adrian Greenberg as a key factor in the program’s inception.
“Adrian was a character – a wonderful man,” Pelham said. “Adrian would come into my office like a whirlwind. He was on a mission: to bring higher education to seniors.”
But only about 25 percent of the Sixty-Plus members choose to audit classes at the college said BETA president Kelly, with most members opting instead to join a staggering list of regular and special events hosted by the two chapters and advertised in their monthly newsletters, the BETA By-Line and the GAMMA Ray.
In addition to regular bi-monthly chapter meetings, held in the Rosa Parks room in the Cesar Chavez Students Center, recent Sixty-Plus events included a trip to Palm Springs for both chapters and a trip for GAMMA members to the Ashland, Ore. Shakespeare Festival. Most months, the two chapters hold a wide variety of activities, including expensive and cut-rate gourmet dinners, plays, movies, theater shows, and walking tours in and around San Francisco.
While most younger SF State students might prefer clubbing and dancing instead of walking tours and the ballet, Sixty-Plus members tend towards a more high-brow and low-key set of activities, as befits their age, education, and tastes. Still, Sixty-Plus members seem to have just as much fun at their events as does the typically younger and hipper campus crowd.
GAMMA member Ted Samuel is responsible for many of the Sixty-Plus groups’ cultural events, and he said he isn’t about to let age or retirement get him down.
“I’m in charge of getting tickets for the Best of Broadway shows – ACT, the Berkeley Rep., the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Ballet, Lamplighters – all of these places, I get the cut-rate prices,” said Samuel.
Grech agrees that it is the age-defying and adventure-inspired spirits demonstrated by the members of Sixty-Plus that make the group special.
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University