A CAST OF FRIENDS
Gayle Inman has plastered framed playbills and ticket stubs onto a wall in her SpringRidge at Charbonneau senior living center apartment, watched countless Broadway musicals and attends plays at the Keller Auditorium every chance she gets.
And whether it be Mary Poppins flying through the clouds, Maria Rainer twirling in front of the Swiss Alps or Don Lockwood clutching a light post and umbrella and passionately singing amid a downpour — some of theatre's most iconic images are ingrained into her memory.
With the help of fellow Springridge residents and staff, Inman harnessed her love for theatre into a whimsical project. The group created hundreds of official SpringRidge calendars filled with pictures of residents between the ages of 72 and 98 reenacting moments from 12 classic musicals.
"It turned out better than I ever dreamed," SpringRidge resident and calendar actor Gerry Kuskey said.
Inman got the idea after seeing photos of members of a retirement community in Germany reenacting scenes from movies such as "Rocky" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Inspired, she pitched the musical calendar idea to SpringRidge administration.
"He (Executive Director Garth Hallman) said 'Go for it,'" Inman said.
New to SpringRidge, Inman surveyed public spaces in the center to find actors. Luckily for her, everyone she asked leapt at the opportunity to act.
"I loved her presentation and her vision for this whole thing," SpringRidge resident Sharin Meier said. "It was just so inspiring. Who wouldn't want to be a part of this?"
Inman picked up costumes from a local store and hired a photographer to take the photos of the actors in front of a black canvass. In just a few hours, they finished shooting.
Meier and her husband Dave recreated a scene from "Grease" where Sandy and Danny dance together after graduation. Inman instructed Meier to strike a nimble pose.
"Sandy was a high school girl. I'm 80. The pose was very difficult. I had a daughter come by and help me do the pose," Meier said.
Lynne Husband and Kuskey, for their part, enacted a scene from "Annie" of Annie and Daddy Warbucks dancing.
"Those were the first two I picked," Inman said. "She was the perfect Annie. She's not very tall. He's absolutely Daddy Warbucks with no hair."
The actor of the "Sound of Music" portrait, Jo Frew, lost her mobility in between the time she accepted the part and the day of the shoot. To take the picture, Inman and another person held Frew up and let her go for a couple seconds so the photographer could take a quick photo before sitting her back down in her wheelchair.
"There are stories about each month and their characters," Inman said.
Inman hired a graphic designer to place the pictures of the actors in front of images such as a carnival for "Grease," a room with a chandelier and elegant architecture for "Phantom of the Opera" and a countryside for "Oklahoma" onto the pages.
"The graphic designer pulled his image out and put it into this. How he does that I don't know," Inman said.
Throughout the process, Inman wanted to keep the calendar a secret to eventually surprise Springridge residents. So Inman and the actors whispered about it while eating lunch together and SpringRidge even hosted a secret cast party. To Inman's surprise, word never spread.
"They all kept quiet," Inman said. "I can't believe no one let it out."
The finished calendars include a playbill-style casting list, a quote from each actor describing why they like SpringRidge and a cover that shows a picture of an old fashioned curtain with lights pointing toward it. One quote particularly spoke to Inman.
"SpringRidge is filled with people from everywhere. It's like a human directory filled with wonderful and unusual pages," "Singin' In the Rain" actor Ron Allen said.
SpringRidge recently presented the calendars to residents and Inman said staff will use the project to market the facility to prospective residents.
"I think that's why Garth (Hallman), the executive director, really approved of it, was because it does show we (residents) are active, we have ideas and that it's resident involved," Inman said.
People can purchase the calendars for $10 and the proceeds go to Michael Allen Harrison's Snowman Foundation, which supports musical education. Inman hopes to sell 300 calendars and had sold 200 as of last week. To purchase a calendar, call Inman at 503-320-0187.
Inman didn't know anyone when she first joined SpringRidge. But now, she has a whole cast of friends.
"That's been one of the funnest parts for me is I'm new here and just getting to know people and work with all of them, it was so much work but it was so much fun," Inman said. "It was probably one of the funnest projects I've done."