‘The Play’s the Thing’ for Residents of EdenHill Communities in Texas

EdenHill’s Reader’s Theatre group rehearses with Lifestyle Director Marcie Murfield (far right). From left: Janice Howland, Sandy Rowden (only partially in the photo), Norma Staats, and Barbara McHale.

Last July, in the midst of the pandemic’s summer surge, Marcie Murfield — EdenHill Community’s new lifestyle director — surveyed members of the New Braunfels, Texas, older adult community to see what kinds of new activities they might like. Encouraged by the survey, two residents approached Murfield about starting a Reader’s Theatre group. After some online research, Murfield found several classic radio scripts — and the EdenHill Reader’s Theatre was born.

The group began meeting last fall. Currently, five EdenHill residents — all women — participate in the Reader’s Theatre. Due to the pandemic, they haven’t performed live in front of the other residents yet, but are enjoying the read-through sessions. They are looking forward to beginning live performances at some point in the post-pandemic future.

“The group hasn’t done a true performance in front of an audience yet,” says Murfield. “We did video record one of the skits, “What to do with All Those Free Soaps when Traveling,” but we haven’t publicly shown it yet. We had to keep our masks on while filming and it makes it hard to hear the lines. Plus, you miss facial expressions and inflections.”

“Free Soaps when Traveling” is based on correspondence between hotel staff and a guest, “but we made it into face-to-face interactions,” says Murfield. “In our version, the setting is the EdenHill Hotel … we made all the characters female, and made the soap names a little more feminine.”

Even though the video hasn’t been released, the actual recording day was a huge success for the participants, mostly in terms of laughter and entertainment, Murfield adds.

The recording session “definitely provided an outlet for the participants to laugh and be silly in such a scary time for our nation,” she says. “The ladies gave it their all, pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, and everyone had a great time. Now, we have this piece of art these awesome women created!”

Currently, the cast is working their way through the Miss Brooks series. They are hoping to do a voice recording of the current script soon, which will be posted online for everyone to enjoy.

Each time the cast gathers, “they are brought closer together,” Murfield adds. “They try out different voices, different parts, different inflections. Through the multiple readings, the ladies have reached a point of camaraderie where they push each other to grow as voice actors.”

All of the cast members agree that the Reader’s Theatre has been an important outlet of comic relief during the pandemic. As one member put it, “It’s just a great time to laugh, relax, and put yourself in a different role.”

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