May 31, 2012, is the 23rd year of Conscientious Musical Revues. CMR, an IRS C 3 organization, seeking to improve the quality of life in low income, African American, and Latino economically disadvantaged communities by increasing access to quality performing arts programs.
Access to the arts is increased by offering free shows and arts classes at Senior Centes and community events. Since FY 1990/91, CMR sponsored 1813 free programs for 523,735 youth, families, and senior citizens. CMR performs at Night Outs, health fairs, and Center Holiday parties and celebrations. All presentations have a high amount of audience participation. Shows educate audiences on how they can get involved in the arts by promoting arts education programs and free or low cost performances.
By offering cultural activities, CMR’s Golden Treasures project helps participants increase or maintain the highest degree of healthy independence so that they can remain in their homes. Numerous studies prove that participation in Arts activities in senior centers, and other organizational settings, are an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and independence. More notably, a March 2004, Univ. of Southern Californian study found participation in a number of leisure activities was associated with lower risk of both Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Greater participation in cultural activities was associated with lower risk of Alzheimer's disease in women.
CMR’s Golden Treasure Program encourages the disabled to participate along with those with no challenges. Our dance classes include many wheelchair bound, amputees, visually or hearing impaired, and participants using walkers and canes. Many dance and drama participants have 24 hour attendants due to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Several Alzheimer’s patients had speaking roles in our annual recitals
Since Golden Treasures Project went into operation in October 2005, we noticed many positive changes amongst its participants. Our mentally challenged participants have noticeable improvement with their alertness, communication skills, and willingness to socialize, as they participated in our drama classes.
Many of our participants have greatly improved their physical abilities. One of our younger participants has had a life long challenge with cerebral palsy. After participating in our dance classes (dances where adjusted for him) he is able to get out of his wheel chair more often and walk with his cane. Other participants have stopped using their walkers, many are walking faster, and most of them are able to participate in the dance/exercise classes for longer periods of time. The woman pictured above is 95 years old; her partner is in his 80’s. The pictures on this page show an amputee and a lady participating in our dance class!
Many of Golden Treasures Program participants have a lifelong desire to perform, but never had the opportunity to learn the arts. The following are in-depth stories of how the program allowed for Seniors to Participate in the arts.
MS Ada (68) recently retired and sang on choirs. She always wanted to try acting. After taking our classes, she got a desire to take professional level courses on Theater Row. Through our coaching her on how to audition, and find work, she landed some paying acting gigs.
Ms Gail (69) never had the courage to write poems. She had a depressive side to her personality. She started putting her stories and hopes into poems. . She went from writing poems that makes audiences cry – to writing poems that inspires. Now she performs original poems at our monthly concert series and recitals. Recently, she had a poem that appeared in the church bulletin.
Ms Donna (85) never dared to dance socially since she had a curved spine. Back in her day, people with her condition was kept from many social activities. She was taught that she could not dance. She decided to try the dance class at her Doctor’s suggestion. After 9 months of class she was able to walk quicker and straighter. What makes her the most happy is she can now dance at family gatherings. At her family reunion, she won the dance contest. In the first year she was in the back row left hand side in the combination. She is very proud of her promotion to first row 2nd from the center. She has made appearances at several community recitals.
MS Juanita (68) was very shy women. She basically came to center and did not interact with no one. She always wanted to take dance, but there was no money when she was younger. In adulthood she had no time. In FY 09/10, Ms Verda started taking dance and performed in the recital This year she is the dance captain. She organized, and led, extra rehearsals. She is in charge of the dancers when they perform at community events.
MS Marilyn (58) had a stroke that severely limited her speech and paralyzed one side. She came to the center because she was lonely and discouraged about her physical abilities. We invited her to come in and just watch if she wanted to. She would sit listen and laugh. She developed friends and a support system that encouraged her to speak no matter how slow. Acting helped her be more communicative with her body. In a few months she started speaking in the improve scenes. In the spring recital she added so much with her facial expressions and physical presence. Six months later, in the Christmas Cabaret, her mobility improved so much that she had several walk on parts. The theater program greatly improved her speech.
John, (70), was a shy man with a soft voice and sensitive soul. He lost his wife 5 years ago, and still gets tears in his eyes when he talks about her. Mr Leroy sat with the gentlemen at lunch, but never really said much. Everyone was surprised a Leroy’s humor when he joined the drama class. His stories about his civil rights work are spellbinding. His Cousin Jimmie Lee Jackson killing was the motivation for the March on Selma and the voting rights act. The drama program helped him write a monologue about that time. We often hear stories from the leaders, but rarely from the rank and file. His monologue was spell bounding. He has been asked to tell it to some Junior High schools and other events.
Mark, (74), was a lonely man whose family discouraged his acting fantasies. He came everyday to the center, but sat with the gentlemen quietly. As a Black man from the deep south, arts were considered something a waste of time. Emphasis was put on hard work to support the family. When he came to NYC, he never went to concerts, or theater. He went to the disco once in his life. He never felt comfortable going to artistic events. The laughter coming out of the drama room drew him into the program. There he found a way to share his wonderful sense of humor and stories. Last year he played Barak Obama in the play. He created a monologue that had the audience laughing. He skillfully changed the mood when he transitioned to how he lost his wife in the 1960’s. Money was scarce, and they did not feel the flu warranted a Doctor. She got to the hospital too late to save her life. She died from the flu. There was not a dry eye in the house. Through participating in the recitals he satisfied a dream and gained new friends. He had a heart attack over the summer. His new friends visited and encouraged him when he was hospitalized. His doctor’s, and the ladies in the program, encouraged him to take the dance class. Now not only is he the comic relief in the presentation, he is also in the dance numbers. His doctors told him his improved mood and physical activity increased the speed of his recovery.
MS Helen, (67), never dared to dance socially. She grew up in a Pentecostal home where dancing was considered a sin. She raised her kids in a less restrictive religion. She insisted her daughter take ballet. However, she still had a barrier against dance. She always wanted to try dance, but could never do it. Her friends at the center raved about how much fun they had at the dance class. This is her second performing in the recital. She says she is now on the praise dance team at her church.
MS Lauren (70) graduated from the High School of Performing Arts. After high school she did musical theater throughout the country. When she was 28, she gave up her performing career to care for her. She had not performed in 42 years. In the center, her personality was gloom, very erratic, and combative. She, like many other participants, started coming to the drama class because of the comedy. She created a funny monologue for last years’ recital, which she performed at several events. This year she incorporated show tunes into her monologue. Since starting to perform again, her personality has improved. Our computer program taught her how to find auditions in Backstage.