In the acting world, getting older is not necessarily a good thing— prime parts tend to go to younger actors, and aging actresses often complain there are rarely any good parts for them to play. That's one of the reasons why theater director Debbie Lannen founded Canton's Spotlight Still Got It Players.
"You can only play Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz for so long," she said. She expects those auditioning for roles to be at least 50 years old. Many Spotlight Still Got It regulars are in their 60s and 70s.One of the actresses in an upcoming production is 78, Lannen said.
The group's next production, Murder Can Be Habit-Forming, opens on Wednesday.
The story follows a busload of passengers stranded by a blizzard in upstate New York after their vehicle breaks down in front of a convent. The travelers and their hostesses soon realize that a serial killer is in their midst, known as "the Mary Murderer," whose victims are all named Mary. As it happens, all of the nuns and a few of the passengers are named Mary, and mayhem quickly commences.
Lannen said the play is a light-hearted mystery comedy that reveals the very human side of the nuns as they attempt to stay one step ahead of the killer.
Lannen founded the Still Got it Players five years ago this month. The company does two productions a year, always at Canton's Village Theater at Cherry Hill. The Still Got It Players started out doing one-act shows because Lannen, who directs all the productions, didn't want the actors using prompters but wanted to make sure the performers could remember their lines and make it through the show. The shows progressed to full-length plays by the company's third production. In February, Lannen expects to stage the Still Got It Players' first musical.
Performers in the Spotlight Still Got It Players come to audition from throughout the Metro Detroit area, including Canton, Novi, Redford and Livonia. Lannen said the productions attract a large pool of actors “because so many people are active and don't want to just sit at home.”
Lannen searches for shows to produce that have large casts to accommodate as many people as she can who want to be involved. Sometimes Lannen will rewrite a part to make it more age-appropriate for her senior theater group. She said the part doesn't change, just the age of the character. She refers to her actors as “seniors,” and even though she is 56, she said she certainly doesn't feel like one herself.
Lannen said the Canton community has been very supportive of the Still Got It Players; attendance has grown with each production.
The Village Theater at Cherry Hill is "beautiful," she said. "There is not a bad seat in the house, and the acoustics are amazing."
Murder Can Be Habit-Forming will be Still Got It's fifth production. Lannen said she and her actors are looking forward to many more.
The curtain rises for Murder Can be Habit-Forming at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Village Theater at Cherry Hill, 50400 Cherry Hill Rd., and continues with shows at 1 p.m. Aug. 18; 7 p.m. Aug. 19; and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Aug. 20. Tickets cost $11-$15. Call 734-394-5300 for details or visit online.