Luther Manor residents in Wauwatosa find creativity, purpose in radio play

Peter Zuzga
Actors Harvin Abrahamson, left, and Ed Hood, right, rehearse their lines under the direction of Rusty Tym during rehearsal for an upcoming play in the Luther Manor Senior Living Community Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, in Wauwatosa, Wis.
Published on: 2/19/2013

Luther Manor residents are preparing to go on air for their play titled, "The Witty, the Wise, the Weathered."

The play is a look back at the old time radio programs of the 1940s and 1950s written, directed and acted by Luther Manor residents and will play beginning March 1, with shows starting at 2 and 7 p.m..

The play organizers, dubbing themselves the "Theatre of the Mind," were originally going to work with a prewritten script. They decided against it, however, after an avalanche of ideas fell into the play and they kicked the canned script.

Skits include Manor's Orphan Annie, Hallways of Luther Manor Terrace and Den of Iniquity. Alongside the skits are singers, commercials, a weather report, sports report and resident-made props.

Rusty Tym, a manor resident and play director who has 35 years of professional radio experience, has a scrapbook of ideas given to him from residents.

"The hallway conversation people are talking about it," he said. "There's some real enthusiasm and some real excitement here."

The excitement isn't one-sided, either. Luther Manor has donated apartment room F101 as a permanent rehearsal and prop room for the group, giving them their stage radio call sign of WLM (Wauwatosa Luther Manor) F101.

Manor employees are also having the group broadcast the play on channel 13 so bedridden residents can watch. There are also plans in the works for creating a DVD of the play and obtaining television production equipment via donations.

Keeping the spark alive

The Theater of the Mind came up with the idea for starting a play after "Finding Penelope" gave many residents the theater bug in 2011. The two-year project brought together Luther Manor with Anne Basting of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in a play aimed at involving residents with creative work.

Many residents wanted to involve themselves in creative projects after "Finding Penelope" was over, so they adopted an idea called "Beyond Penelope."

"Beyond Penelope" saw Diane Johnson and her youth theatre company, Unity in Music, collaborate with Luther Manor last year for a play titled "Now I can Soar."

The big difference between what the Theatre of the Mind is doing with "The Witty, the Wise, the Weathered" and what has been done in the past is that the newest play is completely resident-driven. Johnson retains a connection with the residents as a consultant, but they are the ones running the show.

Fueled creativity

Tym said participating in the theater group makes him feel like part of something important.

"This is an exceptionally good challenge and it's fun-filled as well," Tym said. "I feel invigorated by doing it."

The other residents want to keep the play running as well. After their March performance, they will decide whether to make the play an annual, biannual or even triannual event.

Creative writing classes, prop fabrication and costume donations have all spun off the group's theatrical foray. Tym added that many Manor residents are constantly thinking of skits or ways to enhance the performance.

Playing the part of Esmeralda, the gossip queen, Joyce Heinrich said she now has theater background at the age of 81. She added that it took 81 years to realize she had a knack for acting.

Tym interjected, saying it was always there and she just didn't realize it.

"It (acting) strips away the years," Heinrich said. "It makes me feel much younger and it makes me have a purpose to get up."

Coming up

WHAT: The Witty, the Wise, the Weathered

WHEN: 2 and 7 p.m. March 1 and 7 p.m. March 2

WHERE: Luther Manor, 4545 N. 92nd Street

CONTACT: (414) 464-3880 or