New Canaan Inn Thrills Community with "Poet Tree" Musical Review
Posted on March 10, 2009
New Canaan – Joined by staff, volunteers, past and present Waveny board members, a variety of community organizations, family and friends, the residents of New Canaan Inn recently performed an unprecedented Musical Revue entitled “Poet Tree a la Carte: Life at New Canaan Inn in Poetry and Song.” With more than 45 participants and an audience well over 100 attendees, the Poet Tree group performed a spirited assortment of group skits, musical performances, solos, duets, and “walk-about” monologues, which each celebrated the daily life and happenings at New Canaan Inn. The Revue was fronted by Inn resident, Penny Locke, who developed the entire event concept and wrote the lyrics to all pieces, and presented under the musical direction of Barbara Jeffries, the Inn’s assistant director of resident services.
“Before coming to live at the Inn, I was the lyricist for a women’s club in Buffalo, NY that produced and performed a lighthearted annual show,” said Locke in describing her inspiration to develop the Inn’s Revue. “It involved all the legwork of an official production and was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.”
She says her journey in creating the Revue began eight months ago, and was especially nurtured by the support of the Inn’s staff. “Their input and excitement during the entire creative process propelled me,” said Locke. “They gave me such confidence in having faith that I could do this. I suppose I respond to an occasional pat on the back, because their encouragement made the experience particularly fulfilling.”
Locke said she used a combination of original lyrics and melodies of familiar songs to create nostalgic or parody pieces flavored with the character of the Inn. Among the musical pieces were songs like Meals of the Day, which characterized the Inn’s cuisine throughout the day to the tune of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic My Favorite Things with verses like: “Icy cold orange juice to help us awaken; Eggs over easy with crisp crunchy bacon. Piping hot coffee to help us begin; A cheery good morning at New Canaan Inn,” and The Desk Set, a tribute to the Inn’s resident service associates, which praised, “All of you; We’re thanking all of you,” to the melody of the 1931 jazz hit All of Me.
Locke also colored the evening with humoristic satire through several of her original free verse monologues including Full Length Mirror, which offered a comical perspective of healthy aging and closes with the words, “I would break that full-length mirror and live in ignorant bliss, if seven years of rotten luck weren’t the antithesis.”
“The Inn is a cozy and comfortable place where it’s quite easy to find your own niche and channel your creativity,” said Locke. “But I have to give credit where credit is due and thank my friends at the Inn and partners in our ‘Inn-Notes’ singing group for their support. One person I worked particularly hand-in-hand with throughout the process was Harvey Chanler, who shares my affinity for words and creativity. In fact, he was the person responsible for the ‘Poet Tree’ name.” Chanler, also a resident at New Canaan, performed an original piece entitled “Monologue on Soup” as part of the production.
In addition to involving the majority of the Inn’s residents as performers, the Revue engaged the talents of numerous community members and service organizations. Included in the cast was GetAbout driver, Tom Donovan, who performed a “walk-about” piece depicting the local transportation program’s partnership with the Inn, as well as Inn volunteers Judy Bentley and Andy Walker, whose short skit pieces centered on their respective roles of flower arranging and errand running. Community members Lauren Chanler, Howard Gidez, Craig Thompson, Fred Stark, Beth Schwartz, Levora and Jim D’Acosta, and Cassia and Gary Ward, were among the featured soloists who helped to animate Locke’s lyrics and wit through song.
Former Waveny Board member Barbara Porterfield was “honored” to be part of the chorus. “I simply don’t have enough positive adjectives to describe the experience,” said Porterfield. “The Revue was a true gift to everyone on both sides of stage and involved with its production. From our first rehearsals up until the event itself, every moment of the experience was uplifting and filled with a contagious energy and excitement.” Porterfield was particularly impressed with how accurately Locke portrayed the character of the Inn within each piece performed but contended, “the truest reflection of the Inn was in how much fun the evening was. I cannot tell you how good it felt to be part of something so honest and so successful – I can only imagine how rewarding it was for the children of the Inn’s residents to watch from the audience as their parents sang, acted, performed and relished in such a fine accomplishment.”
Staff also played an active role in the production, both on stage and behind the scenes. Personnel from all departments participated in the chorus and performed solo readings or performances, many of which celebrated fellow colleagues. “Mrs. Locke has an unbelievable spirit of inclusiveness,” said Barbara Jeffries. “She has a talent and knack for enthusing everyone around her through her passion and wit. This production was an unbelievable undertaking and a labor of love that demonstrated her commitment to including everyone at the Inn – fellow residents, staff, family members, volunteers – on an entirely new level.”
“It’s very rewarding to think that I did something that meant so much to so many people,” said Locke. “Since setting my first poem to music, this ability has continued to grow naturally and has become something in which I find great joy. While I’ve tended to avoid being in the spotlight throughout my life, this is one thing I love to do and will never been shy about.”
Located at 73 Oenoke Ridge in New Canaan, New Canaan Inn offers independent living through Waveny Care Network, a comprehensive continuum of healthcare that serves the growing needs of older adults from all areas. Waveny is a not-for-profit organization that also offers assisted living for people with Alzheimer’s and memory loss at The Village and skilled nursing and inpatient and outpatient Rehabilitation Services at Waveny Care Center. It also includes the Brown Geriatric Evaluation Clinic, a Geriatric Care Management team that provides 24-hour coverage, an Adult Day Program available six days a week with flexible hours and transportation from New Canaan, Stamford, Norwalk, Darien and Wilton, and respite and hospice care programs at The Village and Care Center. For more information call (203) 594-5200 or visit www.waveny.org.