OCEANSIDE — After months of practice, members of an Oceanside senior community’s new drama club are ready to debut their new original play reflecting on the lives of people who live in the senior citizen community.
Tony Schwab started the drama club in April of this year — a first of its kind for Oceana, a 55-and-older community in Oceanside — after he and his wife, Deborah, moved to the elder adult community from New Jersey to be closer to their daughter and her husband.
As a former high school principal who stayed active in theater throughout his life, Schwab was already comfortable with acting and directing. He, along with the help of other drama club members, wrote a play for the group to perform inspired by the very lives of the people who live in Oceana.
“It’s a play with music written about us – produced and played by us,” he said.
The play, called “The Tavern at Oceana,” takes place in part in a fictional bar within the confines of the community where residents gather to socialize with one another.
“It’s really a play about who we are and how we got here,” said Gail Olenick, producer and actress in the play. “Part one is very funny, part two is serious with a tear or two, and part three is a combination of us being at the bar and being friends.”
The club began practicing from scratch in April, meeting once a week on the clubhouse stage over the next seven months to perfect their play, which features themes of comedy, drama and romance.
Though some of the club members have previous theatrical experience, this play is a first for others. Schwab said some of the members have surprised themselves with their skills.
“Some of them are amazed at how they’ve come out of their shells to learn how to act,” Schwab said. “They have to learn how to be more dramatic, which is something you have to be willing to try.”
Olenick said the play has already received positive feedback from the community.
“Everyone is excited about it,” she said. “It’s a great group of people; it’s been so much fun – a lot of work – but you see, we’re having a good time.”
Schwab got the idea for the play after noticing the happy dispositions of his neighbors, who ranged in age between the late 50s and early 90s.
“The people who live here that I know and have met are some of the happiest people,” he said. “I wanted to know why they’re so content with their lives, even though they have problems like everyone else.”
Stories in the play often depict real-world issues, whether it’s the frustrations of a homeowner dealing with infrastructure problems or constantly losing one’s glasses.
Beyond the relatable and mundane daily struggles, the play also demonstrates much of the beauty behind living in the community, seemingly answering Schwab’s earlier question of how everyone is so chipper.
In one scene, the drama club reenacts the recent commitment ceremony of two residents, one in their 80s and the other in their 90s, who found and fell in love with each other later in life.
The classic song “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz is the play’s theme song.
“For many of us, over the rainbow is where we are,” Schwab said. “It’s where things are going to work out; some don’t, but either way, we’re all in it together.”
The club is set to perform the play on Nov. 11 and 12 in the Oceana clubhouse, located at 550 Vista Bella Drive in Oceanside.
After the play, the group plans to take a few months off before starting up again in a few months.