Hippodrome offers theatre, music classes
The Hippodrome Foundation (HFI), the non-profit partner of the Hippodrome Theatre, is taking the show on the road as part of HFI’s expanded outreach and educational programming for older adults.
The new programming initiative kicked off in October with award-winning veteran theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck speaking at the Cockeysville and Seven Oak Senior Centers. In her lecture, “Broadway 101,” Rousuck shared anecdotes from more than three decades as a theater critic, first for the Baltimore Sun and currently for WYPR-FM’s “Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast.”
“It is fitting to be focusing on this sector of the community in a year that the Hippodrome Theatre is celebrating its 100th anniversary,” said Olive Waxter, director of the Hippodrome Foundation. “Many of these participants have been coming to the Hippodrome Theatre for decades. We are thrilled to have found a way to keep them engaged in the arts.”
The mission of the Hippodrome Foundation Inc., in addition to presenting the Broadway series at the Hippodrome, is to maximize community access to the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center and, through free outreach and education programs, increase understanding and appreciation of all aspects of theater.
The road to Broadway
In her presentations, Rousuck, who started offering a similar class at senior centers in 2009, discussed the complicated route a production takes to get to Broadway and the influences that affect the success and longevity of a show’s run. She also previewed a few of the shows coming to the Hippodrome Theatre this season, including Annie, Wicked and Pippin.
Rousuck, who spent 33 years at the Sunpapers — 23 of them as theater critic — is an unabashed fan of the stage and all those who tread its boards.
“I have enormous admiration and awe for people on the stage,” she said. Yet, unlike many critics, Rousuck never aspired to a theatrical career herself. “I know which side of the footlights I should be on,” she laughed.
The longtime critic said that what she wants to share with those who attend her classes is the same kind of excitement and expectation that she experiences when the lights go down and the curtain goes up. “That’s a magical moment,” she said.
Rousuck also speaks to the other end of the age spectrum, hoping to draw young people in with her enthusiasm for the theater. But there’s something special about speaking to older audiences, she observed.
“It is wonderful to have the opportunity to speak to a group of theater lovers who are excited to learn more about the history of a production and the actors — they know the plays and recognize the actors I am talking about,” said the 63-year-old Mt. Washington resident.
For her park, Rousuck is a fan of works ranging from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, to Baltimorean John Waters’Hairspray, to works by Stephen Sondheim, George Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward. She loves to see the work of new playwrights as well. “I think every critic wants to be surprised by new works,” she said.
Music and writing classes next
In December, HFI will launch Get Hipp, an HFI senior education program using creative movement and music to promote inspiration, expression and communication. December’s class will focus on holiday favorites, and a spring class will teach classic oldies.
HFI will work with Rousuck again in the spring on another new program. This one will teach the elements of writing a critical review. Participants will write a review of a professional production performed at the Hippodrome Theatre.
“This type of intellectual stimulation not only enhances and enriches the lives of older adults. It is vital to their emotional well-being,” said Lisa Kennedy, Programs and Facilities Manager of the Baltimore County Department of Aging.
Most of the classes are free of charge. For more information, visit www.hippodromefoundation.org/our-programs/ or call (410) 727-7787.