Lucas Center Blog

Aging and Community-Based Performance

April 03, 2023  / Dan Bacalzo, Ph.D. 

The Lucas Center supports faculty teaching, scholarship and service by funding attendance and presentations at conferences and other forms of professional development. In Spring 2023, Associate Professor, Dan Bacalzo, Ph.D. was awarded funding to utilize toward the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC). To learn more about Dan's opportunity, please see his blog below.

I recently attended the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) in Louisville, KY where I gave a workshop and discussion around the theme of “Aging and Community-Based Performance.” The trip was partially funded by a Professional Development Grant from the Lucas Center.

Despite its regional-sounding name, SETC describes itself on its website as “a nationwide organization that helps connect theatre practitioners of all experience with training and resources.” Three of my students accompanied me on the trip, engaging in a range of activities inclusive of auditions, a job fair, keynote speeches, performances, and of course, skills-building workshops.

bacalzo with studentsPictured: Dr. Dan Bacalzo (second from right) with students
Roberto Mena, Maya Senecharles, and Gio Contreras


The workshop I led included several warm-up activities, a free write in which participants described a time they felt either “safe” or “unsafe,” and then the creation of a short performance piece based around the stories of those in attendance. Participants ranged from a middle-aged couple to a youngish university professor to one of my own students.

This work is based upon my experiences in community-based theatre, which include a stint as artistic director of an Asian American performance ensemble called “Peeling” in the early 2000s, and even more relevantly, my participation in workshops and performances with the NYC-based intergenerational theatre company “Roots and Branches” in the late 1990s.

Collaborations with seniors and younger individuals is also at the heart of my current community-based project, which I spoke about at SETC. It involves a class I am currently co-teaching with Prof. Jamie Wilson from the ROCK Center (Roots of Compassion and Kindness) in which our FGCU students participate and help to lead performance workshops with residents at Shell Point Retirement Community. The beginnings of this project started over a year ago, when Shell Point actively sought to engage the Art, Music, and Theatre programs at FGCU in their “Arts as Healing” initiative. I proposed a workshop process that would explore the differences and similarities of students and seniors to issues inclusive of healthcare, aging, and healing.

Hurricane Ian changed everything. Shell Point – which is just a short distance away from Sanibel Island – was hard hit by the storm. Hundreds of its residents, along with many of its staff, were displaced from their homes in the immediate aftermath, with some who continue to be unable to return to where they used to live.

Collaboration plans were put on hold, and when we restarted conversations about it, we decided to focus on the impact of the hurricane and its effect on both Shell Point residents and FGCU students. For the past few months, my students and I have been traveling out to Shell Point to run performance and writing workshops with residents, as well as to conduct interviews with select individuals who live in the King’s Crown Assisted Living Facility @ Shell Point.

shell point performance bacalzoA performance workshop at Shell Point


This has been an enriching experience for both the Shell Point residents and my students. The plan is to collaboratively create a script that reflects upon the Hurricane Ian experience and to present a staged reading of it in conjunction with Shell Point’s exhibition, “Seven Months Since: Shell Point Artists and Writers Reflect on Ian.”

The reading will be held on Thursday, May 4 at 1:30pm (during my class’s final exam time!) in Shell Point’s Connie Brown Hall at the Tribby Arts Center.