Performing Arts Training Institute

Organization Associated with Program
2501 Harrison St.
Oakland, California 94612

Stagebridge’s Performing Arts Training Institute in Oakland, California provides opportunities for creative expression, healthy and appropriate physical activity, and emotionally satisfying social interaction for nearly 200 older adults through year-round weekly classes in all genres of performing arts. Students are accepted at all skill levels and may either participate as casual hobbyists or become more deeply involved, taking advantage of opportunities for public performance and paid work as teachers in community and elementary school settings. Stagebridge offers 50 different classes each year over three quarters—fall (14 weeks), winter (11 weeks), and spring (11 weeks)—plus a weeklong summer immersion camp. Each class is two-hours long, and the average attendance per class is 16. The classes are taught by professional teaching artists, and class costs are kept affordable through an aggressive fundraising strategy to support the institute. Stagebridge students are culturally diverse and range between 50 and 95 years old; 80% are retired women, and almost all live on low-to-middle fixed incomes.

Stagebridge Senior Theatre works to fulfill its mission to fundamentally transform American attitudes towards aging from the traditional image of decline to a new vision of continuous growth. Stagebridge has a unique position as a theatre company “for, by, and of” older adults that demonstrates in action the many ways in which older people improve and enrich their cultures and communities.

Program History

Stagebridge is the nation’s oldest theatre company for older adults. Founded in 1978 by Dr. Stuart Kandell, Stagebridge has grown from an acting class for five women in their 70s to a nationally recognized performing arts and outreach program that is changing how people experience and view aging.

When Stagebridge was first launched, there were not many arts engagement opportunities that specifically targeted older populations. Many older people languished in retirement home settings that provided little stimulation beyond a television screen or Tuesday night bingo. Today, Stagebridge uses improvisation, acting, and storytelling to help people have the time of their life—at this stage of their life.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Programs are evaluated by staff multiple times throughout the year through the use of interviews, individual assessments, attendance numbers, and press reviews. Both teaching artists and students fill out evaluations.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

Programs created by Stagebridge can be a great resource for developing a new theater program in your community.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in an Ensemble, Participate in a Residency
Arts Discipline: Dance, Literature, Music, Musical Theater, Theater
Interdisciplinary Connections: Education, Employment, Volunteerism
Target Audience: Active Adults, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Adaptive Program Design Visual Disabilities, Mobility Disabilities
Program Setting: Arts Organization
Program Service Area: Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice