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Cedar Crest's Playwright Group Ignites Imagination

Susan Ingram
March 22, 2023
Cedar Crest residents

Ready to spread your creative wings after emerging from the cocoon of winter? At Cedar Crest, an Erickson Senior Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J., residents are doing just that by getting involved in the playwriting group.

Like all Erickson Senior Living communities, Cedar Crest offers a wide range of activities to choose from. From fitness and meditation classes to clubs for every interest and hobby, such as the Players Playwrite group, residents maintain jam-packed calendars.

Resident Joan Ludwig, founder of Players Playwrite, says that the community's lively atmosphere is what she loves most about her home. 

Stepping up

Joan and her husband Jay, who moved into their apartment home eight years ago, were excited to embrace a vibrant, worry-free lifestyle.

"But, we were so focused on transitioning to Cedar Crest that once we got settled, we had no idea as to what activities we should join," recalls Joan.

Jay and Joan, both professionally trained in theater, decided that the community's theater group would be a good place to start.

"After a few months, we slipped into the existing theater group, just planning to see what they were doing," she says. "Well, needless to say, we stuck around and got involved!"

Looking for a significant way to contribute to the group, Joan offered to teach a playwriting class - a professional focus of hers for many years.

"I taught playwriting for kids and young adults - fourth grade all the way through college, but never to college seniors," explains Joan. "To my surprise, 12 residents signed up for the course! At the end of the first course, we had 12 short plays. I encouraged them to do staged readings of all 12, and they agreed. The whole dozen was performed across two consecutive nights."

Pursue your passion

Year after year, interest in Joan's course continued to grow.

"And thus, Players Playwrite was born!" says Joan.

To date, the group has performed about 50 resident plays, with some playwrights having written more than 25 short plays each.

Not only does the playwriting group offer a creative outlet, but it also provides residents with the chance to meet new people and foster friendships with neighbors who have similar interests.

"Participation in creative clubs builds friendship and helps stimulate the mind," says Resident Services Manager Drew Nieuwenhuis. "Just as physical activity keeps muscles and bones strong, cognitive stimulation and strategic thinking strengthen brain function. Cedar Crest's long list of clubs and activities boasts multiple benefits!"

And if you can't find something that interests you, Cedar Crest's resident life staff is always willing to help you start a group and spread the word. 

"We encourage residents to pursue and share the subjects or hobbies that are important to them because, most likely, other residents share the same passion," says Nieuwenhuis.

'Open to anyone'

Currently, Players Playwrite has six active playwrights who meet once a week to discuss ideas and share feedback.

"We read rewrites from the previous week, discuss the changes, and sometimes call for a second rewrite. We also discuss new plays, analyzing character development, conflict, message, and so on," explains Joan. "We encourage new playwrights by teaching them play structure and telling them to take small steps."

Each fall, the best play is produced at Cedar Crest's Performing Arts Center. Then, in the spring, the playwrights collaborate to write a show.

"I direct and produce both of these shows, and the actors come from our community's Players group," says Joan. "Both groups, Players Playwrite and Players, are open to anyone wanting to join. It's okay if you don't have much experience writing plays, but you do have to give it a try!"

Growing as people

Thanks to Joan's efforts, some of her neighbors have found a new way to stretch themselves and express their creativity.

"We're growing as writers and as people," says Joan, who notes that Cedar Crest's worry-free lifestyle allows them to invest in their personal development.

"With maintenance taken care of, residents have time on their side," explains Nieuwenhuis. "Their additional free time is spent out and about in the community, trying new things and making friends."

Joan notes that other literary clubs, such as the Book Lovers Club, the Short Story Book Club, and the Afternoon Book Club, have grown in popularity as well.

But Joan can't help but brag that attendance at Players Playwrite meetings is, as she says, "Nearly perfect!"

To learn more about affordable, independent senior living at Cedar Crest, request your free brochure to get the scoop on amenities, floor plans, and so much more.