Bits n Pieces: For Va Va Voom founder, age inspires

By Stover E. Harger III, Columbian staff writer


photoThe Vancouver-based Va Va Voom senior theater troupe is holding auditions this month for those "50 and better." Front row: Ali Goodwin-Roskam, from left, Nancy Rickard, Carroll Dodd. Second row: Fred Dorey, from left, Va Va Voom Director Harriet Walker, Bill Lynch. Third row: Lloyd North, from left, Thelma Skoville, Vi Arola, Suse Skinner. Back row: Dave Owens, Bruce McCullom.


Open auditions

Va Va Voom auditions for those “50 and better” will be at 10 a.m. Jan. 21, 23, 28 and 30 at the Barberton Grange, 9400 N.E. 72nd Ave. Call 360-546-5855 to sign up. Learn more at the troupe's website.

If you go

• What: “Aged to Perfection,” written by Veronica Esagui and Linda Kuhlmann.

• When: 2 p.m. Jan. 25.

• Where: Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego, Ore.

• Cost: $10.

• Information: Visit the website.

The senior's upcoming role is bawdy, flamboyant and quite the diva.

"That fits me pretty well," laughed 71-year-old Harriet Walker, founder, director and all-around creative force behind the Vancouver senior theater group Va Va Voom.

Walker, along with former Va Va Voomers Dodie Weiss and Lillian Christine, star in the Jan. 25 performance of "Aged to Perfection," which premieres during the Portland Area Theatre Alliance's Fertile Ground Festival. In the light comedy, the trio portray older women who live together on a rundown Oregon vineyard after their friend dies.

Walker said she was sought out for the stage reading three months ago by director Nancy McDonald, who knew her and Weiss from acting class.

Walker related to the play's humorous take on aging and friendship, themes she weaves into Va Va Voom.

"We play on things that are significant to seniors and people of our age," she said.

Based out of the Barberton Grange, Va Va Voom performs throughout the year, including regular shows at senior living homes in Clark County. Their numbers, many written by Walker, are often tongue-in-cheek parodies about being old. One, sung to the tune of "Memory" from "Cats," is about the singer forgetting they put their keys underneath the TV Guide. For an upcoming show, Walker is preparing a song called "I Just Don't Look Good Naked Anymore."

"We talk about Depends and we talk about senior sex and senior dating," Walker said. "We make light of (aging) because, why not? It is what it is."

Walker created the group in late 2011 after spending 12 years with Portland's Northwest Senior Theatre. Before that she spent more than two decades with Seattle's chapter of the Sweet Adelines competitive barbershop-style touring choir.

Va Va Voom has a dozen or so members at the moment and rehearses twice a week, three hours at a time. It's always on the lookout for people older than 50 to join, particularly men, but Walker admits the schedule can be "grueling."

"It's not easy on them," she said. "We memorize everything. We're really helping people keep their minds active and keeping them vital."

Walker said she expects a lot from the group because she strives to give their audiences, particularly those in assisted living homes, a rollicking revue.

"The senior residences are happy to have us come because it gives the people something to look forward to," she said. "They are funny, they are smart, they can be goofy. That's really my passion. Bringing seniors into the forefront, rather than shelving them in residences and keeping them out of the mainstream.

"As long as I'm able, I'm going to keep doing it."

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