Playwright Alice Carroll of Overland Park recently dropped off donations at a thrift store. A man in her age bracket got her attention. He said he was collecting old toys to fix and give away.
“Then he looked at me and he said, ‘Tell me: How are you enjoying your old age?’ I looked at him and I laughed. ‘Well,' he said, 'I’m old too,’” Carroll says, laughing again at the memory.
In her one-act play, "Age Inappropriate: A Short Play About Senior Misbehavior," Carroll's heroine has a similar interaction.
Unlike the real-life thrift store exchange, though, the fictionalized one ends with the protagonist taking the man home with her. Carroll says she wanted to push against “this notion that older people aren’t sexual.”
In the play, two adult daughters have been trying unsuccessfully to get ahold of their mother. Fearing the worst, they pound on her front door, only to find her … probably better than she’s been in years.
“Children and grown children think they know their parents so well, their tastes and what their parents will like,” Carroll says. “And there’s always a surprise.”
"Age Inappropriate" is one of four plays featured this week at Potluck Productions's First Friday reading at the Uptown Arts Bar, where this month’s theme is “the fragility of relationships.” Other one-acts are Jamie Berry’s "May I Take Your Order?," about a barista grappling with ridiculous drink names and frivolous customer requests; Minuette Layer’s “Rembrandt at the Met,” concerning an art student who refuses to leave a particular painting; and Mary Wilkens’ “Cruising,” in which characters struggle with fidelity in a long marriage and wonder about having an affair aboard a cruise ship, right under the noses of their spouses.
Mary Beth Gordon, one of Potluck’s founders, keeps a list of about 30 actors between the ages of 18 to 70 to read the scripts. Potluck used to do full-scale productions, but the cost was too high. So it worked out well, Gordon says, when Uptown Arts Bar owner Greg Patterson invited them to read there every other month. Potluck Productions still produces full plays during Kansas City’s Fringe Festival.
Gordon says she was impressed with Carroll's piece because she is “writing about older people in a very positive way. There’s not a lot of plays out about older people.”
That’s not to say Carroll’s writing doesn’t have broader appeal. In her work as a travel agent, she finds material everywhere and from all ages.
“Comedy comes naturally because people say things and I think, 'Oh how interesting,” she says — such as when a customer requested travel arrangements for “comfort class," Carroll thought about "discomfort class."
The playwright, who’s lived in Kansas City for nearly 40 years, says she loves the First Friday readings at the Uptown Arts Bar because the atmosphere reminds her of Greenwich Village, near where she grew up in New York City.
She’s only been writing plays for five years, so each time she’s selected for one of the readings – this will be her fourth – it’s a delight to hear actors read her work, Carroll says. She’s also written stories published by The Best Times, a magazine for Johnson Countians over 60.
And she’s working her way up to a full-length script. Last fall she submitted a 35-minute piece to Rockhurst University's Plays-in-Progress Workshop, and it was accepted for a public reading. Charles Kovich, the program’s director, has encouraged her to write a second act.
Carroll says people are always asking how she comes up with ideas for her pieces. She hints that the ideas are all around her, all the time, just waiting for her to find a quiet space — most often her car — where she can hear them more clearly.
Potluck Productions presents “Fragility of Relationships,” dramatic readings of four one-act plays by area women, Friday, April 7 at the Uptown Arts Bar, 3611 Broadway, Kansas City, Missouri, 64111, 816-960-4611. Musical prologue by Lezlie Revelle at 7 p.m., curtain at 8 p.m. $5 cover charge (includes both events).