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New York playwright plants new roots

Frances Galton continues to share creative talents in retirement

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March 23rd, 2016
Resident Frances Galton

New York City playwright Frances Galton lives at Linden Ponds, where she writes, directs, and produces performances with and for her neighbors.

Playwright Frances Galton spent most of her life in New York City producing plays and teaching drama, theater, and English. She studied at Columbia University and City University of New York, and earned a Ph.D. in musical theater. Her primary interest was in New American plays, and while she was teaching, she ran playwriting workshops and went on to start her own theater company.

“There was rentable space at a reasonable charge on 42nd Street,” Frances says. “After I retired from teaching, a friend and I started American Playwrights Theatre, and I produced four shows on 42nd Street.”

Frances ran American Playwrights Theatre from 1997 to 2003. During that time, she also organized a number of stage readings at a New York public library at 5th Avenue and 41st Street. In 2003, she decided to retire and passed her theater on to other people who continued to run it.

New roots

Frances and her husband Robert lived in a large brick house in Queens. In 2004, they decided that maintaining the house was becoming a burden, so they started looking at alternative retirement living options. 

Their research brought them to Boston, Mass., where Frances grew up and where Robert went to school. They discovered Linden Ponds, an Erickson Living community in nearby Hingham.

“We wanted to sell the house because it was too much for us,” Frances says. “We looked around, and we didn’t find anything as nice as the Erickson Living group.”

The Galtons moved to Linden Ponds and selected a Washington-style apartment home, a spacious unit with two bedrooms, an office, and a large kitchen. Frances says that among the many amenities included in their monthly service package, they particularly appreciate the peace of mind of having 24-hour security, the convenience of an on-site medical center, and that all maintenance is taken care of by the professional staff.

“The maintenance is wonderful—if something breaks down, they come right away,” Frances says. “And we’ve met some wonderful people here. The residents are a very good crowd.”

Expanding horizons 

Perhaps best of all, Frances found a brand-new outlet for writing and producing plays. In 2006, she founded a group called the Linden Ponds Players, a troupe of residents who over the course of six years have produced 15 plays in Linden Ponds’ performing arts center. Frances brought her wealth of professional theater experience to the group, serving as writer, director, and producer of their performances.

In 2012, Frances decided to take a break and passed on leadership of the Players to another resident. But last year, she started another group called The Readers’ Theatre of Linden Ponds. The group of about ten residents started out reading short comedic plays that were filmed in Linden Ponds’ in-house TV studio and broadcast on the community’s television station. 

The televised plays were so well received by her neighbors that Frances decided to turn them into a live production, “The Festival of Comedies,” which the group performed last fall. 

The Festival of Comedies included readings of seven short, humorous plays, three of which were written by Frances. 

Under Frances’s direction, the group of resident actors rehearsed the plays for four months before their autumn performance. Readers’ theater is an age-old type of performance art, which Frances explained to the audience before the readings. 

“For each play, someone narrates to give the background, and there are two characters reading,” Frances says. 

Anyone with an interest in performing was welcome to join The Readers’ Theatre. Some of the readers had been involved in the Linden Ponds Players, but only one of the residents had experience acting in an outside community theater. 

“Everybody got tremendous feedback,” Frances says. “They were really impressed because these people were sitting down and reading the roles.”

About 100 people attended the Festival of Comedies, and the group donated money raised to the Resident Care Fund, which is in place to assist residents who experience a genuine unforeseen change in their financial situation for reasons beyond their control (the Residence and Care Agreement has all the details).

Frances says the members of The Readers’ Theatre are having fun, and they plan to continue performing. Frances says she also encourages the readers to get involved in other aspects of the production in addition to performing plays that she has written.

“We may do something in the spring; we’re always working on something that appeals to this demographic,” Frances says. “I try to encourage everybody to write something.”

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