Photo by Valerie Baldowski
David Copple, life enrichment director for Dogwood Forest of Eagles Landing (standing) acts out a scene from a Thanksgiving play, with residents of the facility, including Joanne Craig, Huber Herrod, Frances Bradley, Willathea Jackson, and William Gill, Sr.
By Valerie Baldowski
Residents of the Dogwood Forest Assisted Living facility heard the message of togetherness during their second annual presentation of "Thanksgiving at the Tappletons."
The play, based on the book by Eileen Spinelli, was performed recently at Dogwood Forest of Eagles Landing, in Stockbridge.
"Thanksgiving at the Tappletons" is a comedy focused on everything that could go wrong with a Thanksgiving meal. The turkey slipped away, the mashed potatoes were nonexistent, and there was no salad, nor pie. In the end, the play points out the most important aspect of Thanksgiving is not the food, but the fellowship, said David Copple, life enrichment director for Dogwood Forest, who is also a cast member.
"[At] the end, they discovered that it's not about the turkey and the trimmings, it's about being together and sharing what they have," said Copple. "They end up eating liverwurst, cheese sandwiches, potato chips, and applesauce for dessert, but that's not what matters, it's that they're together."
The annual performance served a dual purpose, he said. "It provides an evening's entertainment for our residents, but it also gets the residents involved," he added.
Cast members, all residents of Dogwood Forest, ranged in age from 79, to 90. Joanne Craig, who was the youngest cast member, at 79, starred as Mrs. Tappleton. Roger Preu was Mr. Tappleton. Helen Jenkins, who is 90, starred as Mrs. Simms, the baker.
Other cast members were: Bob Hogan, as Kenny; Sara Meadows, as Jenny; William Gill, Sr., as Uncle Fritz; Huber Herrod, as Grandfather Tappleton; Willathea Jackson, as Grandmother Tappleton; and Frances Bradley, as Aunt Hetta.
"I'm the one that is going to light the oven, take the turkey out of the refrigerator, and cook him. David [Copple] is the milkman, and he comes to the back door, and I go and meet him," said Joanne Craig, describing some of the action of the play.
"One of the family members, carrying the turkey, dropped it on the floor, and it slid out the door and into the yard. The milkman warned the other family members of the escaped turkey, but efforts to catch it were unsuccessful," said Craig.
"Mrs. Tappleton chases the milkman, and the turkey slides down the hill and into a pond. "[It's] a comedy, all the way," she continued.
Craig said the play emphasized what the holiday should be about. "Being thankful to God, being thankful for this place that takes care of us," she said.
Craig said her character sums up the true meaning of Thanksgiving at the end of the performance, with a rhyme: "Turkeys come and turkeys go, and trimmings can be lost, we know. But we're together, and that's what matters, not what's served upon the platters."
The storyline from the book translated effectively into a dramatic performance, said Helen Byars, a volunteer at the assisted living facility, as well as the director and narrator of the performance.
"It's just been so much fun," said Byars. "This is another book from the Stockbridge library. A children's book lends itself so well to seniors. It's too much to learn lines when you're in your 70s and 80s. This way, a narrator can pretty much get you through it, and you have a line occasionally. There's always action in a children's story, and there's always a message."