Local octogenarians keep everyone laughing


Jim Gaidry, left, Karen Kosnik, Jeanette Bradley and Richard Bradley perform a skit together as members of The Downstagers

Austin Rushnell

One of the best ways to keep active in the later stages of life is to keep the mind engaged and the body moving.

One local group, The Downstagers, is doing just that. The Downstagers is a readers’ theater consisting of five octogenarians who perform skits, jokes, acts and humor for senior audiences. The group performs at various assisted living facilities within a 25-mile radius of Malabar.

“Being a volunteer group of mostly retirees,” officials stated in The Downstagers’ most recent program, “The Downstagers is a ‘readers’ theater’, i.e., actors perform with script-in-hand.”

On May 15, The Downstagers visited Century Oaks Assisted and Independent Living in Melbourne. It performed a program entitled “Happily Ever After … Maybe.”

The group opened directly into a skit (involving an NYPD cop and a certain troublesome dragon), which earned a great laugh from the audience and kicked off the show.

Throughout the performance, The Downstagers used a variety of fun voices and animated physical comedy for each new skit. The performers also had a number of props, including a mirror-frame, two drumsticks and even a miniature dragon.

Skits touched on modern issues to entertain both the senior audience and the staff members of Century Oaks.

Despite being in an electric wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, The Downstagers are led by Jeanette Bradley, who is one of the most animated members of the group.

“Mostly, my material comes from comic strips and newspapers,” Bradley said. “I will rewrite them to suit us. I keep my eyes open for magazines, newspapers — sometimes I’ll hear a joke and say, ‘oh, that’s good,’ and one skit that we did (tonight) came right from the ‘Carol Burnett Show.’ ”

The current cast of The Downstagers is:

• Mary Hamilton of Palm Bay

• Jim Gaidry of Palm Bay

• Karen Kosnik of Melbourne

• Richard and Jeanette Bradley
of Malabar.

Bradley is the director of the group and collects, writes and produces most of the show’s material.

The Downstagers currently are looking for a new male lead since one of the male cast members is moving to West Palm Beach in July.

For those interested in joining the group, call Bradley at 321-956-2012.

“There’s a little poem that I sometimes read, it’s called ‘Keep Wiggling,’ ” Bradley added. “That’s sort of (it), never give up — there’s too much to do, there’s too much life around us. Don’t give up, you don’t want to vegetate. You can’t just sit (...) and watch soap operas all day; there’s too much (more to do.)”