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Students Stage Stories from the Lives of Seniors

Students Stage Stories from the Lives of Seniors

Otis students stand with Ralph Seaton, a magician, poet, and one of the seniors that was featured in the performance.

Left to right - Terence Colby (actor), Skye Stevenson, Mary Francis, Angelica Cortez and Ralph Seaton.


This past weekend, Otis College of Art and Design students presented "Painting A Portrait with Words: Life Stages" at the Culver City Senior Center. Under the direction of faculty member, Laurel Ollstein students staged a live reading featuring the stories of four seniors from the center. In groups, students interviewed the seniors, created written and visual elements, and then presented their finished piece for the community. 

Ollstein, who has been running the Creative Action class for several years, said "It's about oral history, it's about sharing stories of people that are different from your life." The class creates a space for intergenerational conversations and discovery, in which Ollstein says, "the seniors get to have this wonderful audience of young people hungry to hear their stories". 

One of the groups featured two-time war veteran, Ken Yoshimoto. For the students, asking personal questions of a complete stranger was daunting at first, but ultimately rewarding. A student in Ken's group described the experience saying that most of the time they were, "really taking in all that he had to share with us, his voice was really compelling and inspiring. To hear all that he has gone through left me in amazement."

All four seniors that inspired the work, Ralph Seaton, Weena Dowes, Laurette Boarman and Ken Yoshimoto, were in attendance as their life stories were brought to the stage. There were many valuable lessons to take from the performance, including these words of wisdom from featured senior Weena Dowes, "I don't see any evidence that there is another life after this, and so I think that it's probably a good idea to live this one to the hilt."

To learn more about Life Stages and see some of the performances in action, check out this video from last year's class. 


Audience at Senior Center

Life Stages was presented at the Culver City Senior Center to a packed house.


Students with faculty member Laurel Ollstein

Life Stages was presented under the direction of Otis faculty, Laurel Ollstein (upper right).