When La Jolla residents Hedges Capers and Nancy Locke Capers were researching their play, “The Geeze and Me” (matinee and evenings March 31-April 29 at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center, 930 Tenth Ave., downtown San Diego) the husband, of the husband-and-wife duo, compiled an in-depth definition of the word “old.”
The condition Hedges Capers came up with was “showing the effects of time or use; worn or aged; diminished in value or usefulness; wearied; enfeebled; tiresome; boring; showing the effects of wear; ancient; spent; senile; wasted; over the hill; past one’s prime; broken down; obsolete; useless or wanted; no longer used by anyone; done.”
Hoping to disprove the negative aspects of this notion, while providing an honest look at aging in a humorous and musically oriented way, “The Geeze and Me” looks at what people can expect about getting older, and what they don’t have to accept. With three replaced knees and a replaced hip between them — in addition to extensive research, personal experience, and a few decades in the entertainment industry — the two bring varying levels of expertise to the production.
“We think we’ve taken as many of the issues those in the Baby Boomer generation are facing that we can consider, and approach them both as seriously and humorously as we can,” Hedges Capers said. “We look at money, homelessness (reportedly one of the No. 1 fears facing women over age 50), mobility, finance, retirement, the sense women get about being invisible, sex and more, and we do it with songs.”
Both Capers have a background in the music and theater industries. He was a singer/songwriter in the 1960s and half of the “socially conscious folk rock” duo Hedge & Donna; she is an actress of film, commercials (including one for Jane Fonda workout wear) and theater, and a screenwriter.
Although retired from the music-making businesses, Hedges Capers said he would still write songs when inspiration struck or as gifts for loved ones. One day, when he was at the piano writing songs for the show, he physically couldn’t sing and originally chocked it up to, well, getting older.
“I had no breath control, no range, I couldn’t maintain a note,” he explained. “I went to UC San Diego and they checked me out and said, ‘We know why you can’t sing, and we’re surprised you can even speak.’ I had a growth on one of my vocal cords, so when I tried to sing, my vocal cords couldn’t come together and air would slip through. They said it had to come off now, so I had it removed and after 30 days of silence, I could sing again.”
He added, “Singing was all I had done ... it was all I wanted to do. And I was that close to accepting that these things happen and that a part of my life that I loved was gone. The crazy part for me, was that there was a part of me totally willing to accept that. But when all was said and done, I took a step back and looked at what is it we’re willing to accept about the aging process.”
The pair got in touch with the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging (script consultants for the play) and with UC San Diego’s research and blessing, together co-wrote “The Geeze and Me.” After several years of writing, re-writing and hosting staged readings of the play to various audiences, the two were ready to produce the show in San Diego. In addition to writing roles, Nancy Locke Capers directs and produces, and Hedges Capers wrote the music and stars in the production as David, a “soap-boxer” and beat poet.
The show features projections as a way to set the stage, and crucial scenes take place at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. One of which, Hedges Capers said, makes fellow actors cry in rehearsal.
“After a Silver Sneakers senior exercise class, two people meet for coffee. He needs a knee replacement and she used to be a dancer. She arrives in a walker and explains that she fell going down the stairs … she doesn’t need the walker, but feels unstable without it. She lost her confidence,” he said.
“As they leave Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, she’s on a walker and he is wobbling because of his knees, and some kids on skateboards make fun of them and sing a song (that goes) ‘Old folks, they can’t do nothing … they ain’t good for much at all …’ ”
The old man returns, in song, suggesting their time will come.
“In the course of things, the old woman’s feelings are hurt, but she wants to prove them wrong and gets her confidence up, folds her walker and starts to dance. Toward the end, she stumbles slightly, and goes back to get her walker,” Hedges Capers continued. “When we rehearsed that scene, even though they knew what was going to happen, nine of the other cast members started to cry.”
“It’s very moving,” adds Nancy Locke Capers.
The cast is comprised of 13 people of various ages, but the production staff is on the silver end of the spectrum.
There are four producers in the show, their average age is 73; there are six members of the band, their average age is 69; there are three screen hangers, with an average age of 71; the four-member promotion team has an average age of 67; the set and design builders are “too old to mention.”
“It’s a really talented cast and crew,” Nancy Locke Capers said, adding they help bring the couple’s vision to life. “We hope the poignancy of the play moves audiences and I hope they laugh a lot and walk away humming at least one of the songs they enjoyed,” she said.
Added Hedges Capers, “I hope people will leave asking, ‘Have I lived the life I want to live?’ If so, terrific, keep doing what you’re doing. But if there is something left that you want to do — you’re still here, do it!”
IF YOU GO: “The Geeze and Me” is on stage 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays March 31-April 29 (previews March 29-30) at Tenth Avenue Arts Center, 930 10th Ave., downtown San Diego. Opening night is sold out. Some 50 percent of ticket sales will be donated to Path: A New Path; UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging; The Unbattle Project; and The Center LGBT Senior Services. Tickets $30 ($20 for 10 or more). Contains mature content. (858) 232-9696. firstname.lastname@example.org or sdartstix.com/the-geeze-and-me or thegeezeandme.com