The truth is you are never too old to give birth to a new passion, to hear your voice anew, to develop a creative life that sets sail the spirit.
Janet Taylor admits she always loved the theatre growing up -- regaling with memories of going to the old Pantages Theatre as a child, having a role in her Grade 1 play and a small part in a high school musical -- but she never really took part in any drama clubs or classes throughout the years.
The year she retired (after 35 years of teaching in elementary schools, a few of those years as a principal,) the Manitoba Theatre Centre, in celebration of its anniversary, asked people from the community to participate in a production of Our Town. Taylor played the part of one of the dead souls in two of the shows. And from there the acting bug took hold.
Immediately desiring to be immersed in the theatre world, she began volunteering at Sarasvti Productions, a theatre company dedicated to promoting social change and human understanding.
"I really love what the theatre company does," says Taylor. "They really try to use theatre to transform people's awareness and understanding of issues, and they also give opportunities to emerging artists who may just be starting out in their careers."
For those who may not know, Sarasvti is the Hindu goddess of creative arts. Sarasvti Productions, which was established 13 years ago in Winnipeg, is said to embody the spirit of the goddess, with a desire to inspire artists and audiences through theatre.
Taylor can definitely attest to the transformative impact the theatre company has had on her life.
It was a perfect fit from the beginning for Taylor, whose transition from working fulltime to retirement had ignited a life-altering delight in the dramatic. She says Sarasvti Productions encompasses many of the same values she has always held, especially with regard to the power of theatre to create social change.
With great enthusiasm, Taylor has plunged into any volunteer role she can sink her teeth into over the past five years, from being president of the board to chairing the fundraising committee, from ticket sales to ushering.
"I see volunteering for Sarasvti Productions as a kind of partnership," says Taylor. "I think I bring a certain skill set to the board, whether it's my organizational skills or education background or the fact that as someone who is retired, I have more flex time to volunteer. And in return, I've learned so much about theatre for social change and how a theatre company works. As board members, we get to go to rehearsals and watch how everything comes together, which I love."
Taylor has also taken another big step in pursuing her passion -- she has gone back to do her second arts degree at the University of Winnipeg, majoring in theatre. But no worries, she still has lots of time to volunteer at Sarasvti Productions.
"Volunteers like Janet allow us to do the work we do," says Hope McIntyre, Sarasvti's artistic director. "Volunteers also help us to keep in touch with and be part of the community."
McIntyre says one of Sarasvti Productions' goals is to bring voices to the stage that wouldn't otherwise be heard. Last spring, the company put on the play Jail Baby, a culmination of three years of work in partnership with the Elizabeth Fry Society to bring the voices of incarcerated women to the stage.
The theatre company is also working with VOICES: Manitoba's Youth in Care, to create an interactive production that explores the issues that youth in foster care deal with, from the stigma of being in care to the transition to adulthood after care.
"I can never say enough about Sarasvti Productions," says Taylor. "I feel really lucky to volunteer somewhere where I love what I do, and the environment is so supportive for volunteers."
Sarasvti Productions' FemFest takes place until Sept. 21 at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, with a variety of plays written by women for everyone. To learn more, or how to become a volunteer or donate to Sarasvti Productions, please visit http://sarasvati.ca.
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Carolyn Shimmin-Bazak at: firstname.lastname@example.org.