Though she uses a walker and bewails “the body’s failing,” at 93, Jan Slepian seems ageless in mind and spirit. Her nimble observations on old age, captured in her book, Astonishment, provide the material for her show by that name to be staged at Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains on Tuesday, July 17.
Performed by a cast of three women, it celebrates and gently mocks that almost universal shock we nearly all feel about getting older even as we continue to feel adolescent inside.
“I wouldn’t call them blessings, but there are some pluses to getting old,” insisted Slepian in a July 9 interview. “You don’t worry about who and what you are, and competitiveness is gone. But what amazes me is that vanity doesn’t vanish.”
The show, a production of the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theater of South Orange, is part of the summer program of outings and entertainment offered by the JCC of Central New Jersey’s Senior and Active Adults Program. All are welcome.
Slepian plans to attend, together with her illustrator, Laura Schreiber, to sign copies of the book. She said she is pleased to hear her words spoken out loud and to see how enthusiastically others respond to them. The show, created and directed by Laura Ekstrand, has been presented at senior centers and retirement communities across the state, drawing standing ovations.
“It means a lot to get that response,” Slepian said. “The first time I heard the show, it was as if it had been written by someone else. I said, ‘I didn’t know it was so good!’”
Slepian is a psychologist and speech therapist by training and an award-winning author of 28 books for children and young adults. She began writing about the ups and down of old age in her late 80s, while serving as coeditor of the newsletter at the retirement community in Maplewood where she lives. In 1990, she self-published Astonishment, a collection of 20 of the essays, but was astounded by what came next, with its success, and now this show. “Evidently, my little ‘essayettes’ had ‘legs,’” she said with a chuckle.
She recently brought out a new book of essays, also illustrated by Schreiber, How To Be Old: A Beginner’s Guide. Both are available through Lulu.com.