Silver Kite theater group changes lives – of all ages

Intergenerational group was founded by Edmonds woman
By Makenna Dreher | Jul 02, 2019
Photo by: Payton Harrison-Gonzalez Teaching artist Susan Wickett-Ford leads a circle dance for Silver Kite Community Arts.

As Claire Kiersky describes how Silver Kite Community Arts has affected her life, you can tell that something in her voice changes.

Starting at 15, Kiersky was in the Silver Kite Intergenerational Theatre Company as one of the cast’s youngest members.

“I was a sophomore in high school when I started, and had only done things with kids my age, but never a big range, so I was nervous working with older people and didn’t know what to expect,” she said.

Silver Kite Community Arts is a local arts organization that offers intergenerational programs, art workshops for adults, trainings, and has a theater company, which serves over 6,000 people each year.

Silver Kite also just won the national Intergenerational Innovation Award from Generations United, an organization based in Washington, D.C., for its intergenerational efforts as an organization in the community.

As Kiersky said, it became fun for her, and she learned more than she thought she would, bonding with the cast by telling stories through music, dance, and acting.

Through her time there, she finished three touring shows and was an assistant director and arts coordinator for Silver Kite before leaving for college in San Diego.

During one of her shows, she acted a piece about anxiety and stomach pains she was having. Despite being the youngest cast member in the show, Kiersky was able to connect to a parent who came up to her in tears, explaining that her son had similar anxiety and that her performance resonated with her.

“It was cool to know and get the validation that sharing those stories on stage makes an impact and helps other people,” she said.

One of Silver Kite’s aims is to cast people from different stages of life to create a diverse cast for its theater company.

“We do our best to bring in a very diverse group of people with different cultural, ethnic, generational, and gender backgrounds,” said Edmonds resident Jennifer Kulik, CEO and founder of Silver Kite. “Representation from all different groups is important to us.”

Silver Kite’s Intergenerational Theatre Company performs original pieces from the cast’s personal stories at schools, community centers, and retirement communities in the Puget Sound region.

During rehearsals for a show, Silver Kite decides the best way to tell the story by compiling a variety of different moments that don’t just fit one narrative, Kulik said.

“We have shows with people with memory loss, middle school students, independent living older adults,” she said. “It seems to work well, and people can grab onto a moment that really resonates with them.”

In fact, Kulik uses her own personal story to shape what Silver Kite is today. At age 11, she developed a health condition where she lost her hair and was bullied in middle school. Because of theater, she was able to “step out” of her life and express herself in different ways, which she said was powerful to her.

This realization of how theater saved her helped her to understand how the arts help people, she said. Over time, Silver Kite was born and has now been around for five years.

Kulik’s goal is to engage multiple generations, and shows that in the work that Silver Kite does.

Notably, one of the programs Silver Kite produces is “Writing Life Stories,” where students interview seniors in a senior living community or community center about their lives, and then present them with memory boxes.

Kulik described a senior resident who had just called her and said it was the first time in many years that she felt seen.

“That blew my mind,” she said. “I weep every time with this program.”

The memory boxes are reflective of the story that the senior has just told to show them that the students have listened and to give their stories back, she added.

The Edmonds Center for the Arts has also worked with Silver Kite for the past four years with a number of different intergenerational programs at ECA, as well as offsite.

“Jen is the kind of person you can go to with a seed of an idea and she can come up with something new and exciting,” said ECA Director of Programming Gillian Jones.

This year, The Seattle Steel Pan Project will be at the ECA in July for an intergenerational camp, which Kulik is a part of.

“Jen from the beginning was a collaborator in making that program intergenerational – both teens and seniors work together to learn a new instrument,” said Jones.

Last year, after an intergenerational camp at ECA, both teens and seniors said they wanted more time together after it was done in a debrief session, Jones said.

“That’s a testament to the quality of Jen’s work and Silver Kite,” she said. “They facilitate meaningful conversation in their work.”

Kulik and Silver Kite always have the people they are serving at the forefront, which is important, Jones added.

“It’s a priority for her, and valuable for us in terms of partnership,” she said.

Now, five years after she started with the company, Kiersky is 20 and at San Diego State University, pursuing a career in acting and looking for similar programs and organizations that work with kids and older adults through art.

She has also kept in touch with a few of her fellow cast members, one who she described as her “second grandfather.”

Kiersky also credits Silver Kite for getting her more interested in working with different age groups, as her experience in the cast and working for them shaped her future aspirations.

“It’s unfortunate that not a lot of places are like Silver Kite out there,” she said. “Having different generations connect, talk and understand each other, especially with the times we have right now as we have a divide with so many different things, is important.

“Silver Kite is doing that by connecting people through art, which is so awesome.”

For more information, go to www.silverkite.us/.

 

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