Vaudeville a big hit with seniors
Tony Castle’s favorite audience is the older crowd or, to be more precise, seniors.
Castle performs about 10 senior shows a month throughout the West and wants more gigs with that age group. His next senior gig is Sunday in Grass Valley.
An entertainer for at least 30 years, Castle began to specialize in senior shows when he started doing stand-up comedy in 1987. He had several hours to fill during the day as he sat in motel rooms waiting for his nightly curtain call at comedy shows, so when a friend asked him to perform for seniors in 1992, Castle jumped at the opportunity.
Ten years later, Castle has found his niche.
“Last weekend, I was the keynote speaker at the Northern California Council of Activity Coordinators in Fresno,” Castle said. “Most retirement communities, from the big ones like Sun City to Meadow View Manor right here, have activity coordinators.
“I’m the birthday man, do a birthday party once a month for residents here. What I do is I get the names of all the October people, then find out what famous people were born on their day, then I write poems.”
In winter, the number of his gigs increase at RV parks in Arizona for senior audiences comprised of Midwesterners escaping the cold.
Castle, 53, said he’s popular with elders because he likes vaudeville. As a child, he would watch live performances.
“I gear the show to seniors, for people who remember vaudeville shows,” Castle said. “I’m not just a guy telling stories. I include music, I might do a recitation like ‘Casey at the Bat,’ maybe a Red Skeleton mime. I try to evoke a variety of vaudeville.”
He considers seniors the best audience in the world: “They didn’t grow up watching guys on TV. They went down to the theater or big dance halls and saw the big bands, Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny. They remember live performance. They remember long before television, and I’m trying to keep that live connection.”
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Tony Castle in a one-man vaudeville show.
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley. The back of the center is wheelchair-accessible.
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