The stage was set. Pat Heise stood on one side of the room, dusting her living room, Charlie Church on the other, sitting at the desk. Church picks up the phone.
“Hello?” Heise says, picking up after a few rings.
“Is this Mrs. Snodgrass?”
“This is Mrs. Snodgrass, who is this?” she asks.
“I’m Mr. Roger… Stapler,” Church said a bit unsure, picking up a stapler on his desk. “I’m Mr. Stapler of… Stapler, Pencil and Glass, and I’m calling to let you know that you’ve won big in the Irish Sweepstakes!”
“Did you say steaks? I can’t eat meat, it upsets my stomach, you know,” she answered.
Church and Heise were playing characters in a sketch called “Medium Rare” as part of the Savvy Seniors theater group at the Burnham Library in December. The group is a program created by COVE, the Community of Vermont Elders, a nonprofit that supports the elderly through education and advocacy.
The Savvy Seniors travel around the state and region performing skits that combine comedy and important information to educate the elderly on issues like health insurance and fraud. Many of the members are also actors in the Lyric Theater.
Director Ken Wolvington said all the sketches are based on true stories provided to the group either from the Attorney General’s Office or from the actors themselves.
“Members of this cast say I’m on speed dial for this scam because I’ve received it more times than I can count,” Wolvington said of one of the sketches.
The Savvy Seniors also performed “Summons” where a scammer threatened to throw the victim in jail for not reporting for jury duty; “Canada Goose,” which involved two scammers pretending to be members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who had the victim’s grandson in custody; and “No Wonder You’re So Dizzy,” where a doctor educated a senior on the harms of using friends’ medications.
The group brought a sense of humor to myriad topics that even non-seniors in the audience found to be helpful. As Wolvington puts it: “There are a lot of bad people out there trying to use every scam in the book to trick you.”