Young at Heart presents ‘Blessings from the Pandemic’
New play written by two-time Dayton Playhouse FutureFest finalist.
Cast members of Young at Heart Players’ presentation of “Blessings from the Pandemic” rehearse via Zoom. The production is slated for Nov. 27-29.
By Russell Florence Jr.
Contributing Writer

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, senior-themed troupe Young at Heart Players (YAHP) presents a virtual regional premiere of Rich Orloff’s “Blessings from the Pandemic” Nov. 27-29.

Written as a “poetry cycle for performance,” Orloff’s assortment of comedic and dramatic reflections introspectively arose as a response to his own contemplations on COVID-19 dating back to late March. Poems include “A Prayer About Being Human,” “A Prayer About Pros and Cons” and “A Prayer About Acceptance.”

“The poems vary widely in style and topic, ranging from the mundane to the spiritual,” said Orloff, a New York Citybased playwright and two-time Dayton Playhouse FutureFest finalist (1993′s “Veronica’s Position” and 2019′s “Men Over-

board”). “As I’m a playwright more than a poet, I’ve written them to be performed as well as read. Many have already been presented over the last few months via Zoom in theaters, synagogues, churches, and other groups across the country.”

“There really are blessings during this pandemic if you try not to think about (the pandemic) in the (sense) of gloom and doom,” echoed YAHP founder Fran Pesch.

“It’s a blessing to wake up every morning. This play really speaks to me. The poems address matters that are on all of our minds, matters that we are all dealing with. It’s so easy to complain about the pandemic, but if we’re able to get out of ourselves and recognize there is goodness around us, that there are things we can do for people, we can be thankful. After all, as Thanksgiving (approaches), this is the time to count our blessings.”

The 24-member cast consists of Margaret Baird, Brad Bishop, Brian Buttrey, Shanna Camacho, Saul Caplan, Cher Collins, Cassandra Engber, Barbara Jorgensen, Debra Kent, Charles Larkowski, Dodie Lockwood, Adee McFarland, Nancy Milligan, Becky Milligan, Terry Morris, Matt Owens, Jackie Pfeifer, Michael Shannon, Gayle Smith, Hannah Stickel, Gail Andrews Turner, Mike Welly, Abby Williams, and Richard Young. One of the primary goals is to ensure every poem carries a natural, conversational essence in spite of the Zoom format.

“Because Rich describes the play as theatrical, it’s important for the cast to bring their energy, their dynamics, their colors, to their poems,” said director Annie Pesch, who staged an excellent production of “Still Alice” for YAHP last season starring the aforementioned Engber. “We want there to be a certain flow to the production as well as a (connection) as if someone is actually talking to you about what their feeling. We are also happy to be able to do a Zoom play as it guarantees safety for our cast and audience members.”

Having produced an eclectic series of plays from classics such as “Waiting in the Wings,”

“Driving Miss Daisy” and “The Gin Game” to contemporary fare such as “The Waverly Gallery,”

“Circle Mirror Transformation” and “Well,” Fran Pesch is thrilled for YAHP’s return. She didn’t plan on producing a show this year but is grateful for the opportunity, particularly recognizing how far her troupe has come.

“I’m thankful to those who have supported YAHP through the years — my family, actors, designers, production personnel, media writers, and especially, the audience,” she said.

“Without the audience there would be no theater and without their continued encouragement and support YAHP would not be celebrating 20 years.”

The performance is free, but YAHP is asking the public to pay it forward by donating what would have been the ticket price to a community service organization such as a food bank, St. Vincent de Paul or Salvation Army. The link for the show will be available Friday, Nov. 27 at

“I hope people will be entertained,”

Pesch added. “The play, which reflects our here and now, provides food for thought but I also hope it inspires people to grow in empathy or see something positive in spite of the pandemic.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-654-5502 or email russellflorencejr@