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The funny side of aging

Getting old may not always seem funny, but there are aging entertainers and comics out there who have found a way to maintain and share their sense of humor— even as they grow older.

A great example is the Rohnert Park Kut Ups, which will celebrate 45 years of entertaining the community in 2017.

“We all have fun and even when it’s not intended to be funny, sometimes it’s hysterical,” Kut Ups President Jackie McCuan, 73, said. “Most of our audience members are quite elderly and sometimes they say their sides hurt from laughing so hard.”

The Kut Ups was founded in 1972 by a woman named Betty Ferra who directed the troupe, in effect serving as its creative brain trust, as an offshoot of the Fun After Fifty Club.

The group is open to anyone over the age of 50, but it’s not all fun and games: putting on the yearly series of show requires dedication.

The majority of dancers and performers are amateurs, although a few—particularly the musicians—took the stage in their professional lives.

“We do the work, and it’s hard work,” McCuan said. “We start rehearsals in February and move toward July for the big show. It’s a bigtime commitment.”

The series of “big shows” take place at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, although there are also several “mini shows” the group takes to retirement communities and care facilities for people who may not be able to get out.

They try to create a mix of different types of entertainment. For instance they have even performed “Phantom of the Opera,” but much of the show harkens back to vaudeville and “tongue in cheek dancing, with guys in tutus.”

In one show, three male dancers were dancing in tuxedoes with mannequins on rollers. “It looked like they were on roller skates, but one of the heads fell off,” McCuan said. “I heard people yelling ‘her head came off.’ A top-notch troupe would not have gone out with mannequins with heads that would have fallen off. We invite trouble.”

Performer Barbara Colahan has been with the Kut Ups for nine years and has done comedy for the past three years. Colahan has prior stage experience, dancing for 18 years with a group known as the Calypipers in Drytown, Calif. in Amador County.

She lived in Foster City at the time, but moved to Sonoma County to care for her ailing mother.

“It’s so much fun and the people we meet are fabulous,” Colahan said. “But it’s a tough gig. Sometimes we practice three times a week and also have technical and dress rehearsals.”

Some of the highlights of her time with the Kut Ups were the “Blonde on a Plane” skit, featuring a recently married couple and a psychologist, and a visit last year from a Raiderette, who taught a group of women how to dance with pom poms. “The gal was so great; she must have been 20 years old,” Colahan said. “She taught us all the steps.”

The size of the troupe has dwindled over the years, but they hope to recruit some “younger” people in order to keep the organization going toward its 50th year. Dancers and comedians can join through weekly workshops and rehearsals. Yearly dues are currently $75 per year.

Contact choreographer Ariel Weymouth-Payne for rehearsal information at ariel@pon.net. Singers and musicians may contact Musical Director Larry Broderick at LSBPiano@sonic.net to be placed on a waiting list.

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