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Jan Herbert

Harlingen Park Residents Bringing People Together Through Fun of Theater

by Rocio Villalobos

When Jan Herbert first came down to Tropic Winds from Illinois 10 years ago, she knew she wanted to get involved with a group, but it took her a while to find what best suited her.

“I thought I would get involved with a recycling program because that’s something I’m passionate about, but someone was already doing it,” she said. “I looked around; there is also a community-service group that makes quilts, so for a couple of years, I was involved with that.”

She even spent time helping improve the park’s library and setting it up in a newer building.

Herbert has enjoyed all these projects, but it was just three years ago that she took on an activity she has really helped soar--theater.

“It’s really the sort of organization, and bringing it together, that is my expertise,” she said.

Since becoming director of the park’s theater group--which she runs in the six months of the year she spends in Harlingen--Herbert has helped get more people involved, both in plays and in the annual variety show.

“It’s whatever you can come up with,” she said. “We have some people who can sing. Last year one of the acts was a group of gals that did a routine with their walkers, making fun of themselves. It’s just some humorous bits.”

Herbert prefers a more hands-off approach, offering ideas and letting the individuals make their characters and bits their own.

“I put the idea together and like to see how people have fun with it,” she said. “The thing I really enjoy is when someone sticks up their hand and says, ‘OK. I’ll try that,’ and they try it and discover they had a talent all along they didn’t know about.”

Apart from the acts themselves, Herbert said people have fun getting creative with their wardrobe, and a costume struggle has even led them to discover a resident’s talent.

“If they can’t find anything, they’re out looking at local thrift stores,” Herbert said. “There was a bride’s dress needed for one of the shows, and it turns out there’s a seamstress at the park. Then. Suddenly. there was a bride’s dress.”

The theater group has revealed many park residents’ skills, from running sound to building sets to filming the shows to video editing to documenting the acts through scrapbooking.

“It’s cohesive; everyone contributes something, even if it’s the littlest thing you can imagine,” she said. “It’s a great reward to stand back and say, ‘Well, I had a little something to do with bringing that forward. That’s my reward--to make it work and watch them have fun.”

Herbert and other theater members have their next variety show planned for January, which will imitate a radio show. Previous performances can be viewed on the park’s YouTube channel, “TW Theater.”

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