The Duets at the Gallo Center
By Noel Daniel
After 50 years of marriage, Mary Lou Dieterich suddenly found herself going to events alone. In the middle of this strange new experience in her life, she found friends in an unlikely place.
Some mature adults may find it hard to carry on a social life when separated from a spouse. No matter the reason, the Duets program—hosted by the Gallo Center for the Arts—strives to make sure that all playgoers 55 and over have a literal friend in the theatre if they want one.
“I was single again after 50 years of marriage and I wanted to get to know new people,” Mary Lou Dieterich, a Duets patron, said. “It was very transitional for me, in that respect. I’d always done things with my husband and now I was footloose and fancy, not so free.”
According to Carol Hannen, Duets Coordinator with the Gallo Center, this is a very common sentiment among Duets members. Older patrons wanted to meet new people, but were intimidated by the idea of going to a bar—and they thought that was their only option.
“It’s not a comfortable feeling,” Karen Moore, another Duets member, said of the bar atmosphere, “but this is.”
Hannen said many mature adults are unsure of where to go to meet people. That’s when Duets came around. The program makes sure that every attendee has a partner when they come to attend a Duets performance.
“‘Without this I would’ve been lost,’” a member of the Duets program told Hannen, “‘I would’ve been sitting in my house.’”
Hannen has been the Coordinator for four years, a position that she gladly volunteers for. The program became a community service project after starting as a three-year grant idea to target a demographic that would be reluctant to come to the Center alone.
“The point wasn’t to make huge amounts of money for the theatre,” Hannen said.
Regardless of this, they attract an impressive crowd. Average events see a turnout of 50 people. The number can range anywhere from 25 members all the way to 68.
In order to get the group to feel more cohesive, each meeting starts with a reception. They’ll either meet onstage or in the 2nd floor Foster Lobby and begin with a game. Hannen mentioned that she asks questions like, “where did you go for the summer vacation?” to initiate conversation.
“It’s nice to have a little reception before where we all have soft drinks or tea or wine,” Moore said. “It makes shows more enjoyable. And they’re always good shows that they pick for us.”
Dieterich laughed, “I like the luncheon.”
Moore and Dieterich aren’t the only friends who mingle during a Duets reception. Two years ago, a meeting was just starting and patrons were milling around as the warm-up activity started. Suddenly, two of the women seemed to finally take notice of each other.
“‘Suzie?’” Hannen said she overheard. Before she knew it, the two had realized they’d been roommates nearly 40 years before.
On a more romantic note, Hannen also said that at least one couple met at Duets. They attended a few meetings before ultimately getting married. Finding a close friend is essentially the goal of Duets – and Hannen even encourages members to find a friend and start attending performances independently of the program.
For those looking to be a part of the camaraderie, Duets has four events a year. Duets members get a 15 percent discount on every ticket as well as seating in the Duets section. Joining is free and as easy as filling out an address form at one of the events.
For More Information, or to Purchase Tickets, call 209.338.2100.
Mention the Duets Program to receive the discount.
Sunday, Oct. 18 AT 2 p.m.
High Tea will be served at 12:30 p.m., free with ticket purchase.
Performance at 2p.m., $19 TO $59.
Saturday, Dec. 5 at 2 p.m., $15 TO $25.
Holiday Party starts at 1 p.m., free with ticket purchase.
Sunday, Feb. 28 at 3 p.m., $25 TO $45.
Reception at 2 p.m., free with ticket purchase.
Saturday, May 7 at 2 p.m., $39 TO $99.
12 p.m. Mimosa $15, brunch fee.