San Diego play-reading group’s skits liven up senior centers

Del Mar residents Bud and Mary Ann Emerson of the Script-in-Hand Players perform Bob Newhart’s ‘The Driving Instructor’ at Vista Village Senior Living recently. Photos by Kristina Houck

By Kristina Houck

With a red curtain, velvet rope and props, the community room at Vista Village Senior Living was transformed into a theater July 17.

A senior acting group known as The Script-in-Hand Players created the makeshift stage to perform about a dozen short skits for the center’s residents. Longtime group members and Del Mar residents Bud and Mary Ann Emerson were among the actors who performed to applause and laughter, often taking the stage side by side.

“What I enjoy most is when the audience members come up after our performance and say, ‘You don’t know how much this meant to us. We don’t get a chance to see live performances very often and we really appreciate you,’” said Mary Ann Emerson, who joined the group eight years ago, a few years after her husband.

Since joining the group, the retired duo has brought laughter through their comedic skits to hundreds of seniors throughout San Diego County.

Launched more than 25 years ago, The Script-in-Hand Players performs at community centers, retirement homes and mobile home parks, choosing a variety of skits from its extensive library. Some skits are scenes from Broadway plays, while members write others.

“Each time we go someplace, we compose a program we think fits the audience,” Bud Emerson said.

Arden Winokur, Bud Emerson, Jim Nelson and Mary Ann Emerson of San Diego-based The Script-in-Hand Players.

The Script-in-Hand Players has about two performances almost every month, with three slated for August.

Although the scripts are read, the troupe’s programs are costumed and rehearsed for dramatic effect.

Rehearsals take place every Monday at Wesley Palms Retirement Community in Pacific Beach. One of the group’s late members lived at the center, where the troupe not only rehearses, but performs once every year.

“I enjoy the rehearsals most,” said Bud Emerson. “We have a really tight group. Everybody goes over the top.”

Despite varied professional backgrounds, the 12 members share a love of theater and a passion for bringing entertainment to seniors. New members have to audition to join the group as openings become available.

“It’s really nice,” Mary Ann Emerson said. “Making all new friends is wonderful.”

Married for 54 years, Bud and Mary Ann Emerson have lived in Del Mar since 1972. Bud is a retired management consultant, who also had a career with Head Start. Mary Ann used to work for Planned Parenthood. Neither had much acting experience before auditioning for The Script-in-Hand Players.

“Mary Ann and I often do separate things in our lives,” Bud Emerson said. “One of the things that I like about this is that we can act together and perform together.”

For more about The Script-in-Hand Players, visit

  1. To schedule a performance, call Arden Winokur at 619-334-1993 or Rosalie Asaro at 619-296-4674.