DEER PARK — When new people enter the Finksburg Senior Center, they'd better watch out for the ambush at the door.
Otherwise, they could find themselves with roles in the next production by the Carroll Senior Entertainers.
"Unless they have cards in their hands, we get 'em," said Linda L. Filemyr, writer and director of the musicals.
Evelyn M. Walter, a 68-year-old from Finksburg, said she became involved with the groupafter getting caught by the "guards" at the front door.
"I joinedthe senior center and the first day I came was on a Wednesday," she said, noting that by the end of the day, she had a part in the show.
Her only regret, she said, is that she didn't join sooner. "I lookforward to coming," Walter said. "I don't want it to ever stop."
Neither does the group's oldest member, 86-year-old Elsie B. Cornwell, who has played a role in each of the seven shows since the group was started 3 1/2 years ago.
"I love every minute of it," Cornwell said, adding that she would continue as long as she was able to keep up.
Sometimes, that's not always easy.
"Your feet and legs hurt like crazy, but from here up, you're fine," 76-year-old Evelyn A. Schillaci said, motioning to her chin. "I get a lot of self-satisfactionout of knowing that I'm capable of doing it. I can still function."
The Carroll Senior Entertainers grew out of the suggestion by the late James List that the Finksburg seniors perform a Christmas skit.
Filemyr, who teaches music appreciation at Carroll Community College, agreed to direct a show, and a few months later the original fivemembers of the group gave their first performance.
"It was very successful and well-received," said Filemyr.
So, for the senior center's one-year anniversary, the group performed another show, she said.
"From then on, we just kept doing it for some reason or another," she said.
Filemyr spends as many as 64 hours writing each of the comedies, which saves the 15-member group from paying royalties andallows her to tailor the parts to the individuals.
"I can gear the play to who we have," said Filemyr, who wrote all but the first show. "So each individual can contribute what's in their comfort range.
"I really didn't expect this to continue. It was a nice surprise."
She said she will stay with it as long as people enjoy it. That may be a while, judging from the reactions of the audiences.
"It was excellent; I think everyone enjoyed it," said Helen A. Pepperney, 68, of Sykesville, who saw the show at a performance for the Carroll County Chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons. "We would enjoy having them come back.
"The more you do in your senior years, the more there is to be done."
AARP Treasurer Esther H. Singer, 78, of Manchester agreed: "They're all oldsters -- they're not young kids by any means.
"It helps to give you ideas. If they can do it, I can do it too."
The entertainers stage the musicals at othersenior centers and area schools, Filemyr said. They also did one performance in the Carroll Lutheran Village Intensive Care Unit, she said.
"They (audience members) were really quite ill," she said. "Butthey had an hour's worth of smiles."
The show receives great responses from audiences across the county. Last June, the group receivedthis year's Music Appreciation and Drama award from the Maryland Association of Senior Centers.
"If the audience seems to enjoy it, itmakes me feel good," said 63-year-old Virginia L. Fizzell of Finksburg. "We're doing something to make them smile."
Added Schillaci, the lead in the most recent musical: "We enjoy each other and we enjoydoing it for other people."
The seniors agreed that one reason they enjoy themselves so much is the camaraderie of the performers.
"Usually, personalities pull things apart . . ." started E. Ruth Buckingham, 63, of Finksburg.
". . . but we don't have that here," Filemyr continued for Buckingham. "I try to encourage people who would work well together. That's the key to success."
The group rehearsesonce a week for about three months and sometimes more often as performances near, but most of the members don't mind the busy schedule.
"My doctor told me it was the best therapy in the world," Buckingham said.
"An original wallflower" for most of her life, she said she gathered enough nerve to join after watching the others involved.
"It's definitely made me more all-around better," she said.
Doesshe still get nervous at performances?
At first, she admitted, but "usually after a few minutes I calm down and I'm all right."
MarCeilia Somerville of Gamber said the group "laughs a lot, and that's good."
"I'm 68 and I feel like I'm 30. This has been the best thing for me. You meet the most interesting people."
Sandy Spurrier, a68-year-old from Finksburg, said members are "on the go all the time. We're keeping ahead of old age."