Throw away any stereotypes you may have about older folks because Actors Ink is here to prove them wrong.

Written by local authors and playwrights Crystal V. Rhodes and Lillie Barnett Evans, “Grandmothers, Incorporated” will receive an Indianapolis debut at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Center Stage Oct. 5-15.

“I want them to see, particularly older women, to see themselves,” Rhodes said. “But also, to understand that older women — they have minds; they have lives; they can be creative.”

“Grandmothers, Incorporated” follows the lives of four women over the age of 65 — Fanny, Hattie, Bea and Connie — as they embark on a relaxing vacation only to discover a problem at their cabin. 

Rhodes and Evans wrote the play in 2006 and based it on the four-novel cozy mystery series of the same name. The show was first produced Off Broadway in 2010; however, it has not made its way to Indianapolis stages until now.

Many of the characters in the series, and subsequently the play, are based on women in Evans and Rhodes’ own lives — women who are bold, strong and active in the community, Evans said. Many grandmothers are reduced to the role of “babysitter” or “caretaker” in the family, and Evans wanted to show audiences an alternate narrative. 

Authors/Playwrights Lillie Barnett Evans and Crystal V. Rhodes. (Photo provided/Crystal V. Rhodes)

Too often, Rhodes said older Black women do not see themselves represented on stage as anything other than the “Mammie” role, and Evans and she set out to change that with “Grandmothers, Incorporated.”

“I know how people normally think of grandmothers. I think that they think of them as the babysitter, as the one who raises the kids,” Evans said. “All four of the grandmothers are based off of the people that we know, and they weren’t the rocking chair grandmothers.”

For Rhodes and Evans, connecting with the audience through their play is what makes the process enjoyable because it enables the audience to laugh and feel the emotions alongside the characters as they watch the show. Although Rhodes has received many accolades for her previous work, she said creating the “Grandmothers, Incorporated” series and play with Evans is her “biggest joy.”

“My hope is that it’s as funny as we know it because we were there when it premiered. We were there when people were literally rolling, laughing at these actors who just brought that to life,” Rhodes said. “That was my, and it still is my, biggest joy, sharing it with her.”

Actors Ink’s production of the play is monumental for the playwrights as well, as Evans said this is the first time the show will cast actors representative in age of the characters on stage and not just “younger women dressed up.”

The Indianapolis-based theater company is producing the show under the leadership of founder and director Sandra Gay, whose main goal is to educate, train and spotlight “people of a certain age” — also known as POCAs, or men and women over 65.

Many of the company members have been in the theater industry for decades, but for some, this is their first time onstage or helping behind the scenes. Bonita Watford, 82, is joining Actors Ink for the first time for this production and said she is happy to help with running lines and whatever else she can.

“It’s motivating because I see people my age learning lines, interacting, making their characters come alive, respecting each other and boosting each other’s egos,” Watford said. “That’s so rewarding to know that people at this age that have never acted before can be stars on the stage — it’s pretty wonderful.”

Lacretia Bryant, 83, and Sharon Maye-Jordan, who is “80-something,” both split the role of Fanny in the production. Maye-Jordan, who is no stranger to theater, having been performing since grade school, said she is excited to take on the role of a spirited grandmother even if she is not one herself. 

“I look forward to them seeing that grandmothers aren’t really who people think they are,” said Maye-Jordan. “People can expect to laugh and be amazed by the characters.”

But the show comes with a message too: Do not be afraid of getting old because it is a privilege to age and you are still able to do the things you enjoy. Evans and Rhodes said the show is family-friendly, and they even encourage children and young people to come see it if only to gain a greater appreciation for their grandparents and see how life can turn out.

Actors Ink Theatre Company will premiere “Grandmothers, Incorporated” at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Center, 705 N. Illinois St., in conjunction with Witherspoon Presbyterian Church Oct. 5-15. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for students and can be purchased at For more information, visit

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.