“If you don’t try it, you’re not going to know.” That’s what Al Pacino said in a recent Charlie Rose interview.

The “it” he referred to were the roles he’s played, and is playing, on stage or in the movies. As an actor, the only way he knew whether he would be successful in a role was to try it. He took the risks, sometimes going where he hadn’t gone before.

Al and Charlie also talked about the difference between the roles Al played as a 19-year-old shy novice with the roles he now gravitates to — and their risks — as a 75-year-old Oscar-, Tony– and Emmy-winning veteran.

That really resonated with me. Whether we’ve played one role in life or several, we should take a cue from Mr. Pacino. Maybe ours isn’t as big a stage as his, but I know, in the long run, it’s just as important. And that’s because our stage is our community.

Right now you might be saying, “But I’ve done my part, Rona. I’ve played my role. I like not having much to do but read, work crosswords and watch TV.”

Well, since Al has all kinds of people advising him, including an agent, please allow me to step into the role of your agent.

As your agent (doing my best Hollywood agent impression) I would say to you, “Look, darling, you know me, I don’t play games so let me give you the straight poop. I know it’s been awhile since your last major role on stage. But you gotta trust me, boobala, your life is not done. You still got it, baby! You know, your skills, talents and knowledge that so many in our community can benefit from. Capeesh?”

To which you might reply, “Time better spent doing what?”

Examples of the supporting roles you can play for your friends and neighbors abound, but here are a few: Making sandwiches to feed the hungry, driving the elderly shut-ins to their appointments, a retired teacher reading special books to students on special days, and all those who volunteer in their churches. I know you can do this, my bambino. All I’m saying is don’t hide yourself away in your living room.

I bet some of you are smiling, nodding and saying, “But, Rona, at my age it’s just too hard to get out there again.”

And again as your agent I say, “Pepperino, it’s hard for everyone!” Even for someone like Al Pacino. Al was reading a rave review about a play he was in. Raves for everyone — except him. He hurt, but he still got up on that stage. And that’s because he finally “… recognized that I was lucky to have what I’ve been given. You gotta use it.”

Whether you will be in a starring or supporting role on our community stage, I guarantee you’ll be more active, more engaged and less passive and less static. So take the risk. Take the stage for an encore performance and use it!


Until the next time … keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at info@ronabarrettfoundation.org. The opinions expressed are her own.