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A 75-Year-Old Woman Reconnects With Her True Passion In Retirement

It’s never too late to begin doing something that brings you joy. And retirement – with all the newfound free time that’s available – is a perfect time to explore something new, or to reconnect with something you love but may not have done in years.

A wonderful example of this timeless truth is Judi Schindler. At age 75, this former public-relations professional has returned to something she hasn’t done in decades – acting.

Ms. Schindler told the Wall Street Journal about her first role, the lead in Pinocchio when she was just 12 years old. “The hardest part was in the carnival scene,” she says. “I had to transform myself into a donkey while hiding behind a piece of scenery.”

These days, you can find Ms. Schindler hitting the stage again; she’s currently a professional actress in Chicago. Although her love for acting was on hiatus for about five decades, when Ms. Schindler is on set it’s as if she never missed a beat.

Ms. Schindler’s attended acting school as a child, but when she began college, she decided not to major in theater. Instead, she chose a career in public relations because of her writing and communication skills, she says. She landed her first job in 1965, and in 1978 she was able to start her own firm.

While her company was very successful, over time Ms. Schindler grew tired of the administrative aspects of being a boss. She especially disliked hiring and firing. “Managing people is just not fun,” says Ms. Schindler. And eventually, she started to feel that the public-relations field was more of a “young person’s game,” she says. The field began to change rapidly when social media hit the scene.

So, Ms. Schindler thought back to her passion for acting and decided to give it a try. In 2006, she sold her business, stayed on for a few years to help with the transition and entered the stage again.

“Memorizing at my age is a flat-out bitch,” Ms. Schindler says. “It takes me three or four times longer to memorize a passage than someone in their 30s.”

And then, there are some physical challenges to contend with, too. “A lot of times when you’re in a show, they like to start out with theater games,” she says. “Sometimes they get on their hands and knees. If I get on my hands and knees, I tell them that somebody has to help me back up. And they do.”

Of her career now, she says it feels much easier in some ways. “In my 20s, I would have been in competition with hundreds, maybe thousands, of young women who come to Chicago seeking careers in theater,” she says. Now, “there are maybe a couple dozen old ladies.”

One of her favorite stage roles, she says, was in “Hellcab,” a comedy ​that runs around the holiday season that takes place in a taxicab. “I played an oversexed lawyer who makes a pass at the taxicab driver,” Ms. Schindler says. “The second year, I got to play a drunk.”

This month, she begins a run in a piece of original theater, “Circle House.” The piece is set in Chicago’s historic Berger Park North Mansion, and the audience will move through the house, interacting with the cast, to see the story unfold.

“I am proud of myself,” she says. “I have built a reputation in a highly competitive industry.” She keeps pushing herself, despite the challenges, too.

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