We have so far to go in terms of appreciating the true value of performers who are older than 30-something, especially women. Our art is about storytelling, about making us feel, forget our limited sense of ourselves, to temporarily suspend the string of indignities that comprise our daily lives. Deep in our bones we desire to be transported to the “not here” of numinous, archetypal, mythic space. We don’t know this. We have forgotten this. We’ve forgotten that it’s the rare young person who has the biological, ancient authority to lead us there. Artists gain a certain shamanic power as they hang in there and develop their craft, allow it to cure in the bones. Gravitas is earned with age, experience, and personal strength.
Women especially yearn to hear stories that they can identify with, that tell their truth. In recent years the big film studios have started to catch on to the idea that audiences actually want to meaningful movies about women, but we’ve a long ways to go, and the industry at all levels has a lot of catching up to do.
Immediately after our debut season in Colorado a local theatre company asked me to do some design for a production, in recognition of the quality of the work we bring to the stage, and desire to support that. We were much appreciative. Until the first production meeting, where I sat through the 40-something, tall, male director, who never bothered to call me or respond to my emails or even talk to me ONCE in the months before we went into production, going on and on about the bodies of this or that young woman (much younger than him) he was going to “use” in the show. As is typical in theatre everywhere, the assembled team just sat there meekly laughing at his jokes and hoping they would stay cool in his eyes and thus be able to keep working. Too gross for words. I withdrew from the project. My Facebook status that evening: “Today I was reminded once again that the most inappropriate and disgraceful thing a woman can do is get old and fat.” Especially a female actor.
Of course I don’t personally feel this way. I never liked even the idea of ingenue roles. Never tried out for them. I think that whole experience I had of being in national network TV commercials when I was in my 20s was so unappetizing it sealed my lack of interest in playing the innocent young thing. I am having way more fun being a woman. Embodying an adult, even an elder woman, a timeless woman, a mother.
Theatre that just tries harder and harder to compete with movies, with sexier people and flashy effects, bigger dance numbers, just kills theatre for all of us. It is SUPPOSED to be different from movies. Otherwise, why go? Theatre is less safe, and therefore can be far more exciting, than film, in its own way. The element of chance and the unexpected that happens when performers and an audience create an energy field together creates a complicity that’s lost when you’re watching moving images captured months or years before. We need to keep our eyes on what’s special: theater with imagination and heart, that takes risks, and surprises us by inviting or making us think and feel.
This is why Luminous Thread creates shows that celebrate the spectrum of female experience and a balance of older and younger performers, and we welcome contact from performers of all ages with heart and Presence. Click here to read more on performance and presence.