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The Playwrights Forum > General > Question & Answer > Ageism in professional theatre

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 Posted: Sat Mar 15th, 2008 01:52 am
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gordonb
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Mana: 
I have been advised by a middle-aged playwright, since I'm well over 50, that I should avoid giving my birthdate or age in submitting my work to a producer. So I wonder how many of you have had trouble getting your works produced or published because of your age. Secondly, are there professional theatres that encourage submissions from seasoned older playwrights (without a strong track record), who may be wiser and cleverer than their younger counterparts? Such playwrights may have finished their "magnum opus" late in life but be ignored because they are considered too old to be "promising."

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 Posted: Sat Mar 15th, 2008 02:04 am
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Edd
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Mana: 

What an interesting question, Gordon.  And, by the way, welcome to our forum.

I have no answer to that question, but I'm 63 and it doesn't matter what the answer is--nothing will change and I'll go on the way I'm going on--we all will--and that's life.  This is turning into the best year of my career, so I wouldn't listen to those young scallywags and naysayers.   Damn the torpedoes and remember G.B. Shaw!

~Edd

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 Posted: Sat Mar 15th, 2008 03:18 pm
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katoagogo
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Mana: 
I find that most use the phrase 'emerging-writer' unless they are specifically involved with young writers (usually categorized as writers under 30).

Emerging writers can be of any age bracket.

Most 'emerging writers' that I know are anywhere from 35 to 55. For example, Adam Bock is considered an emerging writer and he is in his late forties.

Emerging generally means tat a person has been writing and getting productions for ten to twenty five years and has finally gotten into a big production house or has been picked up by a major publisher.

That's my take on it.

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 Posted: Sat Mar 15th, 2008 03:32 pm
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katoagogo
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I think that success in the theater is always about defying the odds. Whether the odds are defied due to age (either older or younger), gender, living in New York, living outside New York, what have you.

The presence of an almost impossible task lies before you; from getting a theater to read a play by an unknown writer, to landing a good agent, to getting published by the top publisher, to getting a movie deal.

That's why it's so important to stay focussed on your work and your growth as an artist. Part of that growth is staying involved with the theater life of your community, no matter where you are. Another part is staying informed about what's happening across the nation. A third part is keeping yourself in the mix by reading new plays, finding new playwrights who engage you, and discovering who is producing their work.

If theaters are not taking you seriously, then produce your work yourself. Get a track record going for it. Nothing makes a playwright begin to think in the economical terms necessary for producing theater than having to load there own couch into a theater in order to do their play.

Write some plays knowing that as an unknown your play will be given the last slot with the smallest budget. This means write a play that has three or fewer characters and a single multi-purpose set: a play that can be performed anywhere in any venue during ay time of day or night.

Defy the odds.

--Kato

Last edited on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 03:35 pm by katoagogo

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 Posted: Sat Mar 15th, 2008 04:41 pm
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Basso
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Mana: 
Well said, Kato, and inspiring too.

Edd, I was intrigued why you invoked the name of GBS, and why he might be apropos to us middle-aged folk, and...duh, he lived to be 94, and was a writing machine. One critic suggested this was because of his sexless marriage to Charlotte. A biography on Shaw, by Holroyd suggest: "Shaw's own marriage was a masculine contrivance for the procreation of plays and prefaces. Its distancing of him from some of the human discomforts and interruptions of his previous life was to coat his thought with a layer of inhumanity that the Devil specifically warns us against: 'Beware of the pursuit of the Superhuman: it leads to an indiscriminate contempt for the human.' ''

Not to reduce GBS's motivation solely to lack of sex, or a determination not to have it, but as a man in my 40's, which is when he got married, it seems quite the price. Of course, not having the genius of Shaw may account for my full-functioning libido. LOL

Gordon, I am in the same boat as you, so to speak, in that I feel like I started this rather late, but as I gain momentum in my writing, I find that fear falling away. There are many here that prove a daily inspiration.

Basso

Last edited on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 04:42 pm by Basso

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 Posted: Sat Mar 15th, 2008 05:23 pm
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Edd
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Mana: 
Basso,

GBS didn't write stage plays till he was around forty.  He was born in the mid-1850s and his stage plays begin somewhere in the 1890s.  

~Edd

Last edited on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 06:15 pm by Edd

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 Posted: Sat Mar 15th, 2008 07:08 pm
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shirleyk
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Friends, it's never too late. I started writing plays in my sixties. I'm now 73.

I love the challenge and I feel as if I'm just getting started.

Incidentally this is my best year so far: five productions and six readings in 2008.

Every day I learn something new about making a play work better, about breathing life into my characters and most of all about trying to write plays that matter.

Don't worry about how old you are; just keep on doing your best possible work. Those opportunities will be there.

Shirley

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