I read a very interesting article recently written by Lyn Gardner - theatre critic and writer for The Stage - which I shared with you on our Facebook page.
Her piece entitled ‘Theatre glorifies the young when it really needs more late starters’, discusses how many theatres celebrate young people entering the industry and how they are perhaps missing a trick with not giving the more mature actor just coming into theatre the opportunities that they deserve.
I absolutely agree that elevating young people in the arts is important. They are the next generation of our industry after all. But is it not important to highlight and celebrate an actor for their talent regardless of their age?
I believe that there isn’t an age limit for actors. Age is just a number, however with it comes experience. That’s life and work - whether that is in the arts or in any industry sector. For me, this is a major advantage that will enable ‘older’ individuals to add real and artistically exciting elements into their acting, writing or directing.
Plus, theatre audiences are often made up of the older population. They like to see themselves being portrayed and represented on stage, allowing them to relate to the story telling and making their theatre experience a positive one.
Take Sarah Wanendeya as an example. Sarah is a theatre maker and actor, who after many years of being involved in community and fringe theatre, decided to change career and apply for drama school… at the age of 47.
Sarah was involved in our ‘Taking The Stage’ event in September and joined our panel discussing how career paths are affected particularly for older women, and asked the question ‘Are they invisible?’
It was an interesting conversation, which brought up the fact that it’s not unfamiliar that middle aged women are often stereotyped and cast as the frumpy old grandma rather than a mother or even a woman driving the action, which would probably be better suited to their age and experience! But what was a real eye opener for some was to hear that quite often producers will cast younger women in the mother role and dress them to look older! Which to me makes no sense.
Sadly, career paths can diminish for some. However, there are plenty of actors who have found success in later life. I truly think that when you do become older and roles potentially lessen for you, it is down to what you do with that experience and how you could change it for the better.
Sarah has used her experience of being a mother, getting older, the paths she’s been on and those not yet taken, and has written an amazing and interesting play that really represents a huge majority of us in theatre.
It’s entitled ‘Becoming the Invisible Woman’ and was performed at our September event. It’s really refreshing that she brings a play to the stage that looks at a factor affecting so many of us ‘feeling increasingly invisible and irrelevant in a youth-centric society’.
Many people take a different route to theatre and for different reasons may end up following their dream later in life. It’s so important to ensure that we are making the arts diverse and including all the talented people in our great industry. Why put barriers up and shun people who could really make a success, not just for them, but for the industry too? We need to start paving a way for these ‘late starters’ and show everyone that anything is possible whatever age you are.
I say to anyone wanting to get in the arts whatever age you are - just do it!