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Act Your Age?

Posted on April 15, 2019 | by Linda Albert
Act Your Age?

Have you ever been told to act your age? This was the opening question to the "Acting Your Age: Fighting Ageism Through Drama" presentation at the second annual PechaKucha faculty research event held at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

What is PechaKucha? Originated in Tokyo in 2003, PechaKucha was devised as an event for young designers to meet, network, and showcase their work in public. The presentation style features 20 slides, shown each for 20 seconds while the speaker presents accompanying commentary for the audience. The format makes for presentations that are concise and fast-paced and allows for multi-speaker events of short duration.

The USF program featured six USF and New College professors presenting research topics as diverse as “Think Pink: How Mary Kay Built an Empire on Lipstick” and “Applause to Economics as Mythology.” As Sarasota is a community #ForAllAges, of particular interest, was the presentation by Dr. Valerie Lipscomb whose research addressed the question of how is age portrayed in drama. Comments from the presentation that resonated included:

  • Age is performance and performative in nature and is no more evident than on stage

  • The theater is one modality that reflects and has the power to shape our views of age and aging

  • We all long for an “ageless self,” the notion that we remain essentially the same person over the life course regardless of physical change 

  • Age is the last “ism” to be addressed

  • And, perhaps most importantly, when you diminish any community member, the entire community is diminished
  • Can theater fight ageism?

    Old Enough to Know Better, a Florida Studio Theatre documentary performed in 2015 showcased the real-life experiences of Sarasota community members dealing with ageism daily. Documentary theater is research-informed, however, theater professionals retain creative control. The impact of putting the real words of real people on stage is powerful enough that audience attitudes about age can shift. Notably, Dr. Lipscomb added that ageism impacts women earlier in life, and due to gender life expectancy differences, longer than men.

    As we attend the theater, movies, and other performance events, it is pertinent to think about how age is portrayed on stage as well as in the media, and whether those portrayals are accurate. After all, if we all long for an ageless self, then the characters portrayed as aging or aged should be as diverse as we all are at any given age.


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