As aging populations continue to expand rapidly, generating what Robert N. Butler has called the “longevity revolution,” cultural awareness is growing about the systemic cultural inequities restricting and repressing older people. The expanding field of humanities-based age studies has begun to explore how normative cultural expectations surrounding age (frequently translated into assumptions about how to “act one’s age”) not only pose limits on older people, but also condition perceptions (and prejudices) about all ages across the life course. In comparison to other aspects of identity such as gender, sexuality, race, or ability, age often remains ignored. In the words of age studies pioneer Margaret Morganroth Gullette, age is “entrenched in implicit systems of discrimination without adequate movements of resistance to oppose them” (15). Elinor Fuchs, one of the first scholars to explicitly incorporate an age-studies perspective in theatre research, contends that “the dividing line between youth and age is constantly elusive,” precisely because age, contrary to other markers of identity, is an overtly dynamic category based on two contradictory principles: change and continuity (70).
Scholars working within cultural age studies have started to address age as a point of intersection across many disciplines. However, as Valerie Barnes Lipscomb affirms, “theatre has lagged behind, focusing more on theatre projects with older people than on theorizing age” (193). This special issue seeks to understand theatre’s role in, and potential for, reinforcing and resisting ageism as well as the so-called narrative of decline that favours a negative view of old age (Gullette 2004) . Expanding theatre and performance research to incorporate age-studies perspectives will illuminate the constructedness of age and increase our understanding of the diverse phenomenon of aging and its performative qualities. As Michael Mangan demonstrates in his monograph Staging Ageing: Theatre, Performance and the Narrative of Decline
many of the concerns shared by theatre scholars and artists, including issues of empathy or subjectivity in drama and performance, are inherently involved in perceiving age identity (though such perceptions often remain unconscious).
Foregrounding the intersections of theatre, performance, and cultural age studies, this will be the first journal special issue to focus specifically on the role of age in Canadian theatre and performance. The issue will explore age identities across the life course and investigate ageism and its resistance through questions of temporality, aesthetics, embodiment, difference, language, performance, and performativity.
Article submissions may engage with some of the following questions:
- Following the work of Kathleen Woodward and Anne Davis Basting, how do perfomative renderings of aging and theatrical casting practices help us read the aging body on and off stage?
- How do performances of gender, sexuality, race, and ability intersect with age performance and performativity?
- In what ways do live theatre and performance challenge us to spectate age differently in relation to other cultural forms such as film?
- How are stereotypical representations of aging overcome by the work of contemporary playwrights, theatre companies, directors, or actors?
- What new understandings of age and across life course emerge out of theatre and performance practices?
Submissions of 300-word abstracts should be sent by February 1st 2020, by email to: email@example.com, copied to the TRiC editorial office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TRIC/RTAC is a bilingual journal, and we welcome submissions in both English and French.
For detailed submission guidelines see: https://tricrtac.ca/en/for-authors/.
The issue is scheduled to appear in November 2021.
Basting, Anne Davis. The Stages of Age: Performing Age in Contemporary American Culture. University of Michigan Press, 1998.
Butler, Robert N. The Longevity Revolution: The Benefits and Challenges of Living a Long Life. Public Affairs Press, 2008.
Fuchs, Elinor. “Estragement: Towards an ‘Age Theory’ Theatre Criticism.” Performance Research. Vol. 19, no. 3, 2014, 69-77.
Gullette, Margaret Morganroth. Aged by Culture. The University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Lipscomb, Valerie Barnes. “Age in M. Butterfly: Unquestioned Performance.” Modern Drama, vol. 59, no. 2, 2016, pp. 193-212, Project Muse, doi:10.3138/md.59.2.4.
Mangan, Michael. Staging Ageing: Theatre, Performance and the Narrative of Decline. Intellect, 2013.
Woodward, Kathleen. Aging and Its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions. Indiana University Press, 1991.
Bios of Editors
Benjamin Gillespie is a Ph.D candidate nearing the completion of his degree in theatre and performance at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His dissertation analyzes intersections of aging and queer temporality in the work of the renowned New York-based downtown theatre company, Split Britches. Benjamin is Assistant Editor of PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art and teaches theatre and performance studies at The New School University, Marymount Manhattan College, and Macaulay Honors College in New York City. He co-facilitates the CATR-sponsored working group on Age and Performance with Julia Henderson and is the past recipient of the Robert Lawrence Prize. His articles and reviews have been published in Canadian Theatre Review, Theatre Research in Canada, Theatre Journal, PAJ, Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, and Performance Research, along with a number of edited anthologies.
Julia Henderson is a Post Doctoral Fellow with Concordia University’s Department of Communication Studies and Ageing+Communications+Technologies Project. Julia completed her doctorate in Theatre at the University of British Columbia in 2018. Her dissertation examined representations of aging and old age in contemporary theatre with a focus on ways that plays resist ageist stereotypes and negative age-related narrative tropes. Julia’s Post Doctoral research involves collaborative performance creation with people experiencing dementia or other types of age-related memory loss. She has a background as both a professional actor and an occupational therapist. Her work has been published in The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Theatre Research in Canada, Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Canadian Theatre Review, and is upcoming in the inaugural issue of the Thornton Wilder Journal. Julia’s paper at the Trent Aging 2019 conference won the joint European Network in Aging Studies & the North American Network in Aging Studies emerging scholar award.
Núria Casado-Gual is Associate Professor at the Department of English and Linguistics of the University of Lleida, where she lectures in theatre and literature in English and is currently the Head of Department. As the Principal Investigator of the consolidated research group Grup Dedal-Lit since 2013, she has (co-)led three competitive projects on ageing and literary creativity and has co-edited three volumes of essays devoted to narratives of ageing (2004, 2016, 2019). Her current research, which she disseminates through conference papers and articles published in journals like Ageing & Society or Theatre Research in Canada, includes the interaction between age and theatrical creativity. Núria Casado-Gual complements her academic research with creative projects as a theatre practitioner. Six of her playtexts, originally written in Catalan, have been published to date. The dramatic comedy Prime Time, which premiered at the SIforAGE conference in 2016 and has been performed in several Catalan theatres between 2016 and 2018, is the first one to have been published in English (2018).