Other Stuff: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

by Lynn on December 25, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

Other Stuff

 What’s Wrong with this Picture?

 Actresses of a certain age, 50 and up, have a hard time finding suitable roles in plays. Men can go on into old age with starring parts but for women, it’s a struggle. Playwright Brad Fraser noted this dearth of parts for older actresses when he was casting for one of his plays. So he decided to write a play to correct this inequity. Five @fifty  (2013) was the result.

(Full disclosure—I was sent an early draft for comment, along with many others, and I offered comments and saw an early reading.)

It’s about five women friends, two of whom are a couple and one of that couple has a severe drinking problem. Three of the friends feel an intervention is needed to urge the alcoholic to get help and her partner to stop enabling the drinking. The writing is sharp, perceptive, layered and the stories of the five women are compelling.

It had its world premiere at the Royal Theatre Exchange, Manchester, England and its North American premiere at the PAL Studio Theatre in Vancouver when Ruby Slippers Theatre, and Zee Zee Theatre (two indie theatre companies) joined forces to produce it, in 2016. Since then, nothing. Not one theatre, of any size, in Toronto has seen the opportunity to produce a play requiring five actresses of ‘a certain age’, and this city is teeming with actresses, of a certain age, itching to act.

Some time ago I suggested the play to Nightwood Theatre thinking the company’s feminist focus would make Five@fifty ideal for programming. I was told that since the playwright was a man Nightwood could not consider it in a season. However, I was also told a co-pro would not be out of the question. While I didn’t make a further suggestion that Buddies in Bad Times Theatre would be a good match with its queer focus, I would have thought a co-pro with them was a no-brainer. Still nothing. And still the lament is heard frequently that there are not enough good parts for actresses of a certain age. What is wrong with this picture!

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1 Elaine Calder December 25, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Earlier this morning I read an interview with Lucy Kirkwood, whose play “The Children” recently opened in NY. Here’s something she said that connects to your question, and makes me wonder how she’d respond to Brad Fraser’s play:
“Writing Rose and Hazel was an attempt to look at the psychology of older women with a kind of depth that they don’t normally get tended to with. We have a lot of illusion of evolution at the moment. The idea that if you just change the gender of a character — if you have a male paradigm and you just slot a female actor into it — that to me is not evolution. You’re still forming the world with male psychology. You’re still saying, This is how the world works.”