Devoted and Disgruntled satellite

Old Actors - How Can We Play Our Part?

March 17, 12:30 – 4pm, National Theatre Studio, London SE1 8LL

Invitation from Tim Preece

Old actors. Old age. The more I think about it the harder I find it to distinguish between the process of being an old actor and the business of being an old person.

I am 78 years old and I’ve been an actor for approaching 60 years. I started in weekly rep, came to London in the sixties, worked in television, film and theatre, had the ups and downs that we all experience, and I would say I’ve had a successful enough career and have been, on the whole, I think, fairly well thought of.  Not only that. I’m still going. Still earning. Occasionally.  All of this is a preamble to my situation now – despite appearances I have lost confidence.

I have lost confidence in my ability to translate the written word of a script into what a person actually says and does (what Marlon Brando called lying).  The catalyst for this loss of confidence is that I’ve begun to find “meetings” (we used to call them “auditions” or “reading for the part”) dispiriting and often humiliating. Trying to prove that I can play the part, trying to illustrate my experience, trying to compete (that’s the crux) all mean that the prospect of a meeting triggers feelings of foreboding and inadequacy.  I expect I’m taking it too seriously, but the knock on effect has been that I feel out of touch with the process, the business of acting.  I don’t think I’m alone.

What I don’t know is whether this is to do with being older. Possibly. Probably. It’s a problem of diminishing returns – I have the greater experience as an actor at my age but have lost confidence in my being an actor. The difficulty isn’t to do with elderly frailty,   uneasy memory, bent back or dodgy feet, though they do have an effect, it’s to do with my view of myself. The view from the bridge.

We have to be old when we’re old, there’s no escape. That’s our role. That’s who we are.  So if we are actors, for instance, we may not find ourselves playing those other, younger people any more, and if we are not actors, well the same is true.

How might I re-engage with the process? With the business?  Well, as my sales pitch becomes worse and I act less so have less diversion, I have more confidently become the non-actor part of myself, so do I even want to continue competing?  I’m not sure.  But I miss it.

What I do know is that I would very much like to know from older actors how they find it – this coming towards an end. How they feel about the boundaries of growing old.  Do they feel out of touch with the business?  Invisible?

Discussion and conversation is very welcome. So I’m inviting you to come to this Open Space conversation event. Whether you are an old actor, young actor, somewhere in the middle, or have no desire to be an actor, even if you are one of those people I have meetings with, if you need stories to be told, if you need theatre, need its mystery and passion, and want to work on ways to enable older actors to better play their part in the business of engaging in all that, come along and give us your ideas, enthusiasm and experience.

More information and tickets

@laura_annelliot Thanks @DandDUK for a thought provoking day & excellent conversation. Leaving buzzing to make things happen that aren’t currently happening

D&D is one of the places I go to learn how to live in the future that I want. – Chris Goode

Improbable have been running Devoted & Disgruntled (D&D) – an ongoing international conversation about theatre and the performing arts – using Open Space, since 2005.

“D&D was born out of frustration. I was frustrated both with theatre and with myself. I knew things could be better in theatre and I also knew the way I responded to that situation could be more creative…and I wanted to do something about it.

D&D events and the community that has developed around them involve people taking responsibility for making better theatre and making theatre better. D&D has become a way to engage with the stuff in the wider theatre world I only knew how to complain about before.” Phelim McDermott (Artistic director)

Open Space Technology (OST) is a format which supports groups to self-organise and collaborate around an area of shared concern or interest. All participants have the chance to propose a starting point for discussion, take part in any of the conversations or flit between them all. It is particularly effective in dealing with complex issues where diverse and conflicting views are present.

Over the last 25 years OST has been used across the world in an incredible range of contexts: to design aeroplane doors, resolve land disputes, address economic, environmental, social, political and artistic issues of every kind. Groups of six and of six hundred have used it with equal success.

The events are liberating because they create an environment of possibility. A place where we are confronted with the refreshing yet challenging realisation that things will only change if we decide to make them. Often this situation can leave us feeling that we have to do everything on our own. However D&D Open Spaces offer immediate access to the people who might support and help us do it. We meet each other outside of our usual roles and conversations happen, not mediated through the usual hierarchical structures, but through our passion.

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