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29 May 2006

Older Actors

Finding work can be hard at any age - but for actors it's especially difficult. And for actors over 50, there aren't many opportunities.

SON CHARACTER: Did Mum know that her front door was open?


SON CHARACTER: Doesn't she know how dangerous that is?


SON CHARACTER: Why does she do it then?

DAUGHTER CHARACTER: Her middle name is 'stubborn'.

PETER McCUTCHEON: It's a sight all too rare in Australian theatres, film and TV - mature-aged actors tackling issues affecting their generation.

BOB NEWMAN, ACTOR: Older actors fall off the radar at far too early an age.

LORNA BOL, PLAYWRIGHT: There are mature audience people, and they are not being served terribly well.

LEO WOCKNER, DIRECTOR: Aren't you all happy?

PETER McCUTCHEON: And a group of Brisbane actors is taking up the challenge.

LEO WOCKNER: Netty, on your entry when you come in, make sure you land in the one spot consistently.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Several years ago they formed a collective for older performers, with the ironic title, 'The Forgetting of Wisdom', and this week they're staging their first full-scale production.

LORNA BOL: We decided that rather than just sit there and whinge at each other, we would do something about it.

KAYE STEVENSON, ACTOR: The 'Forgetting of Wisdom', we called ourselves because we do think wisdom is being forgotten and not used.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Bob Newman started actor in Canada in the 1960s and has worked in the theatre in Adelaide and Sydney, as well as Brisbane.

BOB NEWMAN: It's not true that one corridor is just like the other.

PETER McCUTCHEON: For the past few years he's been doing voluntary work at Radio for the Print Handicapped, as paid work became harder to find. How difficult is it finding work as a mature actor in Brisbane?

BOB NEWMAN: Extraordinarily so. Hit 50 and you sort of blur and disappear, it seems and sometimes earlier than that.
I play a son, you can tell because I'm very young, yes. There are two offspring, a son and a daughter, and two other characters who are great mates and who have been since the dawn of time.

LORNA BOL: The play is about, I think ageing today in a way, but it means that you can't categorise old people. You can't put them into slots and say they get to this age so then they become nursing home material, then they become something else.

PETER McCUTCHEON: The central characters are life-long friends. One is suffering from dementia, the other from emphysema. It focuses not just on their problems with ageing, but also on the dilemma facing their baby-boomer children.
As for future projects, the group members say they don't necessarily want to be restricted to themes dealing with ageing.

BOB NEWMAN: The aim of the collective is to give older people work and we will deal with any and all subject matter that comes up that employs older actors and older writers, and older administrators.

PETER McCUTCHEON: But at the very least, they believe they're doing their bit to restore what they see as an imbalance in not only Australian theatre, but in the broader community.

LORNA BOL: The whole world is geared towards youth. It has - suddenly youth is the big thing, it's the big thing with everything. It's young this, young that, young music, young everything and that's fine. They have their place. But I think to ignore the older people who have gained experience, that's the point - experience, as well as talent. And it's being neglected and the people are not being served by not having that theatre.

story notes

all too rare
Rare means uncommon. If something is all too rare, it is far too uncommon. We use the words all toobefore an adjective to emphasise a negative meaning. He uses the phrase all too rare to mean that it would be better if it were more common.


To tackle something means to engage with or deal with it.

Issues refers to subjects or problems that people are thinking about.

their generation
Their generation refers to other older people.

fall off the radar
A radar is used to find the location of objects like planes in the sky. If the planes arenít on the radar, we donít know where they are. To fall off the radar means to fade away so you arenít noticed anymore.

too early an age
they are too young

taking up the challenge
To take up a challenge is to accept a challenge.

Example: I'm going to take up the challenge of learning a foreiogn language.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb take up, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: take up

A collective is a group of individuals who work together. Itís an organisation controlled by the people who run it.

Notice that when you can say 'they are' instead of they're, you always spell the word this way. For more information, follow the link below.
more information: they're their there

full-scale production
Full scale means complete and using everything available. And here a production is a series of performances. Itís a play which theyíll perform a number of times.

Forgotten is the past participle of the irregular verb forget. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: forget

Notice that ageing is spelled with the 'e'. Other words drop the 'e' when 'ing' is added.
more information: spelling ing

comes up
is raised; occurs

Example: This issue comes up regularly.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb come up, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: come up

doing their bit
Someone who is doing their bit is making a contribution or doing their share of the work.

Example: He's doing his bit for the cause.

An imbalance is when things are not equal.

broader community
in the wider community; in general.