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Other story forms of aging : performing aging and old age in contemporary, professional Canadian theatre Henderson, Julia 2018

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OTHER STORY FORMS OF AGING: PERFORMING AGING AND OLD AGE  IN CONTEMPORARY, PROFESSIONAL CANADIAN THEATRE by Julia Henderson  B.Sc.O.T., Queen’s University, 1993 M.Sc.(Rehab), Queen’s University 1995  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES (Theatre)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)   October 2018  © Julia Henderson, 2018    ii The following individuals certify that they have read, and recommend to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for acceptance, the dissertation entitled:  Other Story Forms of Aging: Performing Aging and Old Age in Contemporary, Professional Canadian Theatre   submitted by Julia Henderson in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Theatre   Examining Committee: Dr. Kirsty Johnston, Theatre and Film Supervisor  Dr. Judy Z. Segal, English Supervisory Committee Member  Dr. Valerie Barnes Lipscomb, English,  Supervisory Committee Member Dr. Anne Martin Matthews, Sociology University Examiner Dr. Siyuan Liu, Theatre and Film University Examiner    iii Abstract This dissertation is a critical exploration of aging and old age in contemporary Canadian theatre. It investigates plays produced on professional stages in recent years, asking in what ways they challenge, complicate, and/or offer alternatives to deep-rooted, stereotypical decline stories of aging, as well as denaturalize other ageist narrative tropes, through aspects of their dramaturgy and/or production. Building on the emerging, but still limited, scholarly work at the intersection of theatre studies and humanities age studies, this dissertation contributes four case studies. Each has its own chapter and centres on one or two key plays. The plays address themes of aging and old age, and each contains one or more characters who have aged past midlife. All plays thematically address areas of concern within the field of age studies, such as age performativity, embodiment, age identities, temporalities of aging, aging female sexuality, age-related memory loss, intergenerational relations, and autobiography. Utilizing mixed research methods that vary across chapters, this study employs dramaturgical close reading, detailed performance analysis, reviews of critical press, analysis of archival video, and interviews with the artistic team of one production. Taken together, the case studies illustrate a range of theatrical mechanisms, both dramaturgical and performative, that function to represent age, aging and old age. At times these mechanisms re-entrench ageist belief systems, however, the unifying focus of the chapters, and primary contribution of this dissertation, is that they reveal age-conscious dramaturgies that resist the narrative of decline and other ageist stereotypes. The study’s most important original insights include: a theoretical expansion of Anne Davis Basting’s performative depth model of aging; expansion of Jill Dolan’s theory of utopian performativity as applied to autobiographical performances of aging subjects; and an approach to analysing how characters’ interactions with dramatic space, stage properties, and structures of time influence narratives of generational continuity or rupture and consequently narratives of aging and old age. In summary, the plays studied offer positive interventions that work to shift Canadian social imaginaries away from repressive understandings of aging and old age, and toward more expansive and socially enfranchising meanings.       iv Lay Summary This dissertation explores how aging and old age are represented in contemporary Canadian theatre. It investigates plays produced on professional stages in recent years, asking how they offer alternatives to stereotypical, negative ways of depicting aging and old age. Included are four case studies, each focusing on plays that have themes related to aging and old age, and that contain one or more characters who have aged past midlife. The case studies demonstrate that messages regarding aging and old age are created by a playwright’s decisions about genre, story structure, setting, and characterization. They are also influenced by decisions made about how a play is staged and acted in live performance. While at times these decisions can work inadvertently to reinforce negative stereotypes about aging and old age, this study reveals important ways that certain plays staged professionally in Canada in recent years have worked to re-imagine aging and old age in a more positive light.    v Preface This dissertation is the original, independent work of Julia Henderson with respect to identification and design of the research program, performance of all parts of the research, and analysis of the research data. The research was approved by the UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board, certificate number: H16-000429.  A version of the Chapter 1 section on the decline narrative is part of a published journal article. The author holds the copyright for this article. The citation is as follows: Henderson, Julia. “’I’m an old fucking woman as of today’: Sally Clark’s Dramaturgies of Female Aging.” Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, no. 3, 2016, http://ageculturehumanities.org/WP/preview-issue-3/.  A version of the Chapter 2 section on age performativity is part of a published journal article. The author holds the copyright for this article. The citation is as follows: Henderson, Julia. “’I’m an old fucking woman as of today’: Sally Clark’s Dramaturgies of Female Aging.” Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, no. 3, 2016, http://ageculturehumanities.org/WP/preview-issue-3/.  An article version of Chapter 3 is published in the journal Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal. The author holds the copyright for this article. The citation is as follows: Henderson, Julia. “’I’m an old fucking woman as of today’: Sally Clark’s Dramaturgies of Female Aging.” Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, no. 3, 2016, http://ageculturehumanities.org/WP/preview-issue-3/.   vi An article version of Chapter 4 has been published. All materials are reprinted with the permission of the copyright holder, the University of Toronto, Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. The citation is as follows: Henderson, Julia. "Challenging Age Binaries by Viewing King Lear in Temporal Depth." Theatre Research in Canada/ Recherches Théâtrales au Canada, vol. 37, no. 1, 2016, pp. 42-61.  Some of the ideas in chapter 6 (specifically the concept of “dramaturgy of assistance” and its application to the production Sonic Elder) have been included in an article submitted for publication and currently under review by a peer-reviewed journal.  All images are reprinted with the permission of their photographer or image designer, the theatre company or organization whose production or festival they document, and in the case of Chapter 4, the publisher who originally published the article which they accompanied.    vii Table of Contents  Abstract ......................................................................................................................................... iii Lay Summary ............................................................................................................................... iv Preface ............................................................................................................................................ v Table of Contents ........................................................................................................................ vii List of Figures ............................................................................................................................... xi Acknowledgements ..................................................................................................................... xii Dedication ................................................................................................................................... xvi Chapter 1: Introduction ............................................................................................................... 1 1.1 Methodology ................................................................................................................... 7 1.1.1 Purpose, Research Question, Objectives ................................................................ 7 1.1.2 Scope and Delimitations ....................................................................................... 10 1.1.3 Theoretical Lens of Analysis ................................................................................ 15 1.1.4 Research Methods ................................................................................................. 20 1.2 Significance ................................................................................................................... 21 1.2.1 Social and Cultural Significance ........................................................................... 21 1.2.2 Aesthetic Significance .......................................................................................... 25 1.2.3 Academic Significance ......................................................................................... 27 1.3 Research Project Overview ........................................................................................... 28 Chapter 2: Literature Review .................................................................................................... 34 2.1 Defining Age, Aging, and Old Age .............................................................................. 36 2.2 Age Performativity ........................................................................................................ 41 2.3 History of Perspectives on Aging and Old Age ............................................................ 46   viii 2.4 Theatrical Traditions and Stereotypes of Aging and Old Age ...................................... 52 2.5 Approaches to Studying Aging and Old Age in Drama, Theatre, and Performance .... 62 2.6 Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 74 Chapter 3: “I’m an old fucking woman as of today”: Sally Clark’s Dramaturgies of Female Aging ............................................................................................................................................ 76 3.1 Age Performativity ........................................................................................................ 78 3.2 The Decline Narrative ................................................................................................... 80 3.3 Aging Female Sexuality ................................................................................................ 88 3.4 The Complexity of Overcoming Decline ...................................................................... 90 3.5 Senility, Narrative Instability, Questioning Disease ..................................................... 92 3.6 Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 97 Chapter 4: Challenging Age Binaries by Viewing King Lear In Temporal Depth ............... 99 4.1 Age, Time, and Narrative ............................................................................................ 102 4.2 Age Performativity and Postmodern Time ................................................................. 108 4.3 Performing Age in King Lear: Temporal Depth, The Default Body, and Theatrical Ghosting .................................................................................................................................. 111 4.4 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 126 Chapter 5: Generational Continuity Versus Rupture: A Comparative Analysis of Dramatic Space, Stage Properties, and Structures of Time in August: Osage County by Tracy Letts and 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog ............................................................................................... 128 5.1 Justification for Comparing the Two Plays ................................................................ 133 5.2 Dramatic Space ........................................................................................................... 136 5.2.1 Space in August: Osage County .......................................................................... 138   ix 5.2.2 Space in 4000 Miles ............................................................................................ 147 5.3 Stage Properties .......................................................................................................... 150 5.3.1 Props in August: Osage County .......................................................................... 152 5.3.2 Props in 4000 Miles ............................................................................................ 157 5.4 Structures of Time ....................................................................................................... 159 5.4.1 Time in August: Osage County ........................................................................... 162 5.4.2 Time in 4000 Miles ............................................................................................. 171 5.5 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 176 Chapter 6: Utopian Performativity and Autobiographical Performance: Sonic Elder Offers Hope for Reconfiguring Age Expectations ............................................................................. 180 6.1 Methodology ............................................................................................................... 182 6.2 Utopian Performativity and Autobiography ............................................................... 184 6.3 Performance History ................................................................................................... 190 6.4 The Creation and Development Process ..................................................................... 194 6.4.1 Casting ................................................................................................................ 194 6.4.2 Dramaturgical Approach ..................................................................................... 196 6.4.3 The Venues ......................................................................................................... 198 6.5 Sonic Elder’s Utopian Performativity ......................................................................... 204 6.5.1 The First Moment – Temporal Depth, Body as Archive, Rhetoric of Lyrics ..... 205 6.5.2 The Second Moment – Embodied and Relational Identities, and Dramaturgy of Assistance ........................................................................................................................... 212 6.5.3 The Third Moment –Nostalgic Romanticism, Autobiology, Autotopography, and Shifting Moral Geography .................................................................................................. 219   x 6.6 Obstacles to Utopian Performativity ........................................................................... 227 6.7 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 233 Chapter 7: Conclusion .............................................................................................................. 235 7.1 Significance, Contribution, and Potential Applications .............................................. 246 7.2 Strengths and Limitations ........................................................................................... 248 7.3 Summary ..................................................................................................................... 251 End Notes ................................................................................................................................... 253 Bibliography .............................................................................................................................. 272 Appendix A: Letter of Information and Informed Consent ................................................. 304     xi List of Figures Figure 1: 2015 Vancouver International PuSh Festival Program. Image Design by me&lewis ideas inc. ....................................................................................................................................... 26 Figure 2: Simon Webb performs his own age or “default body” in the opening number of Honest Fishmonger’s King Lear. Photo by Emily Cooper. .................................................................... 114 Figure 3: Webb demonstrating age performativity as he transforms to Lear of “four-score and upward.” Photo by Emily Cooper. .............................................................................................. 115 Figure 4: Webb as Lear (Act IV, scene vi) demonstrates performance of age in “temporal depth.” Photo by Emily Cooper. .............................................................................................................. 117 Figure 5: Webb’s performance of Lear’s old age (Act IV, scene vii) read primarily as a multilayered composite of former selves. (Pictured with Sebastian Kroon, as The Fool.) Photo by Emily Cooper. ............................................................................................................................. 119 Figure 6: Katherine Gauthier’s performance of Cordelia’s youth highlighted her projected future selves. Photo by Emily Cooper. .................................................................................................. 121 Figure 7: Sonic Elder Band, from L to R, Harry Walker, Bill Sample, Joni Moore, Billy Butler, Ron Kosaka, and Buff Allen. Photo by Anita Rochon. .............................................................. 192 Figure 8: Sonic Elder Performers on the Penthouse Stage. Photo by Tom Kosaka. .................. 200 Figure 9: Photos of Famous Performers Line the Penthouse Walls. Photo by Julia Henderson. 201 Figure 10: Sonic Elder Lobby Display Shows Performers at Former Ages. Photo by Julia Henderson. .................................................................................................................................. 202 Figure 11: Sonic Elder Lobby Display with Current Photos of Performers. Photo by Julia Henderson. .................................................................................................................................. 202 Figure 12: Sonic Elder Stage. Photo by Anita Rochon. .............................................................. 204   xii Acknowledgements  My deepest gratitude goes to my thesis advisory committee. First to my supervisor, Dr. Kirsty Johnston, whose kindness, dedication, generosity, patience, and brilliance know no bounds. Through a difficult stretch of my life, her support has been unceasing and indispensable. Thanks, too, to my other committee members Dr. Valerie Barnes Lipscomb and Dr. Judy Segal who inspire me. I won the thesis advisory committee jackpot. These three women have challenged and energized me through their published research, their live presentations and teaching, and their thoughtful feedback, critique, and editorial advice of my work. They have been abundantly generous in providing me with opportunities to develop as a scholar including research assistant work, chances to speak about my research, teaching opportunities, and introductions to other key scholars in the field. If I end up being like them as a scholar or a person, I will be proud.  Thank you to my external examiner, Dr. Elinor Fuchs. Thank you too to my UBC examiners, Dr. Anne Martin-Matthews and Dr. Siyuan Liu, as well as my defense chair, Dr. Patricia Badir. Their time, interest, and thoughtful feedback are extremely valuable to me and very much appreciated.  The UBC Department of Theatre and Film has been a wonderful environment in which to pursue a PhD.  The department has provided me with engaging course work, teaching opportunities, financial support, chances to present my research, opportunities to plan conferences and symposia, departmental committee experiences, office space and other resources, and a warm, enthusiastic environment. In addition to Dr. Kirsty Johnston, I would like to thank Dr. Jerry   xiii Wasserman, Dr. Stephen Liu, and Professor Stephen Heatley, all of whom taught me courses and held leadership positions in which they supported and championed me. Thanks too to Dr. Hallie Marshall, and her husband Dr. Toph Marshall, who are not only my UBC colleagues, but also my neighbours. I deeply appreciate their generous advice and encouragement, as well as their son who babysits! I am also thankful for the support of the entire administrative team within the Department of Theatre and Film. It has helped to make my experience a positive one.  My gratitude extends to Vancouver director Dr. Tom Kerr whose Mentor’s Project inspired my research, and who also gave me my first professional theatre job in Vancouver. His assistance with scholarship applications was invaluable. I am also thankful to the artistic directors, directors and theatre companies who allowed me to research their productions: Kevin Bennett and Honest Fishmongers Equity Coop, and Anita Rochon and Christie Watson and The Chop Theatre.   I thank my colleagues and mentors in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy (OSOT) at UBC who strongly encouraged me to pursue a PhD. Especially, I would like to thank Dr. Catherine Backman, Dr. Susan Forwell, Dr. Melinda Suto, and Professor Susan Stanton, all of whom gave me valuable experience in academia by employing me. They also allowed me the flexibility to take pre-requisite courses while working in the OSOT department and wrote letters of support and recommendation that helped me be accepted into the PhD program and secure scholarships.    xiv Many thanks to Dr. Cynthia Port, Dr. Aagje Swinnen, and Dr. Marlis Schweitzer whose editorial support and encouragement was indispensable in the publication of versions of Chapters 3 and 4 of this dissertation.   As for my fellow graduate students, first I would like to thank Dr. Selena Couture, Dr. Patricia (Trish) Hews Everett-Kabut, Dr. Lindsay Lachance, and Dr. Alex Ferguson who paved the way by completing their dissertations before me. Having the opportunity to attend their defences before my own was indispensable. Their written dissertations have also been excellent resources. To my closest supports and dream team, Kelsey Blaire, Katrina Dunn, Claire Carolan, and Sandra Chamberlain-Snider—with whom I have planned conferences, published, presented, shared writing for feedback, roomed, enjoyed meals, laughed, cried, and cursed—thank you for being the most excellent colleagues and friends a grad student could ask for. Thanks to my office mate Eury Chang for sharing space, knowledge, and snacks. I am also grateful to fellow graduate students who acted as my teaching assistants: Claire Fogal, Rui Zhang, and Olga Özkaya. Their work made it much easier for me to continue my research while teaching courses. Finally, I would like to thank other graduate students who, throughout my program, along with those listed above, have provided me with inspiration, resources, knowledge, entertainment, and enthusiasm. These include Jocelyn Pitsch, Colleen Lanki, Becky Gold, Anna Holman, Marios Kallos, Martha Herrera-Lasso Gonzalez, and Seth Soulstein.  This endeavor would have been impossible without the support of my family and friends. Thanks to my parents for providing me with the environment and opportunities to be successful and interested in continuing education. Because of them I learned to be curious, dedicated, focused,   xv and creative. To my husbands’ parents, both of whom passed away during the process of my completing this degree, I will be forever grateful for their constant and generous interest, encouragement, and financial support. Thank you to my closest girlfriends Michelle Harrison, Kathryn Kirkpatrick, France Perras, Lisa Stewart, as well as my sister, Chrissy Henderson—for years now their friendships have nurtured me, buoyed me up, and made me feel loved. I would especially like to thank my best friend, Dena Bloomenthal, who kept me company on an almost-daily basis through messages during the long, lonely stretches of writing. Without her encouragement, love, humour, and ongoing support I am not sure how I would have navigated this journey. Thanks to my children, Omar and Hart, for their patience and flexibility with my busy work schedule and the demands of completing a doctorate. They are the ones who give it all meaning. Finally, beyond anyone else, from the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank my husband, Adam, for his ongoing, ever-present interest, support, encouragement and sacrifice. All of my greatest accomplishments have been achieved together with him. I could not ask for a better person to be by my side.  This dissertation was completed with the financial support from the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Pre-Doctoral Scholarship, a UBC Four Year Fellowship, the William Rea Fellowship in Television, the Errol Durbach Graduate Scholarship in Theatre, and the Bill Millerd Award in Theatre. It would have been impossible to complete this dissertation without this financial support and I am deeply grateful to these organizations for the opportunities they have made available to me.    xvi Dedication  For Adam, Omar, and Hart, who sacrificed the most for me to do this.     1 Chapter 1: Introduction  Theatre and performance have long played a pivotal role in the cultural construction of age, offering narratives of aging and older-aged characters on stages from antiquity to present. Consider, for example, such enduring Western dramas as Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, Shakespeare’s King Lear, Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, Shaw’s Back to Methuselah, Beckett’s Endgame and Albee’s Three Tall Women. Contemplate, too, the theatrical and performance traditions surrounding the portrayal of aged characters including the following: the gatekeepers, nurses, and bawds of Attic Old Comedy; the senex amans and iratus characters originating in Greek New Comedy and Roman Comedy; the female senex popularized by Restoration Comedy; the idealized elderly pastoral figures in various theatrical forms including Shakespeare’s plays, and the elderly tricksters (such as witches, wizards, mischievous schemers, and wise old crones) that persist today in dramatized folk and fairy tales. As I will reflect upon further in Chapter Two, these stereotypes of aging and old age have recurred in various forms of theatre for centuries. Over time theatre has shaped cultural expectations about aging and old age through choices about plot, characterization, theme, style, casting, and embodiment. Dramatic and theatrical traditions continue to find their way onto contemporary stages and help to imagine, construct and reflect how aging and old age are understood and experienced in Western cultures, and more specifically for my study here, in the English language Canadian professional theatre context. In this dissertation, I connect with the broader scholarly literature concerning representations of what it means to age and be old, and I interrogate a range of choices in playwriting and production that build particular cultural understandings of aging and old age.    2  Prominent age critic Margaret Morganroth Gullette, in her 2004 monograph Aged by Culture, provocatively claims that “[. . . ] we are aged more by culture than by chromosomes” (101). Similarly, in Learning to be Old: Gender, Culture, and Aging, feminist and age studies scholar Margaret Cruikshank speaks to the constructed nature of aging, arguing that “[a]ging is a process socially constructed as a problem. Public discussion of aging in America [and I would add Canada] [are] narrowly focused on politics and economics, while a wide range of other relevant topics is ignored” (7). Cruikshank, Gullette and other theorists in the field maintain that culture has a profound influence on defining the meanings of and establishing the expectations and possibilities for aging and old age. In Declining to Decline Gullette writes “[e]verything we know of as culture in the broadest sense—discourses, feelings, practices, institutions, material conditions—is saturated with concepts of age and aging” (3). The fact that cultural influences remain largely under-examined means that messages about aging often remain invisible or are promoted through acritical cultural discourses. As a professional actor who works with and knows many senior actors, directors, designers, and theatre administrators; as a former occupational therapist who worked largely with populations of people over the age of 65; and as a daughter, granddaughter, and daughter-in-law of relatives who have aged past midlife, I have been long frustrated that older characters in plays are frequently much less complex than the engaging elders in my own life. I have witnessed many contemporary professional theatre narratives that have reinforced negative stories and failed to resonate with the interesting and varied experiences of my colleagues, acquaintances, clients, friends and family members. I have also felt a disjuncture between performances of inspirational exceptionality, and what most people can relate to in terms of their own experience of aging.i According to Gullette “It matters whether a given society [. . .] permits dense, interesting, encouraging narratives about aging, and   3 for how long in the life course, and whether those ideas are dominant or merely subordinate or resistant” (Aged by Culture 11). This dissertation is an examination of ways that contemporary theatre can challenge, influence, and potentially change problematic cultural narratives about aging and old age—from those that are negative, derogatory, or singular in their focus on decline, to those that simplistically suggest that remaining youth-like in appearance, behaviour and/or values is the only means of aging “successfully.”ii How might theatre instead offer new narratives about aging and old age that resonate with lived experience and are socially enfranchising? Exploring salient examples from plays produced in the Anglo Canadian professional theatre context, I try to answer this question. Prominent age and theatre studies scholar, Valerie Barnes Lipscomb, observes that, while cultural awareness of aging is growing in North American and European contexts, and popular media are beginning to address issues of aging, old age, and ageism, unexpectedly, scholarship has not kept pace with recent public attention to the conventions of performing age (Performing Age in Modern Drama 1). Further, she argues, “While other branches of the arts and humanities have begun a critical exploration of what it means to age in our culture, theatre has lagged behind, focusing more on theatre projects with older people than on theorizing age onstage and in dramatic texts” (Lipscomb “Age in M.” 193). She underlines the need for increased scholarship investigating how plays reveal and illuminate cultural constructions of age, aging, and old age (Performing Age in M.D. 3).  Such cultural constructions can be examined by investigating age narratives in theatre. “The meanings of age and aging,” argues Gullette, “are conveyed in large part through the moral and psychological implications of the narrative ideas we have been inserting into our heads, starting when we were very young indeed” (Aged by Culture 11). In The Becoming of Age:   4 Cinematic Visions of Mind, Body and Identity in Later Life, film and age studies scholar, Pamela H. Gravagne, describes how narratives form: “Over time, these shared meanings and ways of being can congeal into systems of knowledge that not only structure our thoughts, emotions, and actions, but provide the context within which we build our theoretical, political, and institutional life” (17). According to Gravagne, “the most appealing and tenacious stories often become myth-like narratives” (18). These narratives have important functions which are outlined by Jan Baars, Professor of Interpretive Gerontology, in “A Triple Temporality of Aging: Chronological Measurement, Personal Experience, and Narrative Articulation.” Baars, an expert in social and philosophical approaches to aging, asserts, “Narratives do not constitute only periods of lives and (aspects of) the identity of a person or a life; stories that are shared in a life world also constitute the cultural codes that shape collective processes and their experiences” (35). According to Baars, traditional narratives play an important role in the transmission of cultural motives and ideals and embody a form of practical intelligence by providing warnings or wisdom. Narratives lay out possibilities and present challenges to reinterpret meaning. In a sense they function as “reconfigurations of life” (“A Triple Temporality” 36). Strikingly, Gravagne argues that, “Nowhere is the power of narrative to shape our lives or the power of our lives to resist narrative more obvious than in old age” (20). Western culture’s most pervasive master narrative, first theorized in depth by Gullette in Aged by Culture, is the narrative of decline (130).iii Taking up this idea in relation to his analysis of theatre, Michael Mangan describes decline as “that invisible but dominant cultural ‘message’ which encourages men and women to experience and articulate growing older essentially in terms of loss, isolation, and diminished physical mental and material resources” (8). Decline stories serves to belittle, simplify, stigmatize, exclude, dehumanize, or otherwise limit the   5 possibilities for understanding old age. According to Gullette, the decline narrative makes people “minor defective characters in someone else’s story,” rather than protagonists of their own lives (Ending Ageism, xv). This pervasive narrative, Gullette contends, is one of the principal forces advancing ageism and has become “to the twenty-first century what sexism, homophobia, and ableism were earlier in the twentieth – entrenched and implicit systems of discrimination, without adequate movements of resistance to oppose them” (Agewise 15). In her award-winning essay on age-effects in new British theatre, Bridie Moore specifies that writers, artists, performers, and photographers construct age through “social, mediatized, and/or representative acts,” and that “such representations exert a powerful influence on the ways subjects might conceptualize and consequently perform their age or aging” (par. 1).iv Therefore, critically analyzing such representations is key to understanding the slippery and often surreptitious nature of cultural age narratives. As Gravagne demonstrates in her chapter “Masculinities and the Narrative of Decline,” it is useful to examine “how successful a character’s attempts [are] to challenge, escape from, or subvert the ability of the narrative of decline to define his [or her] life” (37).  I seek to undertake precisely these kinds of examinations here with particular attention to contemporary Canadian professional theatre. My work builds from and contributes to an emerging body of scholarly work at the intersection of age studies and theatre studies that primarily began in the late 1990s with Anne Davis Basting’s research. Basting, a playwright and scholar, published the first monograph on the interconnections between performance and aging in American Theatre, The Stages of Age: Performing Age in Contemporary American Culture. While currently the field offers much compelling work, a great deal remains to be explored in terms of how aging and old age have been expressed in Western drama over time.    6 There have been a number of rich studies considering representations of aging, old age, and their association with decline in the plays of particular historical playwrights, time periods, or theatrical genres.v To date, however, the most comprehensive (but still partial) analysis of the history of the decline narrative in theatre can be found in Michael Mangan’s 2013 monograph, Staging Ageing: Theatre, Performance and the Narrative of Decline. Mangan notes, “One of the ways ageism is articulated and perpetuated is through stereotypes; and theatre and performance has [sic] always made extensive use of stereotypes and stock characters” (23). As I outline further in Chapter 2, Mangan tracks historical variations of the senex (or stock figure of the old man) and its associated negative stereotypes from its origins in Greek New Comedy and Roman Comedy through to its transformation into the trickster character that still appears (as both aged male and female variants) in contemporary drama and British television sitcom, noting that such caricatures and stereotypes continue to “have an important bearing on the master narrative of decline” in contemporary performance culture (23). While Mangan connects these character types over time, he cautions about our tendency to generalize: “In the past, as in the present, the elderly are seen in a wide variety of ways and are the subject of a wide range of attitudes, beliefs and opinions” (31). Mangan is wisely attentive to diverse approaches and understandings of the elderly over time in theatre. He nonetheless emphasizes the prominent role of the decline narrative in shaping Western theatrical representation of aging and old age for centuries. His assertion of the authority of decline in Western theatre lends support to the relevance of my research. Although the forces in support of the status quo are many, Gullette argues that there are myriad imaginative possibilities that could provide alternatives, in society generally, or in theatre specifically, especially if audiences explicitly critiqued age ideology and demanded more care   7 (Aged by Culture 11). Conscious cultural intervention is necessary in order to rein in the decline narrative, and search for other stories, meanings, and ways of telling. Gullette calls for us “to go hunting for other story forms of aging” – to replace decline’s authoritative, but “flawed and injurious ideology” (Aged by Culture 13). I aim, through this thesis, to respond to Gullette’s call. I have researched and selected plays that offer resistance to decline and other age stereotypes through either their dramaturgy, or through choices made in the process of their production, staging, and/or performance. I also analyse plays that speak to major topics of relevance in the field of age studies: age performativity, embodiment and aging, temporalities of aging, aging female sexuality, age-related memory loss, intergenerational relations, and autobiography. In these ways, and centring on theatre as an important site for cultural exchange, I aim to add to the growing scholarship seeking to unsettle ageist stereotypes and expand critical discourse.  1.1 Methodology 1.1.1 Purpose, Research Question, Objectives  Like other cultural media, theatre cultivates and shapes Canadian perceptions, attitudes, expectations, and experiences of aging and old age. Theatre’s influence on Canadian cultural imaginaries of aging rests not only on plays written by Canadian playwrights, but also on prominent plays written by playwrights of other nationalities and staged in Canada. Of these, American plays in particular, frequently are produced on Canadian stages. Mangan highlights theatre’s particular cultural importance owing to it reliance on live embodiment and use of sign systems:    8 Indeed, theatre is more inextricably bound up with age ideology than is the case with most art forms. The primary medium of theatrical performance, after all, is the human body. And the human body is always of a specific age – whether that be old or young. The specificity of that age becomes part of the meaning of the theatrical experience as a whole. Moreover, the master narrative of decline may find that the fictions of theatrical performance offer it a particularly convivial home for other reasons. Theatre is, among other things, a sign system which necessarily refers to other sign systems. In particular, it draws on and quotes the signifiers, codes and modalities of everyday life. If the master narrative of decline is indeed, as Gullette suggests, ‘omnipresent’ in the discourses which dominate our lives, then it is to be expected that it will find frequent expression in plays and performances. (Mangan 8-9)  Mangan goes on to argue that theatre not only reinforces the “contradictions and complexities of the ideologies of culture,” but also has the power to play with, question, and contradict them (9). The purpose of this study, then, is to increase understanding of the ways that Canadian professional theatre can both trouble and reframe cultural age narratives. I seek to uncover and analyse select English language plays produced professionally in Canada in recent years to discover the ways in which they challenge negative, decline-focused narratives of aging and old age, as well as how they denaturalize old-age stereotypes such as problematic inspirational images of aging, negative attitudes toward aging sexuality, and uncritical constructions of age-related wisdom. Following Basting’s approach in The Stages of Age, I have sought out and chosen plays and performances that represent “a range of performance styles and outlooks on aging” (20), but always with a perspective that resists ageism. The plays and productions that I   9 discuss serve as examples of theatre that incorporates age-awareness. To this end, I pursue the following central research question: In what ways do five Western plays produced professionally in Canada in recent years challenge, complicate, or offer alternatives to the stereotypical or simplistic decline story of aging, as well as denaturalize other stereotypes and negative narrative tropes concerning aging and old age, through aspects of their dramaturgy and/or production? I have been particularly concerned with the contemporary Canadian professional theatre context as it is the theatrical environment by which I have been most affected as an audience member, artist, and theatre scholar. By professional theatre I mean theatre that is explicitly commercial, marketed to the general public, and responsible for paying its creators and performers.   My central research question can be broken down into four specific objectives, each of which has allowed me to consider theatre’s role in the cultural work of constructing meanings for aging and old age. First, I aim to articulate some of the primary cultural messages at the intersection of aging, old age, gender, memory, intergenerational relations and other forms of relationality embedded in contemporary drama and theatrical performance with themes explicitly related to aging and old age. Second, I seek to describe ways in which theatrical productions illuminate understandings and create meanings of aging and old age through choices related to direction (e.g. casting, staging, style), design (e.g. scenography, costuming, soundscape, stage properties), and marketing (e.g. images, rhetoric, audience). Third, I aim to demonstrate how a play’s dramaturgy can be mobilized to shift the meaning of aging and old age and thereby alleviate negative cultural attitudes and stereotypes about the experience of aging and being old. My fourth and final objective is to illustrate how embodied performances of age inform our understanding of age performativity, and also how they influence age narratives in both canonical scripts and original works.    10 1.1.2 Scope and Delimitations In this study I have consciously chosen to seek out alternatives to the simplistic narrative of aging as decline as well as other stereotypes of aging and old age. I acknowledge that some degree of physical and mental decline is an inevitable part of most people’s aging experience, and that by excluding decline narratives (or at least traditional straight-forward decline narratives) I am disregarding stories that would resonate with some people as true to their experiences. However, much of the academic work in age studies and cultural gerontology investigates and critiques the forces, structures, processes, strategies, and representations that reinforce ageist stereotypes and decline narratives. As noted above, this study is a response to Gullette’s call to seek out and critically analyse alternatives to the decline story of aging (Aged by Culture 13).  The scope of this study is limited to Western English-language drama and, in all but one case, to plays that have been produced professionally in Canada since 2000, and has been produced by university and high school theatre programs and groups since 2000. The outlier, Sally Clark’s Moo (first produced in 1988), was produced professionally in Canada prior to 2000. Since it has been anthologized, and produced and taught at Canadian post-secondary institutions, I include it because of its cultural reach and relevance to the other Clark play that I analyse here, Ten Ways to Abuse an Old Woman (first produced in 1983).  Recognizing that there are many potentially competing variations within Western and more specifically Canadian culture, in this study I approach mainstream, professional theatre, primarily because I am interested in theatre that reaches a wide audience, but also because my experience in professional theatre prompted my interest. In focusing on this context, I do not wish to undervalue community-based theatre, a sector in which initiatives like senior actor   11 training (for example, Toronto’s Act II Studiovi) and senior theatre companies (such as Edmonton’s GeriActors and Friendsvii) have been gaining momentum and challenging audiences in critically and artistically important ways. I recognize that high quality, progressive, and sometimes radical work is developed and performed by non-professional theatre companies. Both Basting (The Stages of Age 24-133) and Lipscomb (Performing Age in M.D. 157-181) analyse performances by amateur senior theatre companies, highlighting elements of transformative promise within their productions. I also recognize the value of theatre as a therapeutic activity (e.g. drama therapy), and as a tool in educational contexts related to aging; however, these, too, fall outside my area of research here. For the purpose of this study, I confine my analysis to professional theatre productions that have sought to reach general public audiences and, in so doing, have had relatively far-reaching influence on Canadian social imaginaries of age, aging, and old age. I choose to address the Canadian context, first, because to date there have been no extended and broadly comparative studies of representations of aging in Canadian theatre generally, or in Canadian professional theatre more specifically. Writer, director, and arts-based researcher in health, Julia Gray, with her collaborators, created and studied the Canadian research-informed theatre production Cracked: New Light on Dementia, first performed in 2014 (Dupuis et al.; Gray).viii This piece was performed in multiple locations by professional actors and has plans for further touring (University of Waterloo). Gray’s 2016 University of Toronto dissertation, entitled An Aesthetic of Relationality: Exploring the Intersection of Embodiment, Imagination and Foolishness in Research-Informed Theatre, uses this play as a case study to theorize the creation of a research-informed theatre piece by critically exploring the artist-  12 researchers’ creation process. Her work is more concerned with approaches to the play’s development than the narratives of aging and old age contained within the final production.  A few other literary and age studies scholars have addressed representations of aging and old age in professional Canadian theatre. Ulla Kriebernegg, in her article, “Putting Age into Place: John Mighton's Half Life and Joan Barefoot's Exit Lines,” published in 2015 in Age, Culture, Humanities, analyzes Canadian professional playwright Mighton’s 2005 play, along with Barefoot’s 2008 novel. Kriebernegg considers cultural constructions of old age promoted through these two contemporary Canadian care home narratives. She argues that the older characters in Half Life defy outmoded social expectations of passive senescence and reject cultural stereotypes of what it means to be old and living in a caregiving facility. The play serves, Kriebernegg asserts, “to widen the focus to the whole person and consequently invite diverse readings that include questions of identity and the life course as well as of inter- and intragenerational relationships” (n.p.), rather than focusing solely on the aging body. In the concluding chapter of her 2017 monograph Forgotten: Narratives of Age-Related Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in Canada, Marlene Goldman also analyzes Half Life, arguing that “[i]n Half Life, the threat of late-onset dementia highlights the shift from religious, elegiac modes of consolation to the Gothic” (331). Goldman contends that the play “[i]nterrogates our construction of and investment in personal, familial, and national memory” (331), and “bides us to confront and accept our interruption and decay as integral to our humanity, and to risk ourselves in this emptiness” (335).  Further, literary, theatre, and age studies scholar, Núria Casado-Gual, published an article on the entire oeuvre of Canadian professional playwright Joanna McClelland Glass in the 2015 Spring issue of Theatre Research in Canada. In this article titled “Ambivalent Pathways of   13 Progress and Decline: The Representation of Aging and Old Age in Joanna McClelland Glass's Drama,” Casado-Gual argues that Glass’s composite characterizations, plot structures, and temporal frameworks create truthful and dignified portrayals of aging and old age. The above-mentioned are the only research publications that I have uncovered, besides my own (Henderson  “Challenging Age Binaries”; “I’m an Old Fucking Woman”), that study representations of aging and old age in plays produced professionally in Canada. My work is distinct in that it addresses a range of plays, playwrights, performances and Canadian professional theatrical contexts.  I include only plays written in English because it is my first language and as such I am able to achieve a greater depth of analysis. I recognize that plays such as Antonine Maillet’s La Sagouine and Michel Tremblay’s Les belles-soeurs and Albertine, en cinq temps have had a strong influence on both anglophone and francophone Canadian culture and I look forward to exploring representations of aging in such works in future as I begin my longer-range research program. Here, however, I focus primarily on plays produced professionally in Canada in recent years because I am most interested in the choices and impacts of current theatrical narratives about aging and old age. Because the decline narrative of aging has been prominent in the last several centuries, it is most likely that alternatives will be uncovered in contemporary plays or productions as a reflection of changing values. Since I am located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the choice to include only plays produced in Canada also has facilitated my ability to attend certain productions and follow the critical press surrounding them.  It is important to note that, while I focus on the Canadian theatre production context, the produced plays I have selected include not only plays authored by Canadian playwrights, but also British and American. This is because plays from a variety of sources are produced professionally in Canada, as well as discussed in the media, and therefore influence Canadian   14 social imaginaries of aging. As such, I include two contemporary award-winning, widely produced American plays (August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, and 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog).ix In terms of playwrights, three of the plays under study were written by contemporary female playwrights (Sally Clark and Amy Herzog), one was written by a contemporary male playwright (Tracy Letts), one by a historical male playwright (William Shakespeare), and one play was a collaborative creation. Collaborators for this play included one female performer (Joni Moore), six male performers (Buff Allen, Billy Butler, Carlos Joe Costa, Joe Kosaka, Bill Sample, and Harry Walker), a male director (Christie Watson) and a female dramaturg (Anita Rochon). While I sought to represent both male and female playwrights (since female playwrights are underrepresented in Western professional theatre), it is beyond the scope of this study to compare representations of aging and old age based on the gender of the author. It is also beyond the scope of this study to consider the age of the playwright when writing the script. This type of analysis is particular to the research focus often called “late style.” This is an area of study that posits there is a connection between an artist’s age (or place in the life course) and the way that age is constructed and reflected in that artist’s work. A more expansive discussion of late style is included in Chapter 2. My interest in this study is with the messages about age that plays convey to their audience; I am less concerned with what they reflect about their author. While at various points throughout my dissertation I consider differences in gendered performances of age, and I address the intersections of age and heteronormative female sexuality specifically, as well as age and ability (in terms of representations of memory), it is beyond the scope of this study to explore in depth the intersection of age with other identity categories such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, and class. Because representations of age in theatre are underexplored, there is a limit to the amount of new territory my work can chart. However, I   15 recognize that all of the above limitations point to critical areas in need of exploration and theoretical development, both in my own future research, and in the field of age studies as a whole.   1.1.3 Theoretical Lens of Analysis This thesis draws upon two scholarly streams to build its questions and methodological approaches. It integrates and superimposes theatre and performance studies theories with critical age studies theories to analyse narratives and performances of aging and old age in select play scripts and theatrical performances. From a theatre studies perspective I draw on semiotic and phenomenological approaches to inform my analyses. For example, I explore the visual and auditory markers of age, aging, and old age such as the physical presence of the actor’s body, movement, gesture, vocal quality and use, costuming, etc. I build from semiotic theory to consider how these fit with cultural codes and conventions. Through semiotic analysis, I also seek to understand stage properties as signs that convey messages about age and intergenerationality. A phenomenological approach best represents my considerations of age performativity, utopian performativity, embodied selfhood, and autobiographical performance. I also employ cultural materialist and rhetorical strategies to analyse dramaturgical choices, as well as critical press and theatrical publicity.  In order to consider a play’s dramaturgy, I am most guided by the theoretical perspectives of Ric Knowles in his 1999 book The Theatre of Form and the Production of Meaning: Contemporary Canadian Dramaturgies, in which he writes about traditional and alternative approaches to dramatic structure in Canadian plays. I am also strongly influenced by the work of Elinor Fuchs, especially her essay on dramaturgy titled, “EF’s Visit to a Small Planet: Some   16 Questions to Ask a Play.” The set of questions she asks of plays in this introductory and highly influential article aims to avoid the all too frequent over-focus on character and normative psychology in dramatic criticism (5). This text is important to me as a reference point as I try to write about theatre in a way that is accessible to other disciplines within age studies.  The theoretical insights of Fuchs’ and her co-editor Una Chaudhuri regarding “landscape dramaturgy,” in their 2002 collection Land/Scape/Theater, also inform my analyses of dramatic space (1-50). Further, my considerations of spaces of performance follow the theoretical viewpoints of Marvin Carlson in his 2003 monograph The Haunted Stage: Theatre as Memory Machine, especially his consideration of the “haunted house” (131-64), and of Deirdre Heddon in her 2008 book Autobiography and Performance, especially her reflections regarding “autotopography” (89-102). My investigations of absences in plays are guided by Andrew Sofer’s concept of “dark matter” in his 2013 book, Dark Matter: Invisibility in Drama, Theater, and Performance. In addition, I adopt Sofer’s approach to considering stage properties in his 2003 monograph, The Stage Life of Props. Guided by the production analysis methods of Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, which they outline in their 1985 book Producible Interpretation: Eight English Plays, 1675-1707 (10), Sofer focuses on the text (rather than a specific performance) in order to imagine the range of meanings props might have within a play, and at the same time maintains an eye for how props function within the theatrical event.  To understand critical structures of time in plays, I draw on Matthew D. Wagner’s 2012 monograph Shakespeare, Theatre, and Time in which he employs the analytical trilogy of temporal dissonance, temporal thickness, and temporal materiality (2). My analysis of time and age is also informed by Basting whose research, like mine, falls at the intersection of age studies and theatre studies. I employ her “performative depth model of age” to consider ways of viewing   17 performances of aging that take into consideration “the body’s performance of time in/across the life course” (The Stages of Age 145). Her model productively insists that there can be a post-modern poetics of the aging body that still considers its temporal component (The Stages of Age 140-146).  A number of theories help me think about audience responses to theatrical productions. I engage Jill Dolan’s theory of utopian performativity (“Performance, Utopia”; Utopia) to consider audience-performer intersubjectivity and to highlight affectively salient moments that transgress dominant age ideologies and open up new utopian potentials. I also draw on Erin Hurley’s writing on theatre and affect (such as her 2010 book Theatre and Feeling) to justify the importance of such feelings to theatrical analysis. Marvin Carlson’s theory of theatrical ghosting (the main premise woven through all chapters of The Haunted Stage) informs my understandings of how memory and recycling function for audiences in the plays that I study. Several important theorists have examined autobiographical theatre in ways that I have found instructive for my research. My approach is guided by Susan Bennett, Heddon, Knowles (“Documemory”), and Jenn Stephenson (Performing Autobiography;  “‘Please Look’”). Bennett and Knowles place emphasis on the role of live embodiment in autobiographical performance. Knowles more specifically applies Dolan’s utopian performative to autobiographical performance and takes interest in bodies that are “physically and discursively ‘marked’” (“Documemory” 57). Heddon’s writing on autobiography and place, including her concept of autotopography, has advised my consideration of the co-construction of place and self in autobiographical performance. Both Heddon and Stephenson most strongly have informed my analyses of ethical issues in live autobiographical performance.    18 Drawing on the rich field of interdisciplinary research in humanities age studies, I have also been guided by age theory. In their introductory editorial to the 2012 issue of The International Journal of Ageing and Later Life, titled “Aging, Narrative, and Performance: Essays from the Humanities,” Aagje Swinnen and Cynthia Port describe four age studies perspectives on theorizing age, all of which I adopt in this dissertation. The first perspective identifies age as being shaped by culture. Cultural age “understands age not only as a biological function, nor simply as a calendar mark, but also as an accumulation of all the meanings various cultural contexts ascribed to categories of age across different historical periods” (12). Their approach therefore considers how age intersects with other identity categories such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, class, and ability (12). At the core of my research I consider theatre a cultural product that contributes to shaping social imaginaries of age, aging, and old age. As I noted above, while I do not do so exhaustively, I adopt their approach to explore how age intersects with gender, sexuality and ability in some of the plays I analyse.  The second age theory perspective thinks about age as narrative. This perspective “starts from the metaphor of life as story and refers to the way age identities are constituted in and through narratives” (Swinnen and Port 12). This approach is a strong component of my research as I consider narratives of age in theatrical plots and performances. It guides my thinking about how both themes and dramatic structures influence understandings of aging and old age.  The third age theory perspective considers age to be performative. Considering the performativity of age “helps define aging as a development through time, negotiating between personal circumstances and aspirations, and the expectations of the master narratives in which we are inscribed” (Swinnen and Port 12). I include a discussion of age performativity in Chapter   19 2, however Swinnen and Port’s summary below gives a brief, focused account of why the concept is particularly valuable to the field:  Theories of performativity claim that age identities are formed and perpetuated through the repetition of behavioural scripts connected to chronological ages and life stages. Since a repetition can never be identical to its original script, there is always the possibility of subversion and change. The concept of performativity has particular significance in performance studies, as actors both enact age upon the stage and negotiate behavioural norms associated with their own chronological ages. But it also offers an illuminating conceptual approach to understanding the actions and behaviours of individuals and groups across the life span. (12)  In the live event of theatre this perspective is ever-present. Lipscomb asserts that “the conscious performance of age on stage points to age as unconscious performative” (Performing Age in M.D. 4). Following Lipscomb, I consider ways that theatre illuminates understandings of age performativity through elements such as character development (throughout a play’s dramatic arc) and casting. The concept of age performativity also helps to understand how narratives of aging and old age are formed in some of the plays that I study.  Finally, the fourth perspective on theorizing age recognizes the materiality of age. This approach “emphasizes the conceptualization of age as an embodied experience, drawing attention to the physical changes that undeniably come with age and to the way people manage these changes in their daily lives” (Swinnen and Port 12). It also takes into account how bodies are disciplined to people’s body images, how disabilities are managed, and how bodily aging is   20 experienced (post)phenomenologically (12). In my research, considering the materiality of age allows me to think about the meanings of characters’ interactions with material objects (stage properties and dramatic space), the materiality of time expressed through the body, and other elements of embodiment such as embodied selfhood as described and investigated by sociologists, health researchers, and age theorists, Pia Kontos and Wendy Martin (Kontos “Alzheimer Expressions”; “Musical Embodiment”; Kontos and Martin). These four theoretical approaches to age, then, constitute the multi-faceted age studies lens through which I approach theatre in this dissertation.   1.1.4 Research Methods While this research is rooted in interdisciplinary theoretical foundations, it builds predominantly from the primary research methodologies of drama, theatre, and performance studies. In each chapter I analyse one or two plays. The plays I consider include Sally Clark’s Moo and Ten Ways to Abuse an Old Woman (Chapter 3), Shakespeare’s King Lear (Chapter 4), Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County and Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles (Chapter 5) and the Chop Theatre’s Sonic Elder (Chapter 6). These otherwise geographically, stylistically and temporally distinct plays are united in the sense that each has had a professional Canadian production in English with relevance to my core research question about aging and old age. Analysis of these plays and productions also allows me to illuminate strategies of resistance to stereotypes and negative narrative tropes of aging and old age. My methodological approach to each of these dramatic works has varied somewhat across the chapters. In Chapters 3, 5 and 6, I have engaged in close reading dramaturgical analysis. In Chapter 3, I also gathered and analysed responses in the critical press to prominent early productions of Clark’s plays. Chapters 4 and 6 both rest on   21 detailed performance analysis. The chapter which blends the most methodological approaches is Chapter 6 where, in addition to all of the methods noted above, I also had the opportunity to view archival video of the production, analyse the media associated with its various performance iterations, examine the dramaturgical process informing the play’s development, and conduct interviews with the artistic team. In order to conduct these interviews, I followed the protocols for ethical research involving human subjects. In accordance with SSHRC and UBC guidelines, I submitted my research protocol to the UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board; my certificate number is H16-000429.  I provide further details about this approach in Chapter 6, but I note here that the letter of information and consent including sample interview questions is included in Appendix A (p. 304-7).   1.2 Significance 1.2.1 Social and Cultural Significance  Aging populations are growing rapidly worldwide. According to the World Health Organization’s 2015 World Report on Ageing and Health, “Today, for the first time in history most people can expect to live into their 60s and beyond” (3). This is largely due to reductions in infectious diseases and mortality at younger ages (especially related to childbirth and childhood) in low- to middle-income countries; and to declining mortality among older people in high-income countries (World Health Organization 3). In Canada, for the first time in census history, the 2016 census found that the number of people over the age of sixty-five was greater than the number of people under the age of fifteen, and made up 16.5% of the overall population, an all-time high (Statistics Canada “Section 2: Population by Age and Sex” par. 4). Between 2011 and 2016 the number of people over sixty-five increased four times faster than the overall population   22 and almost five times faster than the number of children under fifteen, largely because the first “baby boomers,” born between 1946 and 1965, began turning sixty-five. As more “baby boomers” reach sixty-five and as life expectancy continues to increase, the gap between the number of seniors and children is expected to widen. (Statistics Canada “Your Census, Your Neighbourhood, Your Future” 00:01:07) By 2025 Statistics Canada estimates that people aged sixty-five and over will make up 25% of the Canadian population (“Section 2: Population by Age and Sex” par. 5). While historian Pat Thane asserts that the value attributed to old age varies from culture to culture and from one historical era to another” (6), social gerontologist Neena L. Chappell et al. contends that in contemporary Western societies social status declines past midlife regardless of age, social class, or gender (3).    As senior populations have grown, there is clear evidence that this demographic is looking for theatre that builds from and speaks to its interests and experiences while also promoting a more positive status in society. For example, the rise in number of Senior Theatre (ST) companies in the last twenty years has been remarkable. In the U.S. the number of ST companies expanded from seventy-nine in 1999, to over 530 in July of 2010 (Vorenberg par. 10). There are now international ST festivals (Kole 27; Schweitzer par. 5), senior playwriting competitions (Woods qtd. in Kole 4), ST training programs (Kole 29), and an expansive online ST resource centre (Senior Theatre Resource Center). In Canada fewer ST companies exist however companies such as Victoria B.C.’s Target Theatre Society (Victoria Target Theatre Society), which has been running for over twenty-five years, and Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Geri\the/atrics (Geary) demonstrate Canadian seniors’ desire to participate in and watch theatre that speaks to their experiences and interests. Act II Studio in Toronto (Ryerson University) is also a popular training centre for both professional and less experienced senior actors and   23 provides performance opportunities. In Vancouver, Western Gold Theatre Society, Canada’s only professional ST company, is an active force in the city’s theatrical scene.x  In addition to ST companies, Intergenerational Theatre (IT) companies pairing youth with seniors have also formed to promote positive images of aging and improve relations across age groups. Inspired by the New York company Roots and Branches, which founder Arthur Strimling writes about in his 2004 book, Roots and Branches: Creating Intergenerational Theater, and Basting studies in The Stages of Age, other companies have followed suit. In Canada the Edmonton-based IT company GeriActors and Friends (University of Alberta) formed in 2001 and has achieved considerable popularity. It also has received scholarly attention and been the subject of at least two academic studies. The CIHR-funded study Health and Creative Aging: Theatre as a Pathway to Healthy Aging, conducted by Janet Fast (University of Alberta), David Barnet (University of Alberta), Sally Chivers (Trent University), Sherry Ann Chapman (University of Alberta), and Jacquie Eales (University of Alberta), examined GeriActors and Friends archives “to document the historic and cultural context of intergenerational participatory theatre and healthy aging,” and interviewed present and past theatre company members “to document the relationship between theatre participation and health” (Fast et. al.). The project was in partnership with the UK New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) Ages and Stages research program led by Professor Mim Bernard at Keele University. Results have yet to be published. In addition, Matthew Gusul conducted an exploratory analysis (using autoethnographic research techniques) of GeriActors and Friends’ 2006/07 and 2007/08 seasons for his 2009 University of Alberta Master’s thesis, titled "Intergenerational Theatre and the Role of Play.” He analyzed play and playfulness as it exists in the company’s rehearsals and performances.   24  While the growing popularity of ST and IT companies is striking, it is important to note that many such companies perform mostly for senior audiences and in senior-specific venues like senior centres or care homes. Others forge links with educational institutions (performing at elementary schools, high schools and universities), or healthcare organizations (performing in healthcare settings and at conferences). While many seek to unsettle dominant ageist paradigms, their primary purpose is often recreational, therapeutic or educational. It is rare that ST plays reach mainstream, commercial audiences on a wide scale.xi  The needs and tastes of Canada’s older demographic are also changing. This is evidenced by the fact that Hamilton Ontario’s long-time ST company, Geritol Follies, folded in July 2015 after over forty years. In an article in the Hamilton Spectator published 7 July 2015, Carl Horton, former producer of the Geritol Follies, is cited as explaining that the show had become too hard to market because people now in their sixties were boomers, part of the rock ‘n’ roll generation, and did not tend to be drawn to the content or format of this variety show which employed geriatric stereotypes (McNeil). This suggests that Canadian seniors may be turning to other forms of theatre and performance to find stories that resonate with their experiences, interests, and identities. Professional theatre that seeks to resist typical decline-focused stories about aging is well-positioned to fill this need and would be well advised to do so given the shifting demographics and tastes of its audiences. It also reaches a more expansive age-range in its public audience than ST typically does, making it possible to influence age expectations in audience members from across the life course. Professional theatre marketing also typically has greater capacity to distribute messages far beyond the audiences who attend the plays themselves. Prominent theatres often receive international press. In Vancouver, advertisements for plays frequently appear in no-cost print and online newspapers, at bus-stop shelters, on public bulletin   25 boards, and on traffic-light poles at crosswalks. A good example of a widely distributed publicity campaign related to representing older age is that of Vancouver’s 2015 International PuSh Festival, in which the festival’s principal image featured a stylishly dressed elderly woman, pictured as if in a police photo lineup, holding a sign saying “cross the line” [see Figure 1].  This and other examples suggest that professional theatre marketed to a broad public audience has significant potential over time to shift social imaginaries of aging and old age.  1.2.2 Aesthetic Significance Against prevailing negative or ageist performance traditions theatre has great potential to blur edges, trouble binary thinking, and re-imagine ideas about aging and old age. Indeed, while theatre often reflects the attitudes of power and authority, it also has a long history of opposing current conditions and prompting social change. Because theatre brings into shared space performing and attending bodies, it is a particularly rich place to explore topics of embodiment. Therefore, it makes sense as a place to take up Gullette’s challenge to search out story forms of aging that resist stereotypes and trouble the status quo. Theatre communicates its narratives on many levels. Besides using text, stories are also told through visual images and style, auditory sound scape, the body of the actor, the use of the stage space, and performing objects etc. Theatre’s unique relationship with time and liveness also provide unusual opportunities for examining aging. Throughout the chapters of my dissertation I explore the multiple, overlapping, and sometimes dissonant time structures of plays. Thus, beyond textual themes, old age can be represented visually (how characters are lit, costumed, made-up, contextualized by sets, stage properties and other elements of the mise en scène), auditorily (by means of sounds or sound qualities), and temporally (through time   26  Figure 1: 2015 Vancouver International PuSh Festival Program. Image Design by me&lewis ideas inc.   structures and how they are juxtaposed), as well as embodied or performed. Theatre can foreground the subtle messages about aging and old age that often remain hidden in our daily culture. Theatre also offers countless imaginative possibilities to change traditional narratives. Moreover, as an experience that turns on a complex relationship with liveness, it often evokes an   27 immediate response in shared times and spaces with audiences—responses that can be harder to ignore than other forms of media which one can experience alone or choose to start and stop.  1.2.3 Academic Significance With a few important exceptions, research focused on theatre from the perspective of critical age studies has thus far been limited and fairly diffuse. Age studies is spread across disciplines and is still in the process of developing into a unified field. The relevance of age as a category of difference, however, has been reasserted by researchers across disciplines. Leni Marshall, literary and age studies scholar, stresses the need for disciplines to develop their specific approaches to age:  Each field needs to find ways to establish age as a category of analysis despite the instability of the category. Age, an often-invisible type of difference in which each of us lives, needs to become more than just an addition to a list of identity categories (Woodward Telephone)[sic]. A significant factor in personal and national identity, age needs to be more visible because of its centrality to theoretical positions, pedagogy, and research about what it means to be human. (4)  In theatre studies, broad uptake of critical age studies precepts is not yet evident. Lipscomb describes the limited research that exists to date: A few critics have shown interest in the study of age involving theatre, but that interest tends to divide into two camps: focusing on performances by the elderly, overlooking both the range of age performativity and textual analysis, or commenting on the   28 representation of the elderly in a dramatic text, overlooking issues of performativity and the analysis of age over the life course (Performing Age in M.D. 3).  I explore a number of notable exceptions to Lipscomb’s statement, including her own work in this vein, in Chapter 2 which provides a literature review of the field. However, the need for further research at the intersection of critical age studies and theatre studies is clear, especially in relation to Canadian theatre and performance where to date very few studies have been published. The plays included in this dissertation provide opportunities to explore contemporary, public artistic interventions by professional Canadian theatre into longstanding traditions of representing aging and old age.   1.3 Research Project Overview Each chapter in this dissertation centres around one or two key plays that turn on representations of aging and old age. Although created by different artists, and disparate in form, style, and production venue, the different case studies are united by the fact that all have been produced professionally in Canada. They also all address themes related to aging and old age, and all contain characters who have aged past midlife. The chapters are also unified by the fact that each thematically addresses several important areas of concern within the field of age studies, such as age performativity, embodiment, age-related memory loss, aging female sexuality, and relationality. These case studies are also connected by their conscious focus on ways that theatre resists simplistic, stereotypical, non-critical representations of the decline narrative and other age-based stereotypes and negative narrative tropes. Taken together, these case studies illustrate a range of theatrical mechanisms that function to represent age, aging, and   29 old age. These mechanisms, which are both dramaturgical and performative, at times continue to entrench ageist belief systems. However, the consolidating focus of these chapters is that they reveal age-conscious dramaturgies that resist ageism in their representations of aging and old age. In Chapter 2, I provide a more detailed survey of the scholarly literature that informs this study. I open with an exploration of the ways that old age has been defined and understood in contemporary times and I include a discussion of the concept of age performativity. I then offer a summary of perceptions of aging and old age over time in order to locate common contemporary narratives of aging and old age. This allows me to then consider representations and stereotypes of aging and old age in Western theatre over time, highlighting the prominent role of the decline narrative for the last several centuries. Next, a discussion of the ways that aging and old age have been studied in drama, theatre and performance helps to situate my doctoral research and differentiate it from previous work. Finally, the chapter closes by highlighting the writings that have been most useful in tackling my primary dissertation research question. I offer my first case study in Chapter 3. It concerns two early plays written in the 1980’s by Canadian playwright, Sally Clark. Both have elderly female protagonists and explicitly address themes of aging and old age. I offer these as early examples of professionally-produced Canadian plays that push against ageist narratives. In addition to having had professional productions in Canada, both plays have been anthologized in collections and have been taught and performed over many years at post-secondary institutions. As such they hold a certain sway over Canadian social imaginaries of aging and old age. In this chapter I offer close readings of the two plays, enhanced by analysis of the critical press surrounding prominent early productions. I describe Clark’s use of dramaturgical techniques such as achronicity, disruption of   30 rising conflict, intratextual polyvocality, ambiguous endings, and humour, and argue that these result in constructions of female aging and old age that highlight performativity, challenge disease as an objective category, and disrupt the simplistic association between aging and loss. This chapter illustrates ways that dramatic structure, characterization, and age performativity can be mobilized to convey and reimagine age narratives. In Chapter 4, I provide another case study, this time of a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear by Vancouver’s Honest Fish Monger’s Co-op in 2012. I selected this play because it is a play categorically about aging and old age. To cite Matthew D. Wagner “Its social and emotional range are nearly without horizon, and its formal and emotional range are sophisticated and multivariant” (87). Wagner argues that “King Lear represents the grandest, most super-human encounter with temporality in Shakespeare’s dramatic canon” (87), therefore an examination of King Lear’s temporality as it relates to aging and old age is particularly germane to my study. King Lear has been produced frequently on Canadian professional stages. However, as Gullette has argued, many contemporary productions interpret the text in ways that reify ageism (Gullette “Losing Lear” 61). I argue that this can occur when age is interpreted through a chronological lens. However, contemporary performances can also resist ageist tendencies, and Honest Fish Monger’s production is a good example. My concern in this analysis is with embodied performances of age. I apply Basting’s “performative, depth model of aging” (The Stages of Age 145) to analyze age-effects in this production, arguing that the model reveals how the production engaged with postmodern concepts of time while still considering age. In this way, the performance foregrounded more positive textual narratives about aging rather than reinforcing a narrative of decline. I also extend Basting’s model by drawing connections with Carlson’s aforementioned theory of theatrical ghosting, and Gullette’s discussion of the default   31 body (Aged by Culture 161). Connecting Carlson, Gullette, and Basting’s models reveals that reception of theatrical performances of age is not only influenced by traditional layering of past memories of age on stage, but also by what I term a “ghosting forward.” I also offer a way of differentiating older and younger ages in performance, in light of the fact that Basting’s model suggests that all performances of age can be viewed as an amalgamation of past performances and a projection of future performances of age.  The case study I present in Chapter 5 concerns two prominent award-winning play scripts, August: Osage County by Tracy Letts first produced in 2007, and 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog first produced in 2011. Both of these plays originated in the United States and had significant runs in New York before going on to be produced throughout North America and Europe, including at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver, the largest professional theatre in my city and region. They are examples of plays that have had wide cultural reach and, although not originating in Canada, represent prominent, influential plays that impact Canadian audiences. Many people have had an opportunity to see these plays and/or read about them in the press. While in Chapter 3 I concentrate on performances of age that depict an accumulation of moments across the individual life course, in this chapter I am interested in how age is constructed and performed through interactions across family generations. My analysis is based on close readings of the two play scripts, both of which are set in the same year and both of which feature aging female matriarchs who have lost their husbands and who are now negotiating their living space with younger family members in response to tragedy. I employ Milhous and Hume’s production analysis methods in order to reveal the range of performance possibilities generated by the text (10). By comparing and contrasting the two playwrights’ dramaturgical choices around the use of dramatic space, stage properties, and structures of time,   32 I reveal how they construct narratives of generational continuity or rupture. I argue that in August: Osage County, Letts uses space, props, and time to highlight generational rupture and cast the oldest generation as responsible for family discord. His depiction of intergenerational relations, therefore, reifies longstanding ageist stereotypes, often in hidden ways. Examining the dramaturgical techniques Letts employs makes it possible to highlight the contrasting strategies Herzog uses to reinforce generational continuity in 4000 Miles. I demonstrate how Herzog employs dramatic space, stage properties, and time structures to create a narrative of intergenerational reciprocity and hope, one that reimagines stereotypes of old age and values the older generation for its knowledge, experience, and actions. In Chapter 6 I offer my final case study. It turns on an original autobiographical work, Sonic Elder, devised by Vancouver’s The Chop Theatre. I argue that this performance is an example of the type of new, age-conscious performance that is being developed by some current Canadian professional theatre companies. Here, I move from my consideration in Chapter 5 of how age is constructed across family (or vertical) generations, to thinking about how horizontal generations might contribute to generating and shifting cultural age expectations. Sonic Elder’s success in opposing ageist narratives rests on its non-traditional choices in terms of dramaturgy, casting, and performance venue. The show featured six long-term professional musicians all over the age of sixty, none of whom were previously actors. They told stories about the role of music in their lives over time and performed as a rock band in a venue which had supported their early careers. One of the performers also was living with the experience of significant age-related memory loss. In this investigation, I employ a combination of performance analysis of live performance and archival video, interviews with the artistic team, and appraisal of the media surrounding the production. I build my arguments with reference to Jill Dolan’s theory of the   33 utopian performative (“Performance, Utopia”; Utopia), as well as theories about autobiography (Bennett; Heddon; Knowles “Documemory”; Stephenson Performing Autobiography), spaces of performance (Carlson; Heddon), relationality (Basting “God Is”; Heddon) and embodied selfhood (Kontos “Alzheimer Expressions”; “Musical Embodiment”; Kontos and Martin). Together, these theorists help me to consider how the production engendered moments of deep intersubjectivity between performers and audience. Ultimately, I argue that in Sonic Elder the autobiographical nature of the performance, the specificity of the venue, the inclusion of personally revealing content, and the development of specific dramaturgical strategies (dramaturgies of assistance) allowed for performances of age that offered moving and hopeful glimpses of how it could feel to embrace more positive, expanded, and non-deterministic age expectations. My concluding chapter reflects on and connects the themes of the previous case studies. I relate my findings in terms of concepts of time and age, age performativity, gendered representations of age, embodiment, generational continuity, the role of objects and space in representations of age, and the relevance of feeling to theatrical experience. I outline how this dissertation engages with critical approaches in theatre and performance studies and with cultural age theory to illuminate age narratives in contemporary Anglo Canadian professional theatrical productions with themes about aging and old age. I suggest ways that Canadian professional theatre contributes to cultural understandings of aging and old age, and I highlight how it constructively reimagines age narratives. Bringing these theoretical approaches into conversation allows for the expansion of theatre and performance studies theories to include considerations of age. It also proffers new approaches to age studies and cultural gerontology that consider theatrical and performative ways of representing and understanding age, aging, and old age.    34 Chapter 2: Literature Review  Since beginning my research in age studies, I have watched the interdisciplinary field gain momentum.xii While still years behind comparable fields like critical race/ethnic studies and women’s/gender/sexuality studies in terms of institutional support and awareness,xiii age studies seeks to counter ageism and age-inequality by employing critical perspectives from the humanities and social sciences. As age studies expands, its proponents are also working to define the field. Stephen Katz, Canadian sociologist and critical age studies theorist, summarizes its key approaches:  [. . .] from the humanities, age studies looks to biographical, feminist, and narrative perspectives on self, memory, meaning, and wisdom, and imaginative alternative resources and experiences in performative, artistic, fictional, transsexual, poetic, and futuristic fields. From the social sciences, age studies elucidates the new cultural processes redefining later life and old age based on late-capitalist and globalized retirement lifestyles, cosmetic and body technologies, consumer marketing, and age-based hierarchies. (“What Is Age Studies” par. 9)  Further, he notes, the field’s main concerns turn on “questions of identity, the body, experience, language and metaphor, life course continuity and disruption, sensation, emotions, and biography” (“What Is Age Studies” par. 8). Pursuing these questions, age studies scholars emphasize the cultural aspects of aging, and work both to deconstruct dominant narratives and express marginalized voices.    35 Much of the work within age studies demonstrates age’s inherent performativity. Theatre and performance studies, therefore, offer valuable tools and connections. However, while the field of age studies has expanded, Lipscomb has argued that theatre has not yet kept pace (“Age in M.” 193). Theatre projects tend to focus on the engagement and well-being of their older participants, she argues, rather than theorizing age onstage and in dramatic texts. Lipscomb asserts “This omission is all the more curious because age is so obviously integral to the dramatic text and its performance” (“Age in M.” 193). While developing more slowly than other disciplinary work within age studies, theatre and performance studies have made some significant contributions in recent years. In 2015, the University of Toronto hosted the first North American conference on aging and performance, Playing Age, and attracted a wide, interdisciplinary range of scholars.xiv Building from this, Modern Drama published a special issue focused on aging and the life course in 2016. The field has also generated two key recent monographs on theatre and aging: Michael Mangan’s Stageing Aging: Theatre, Performance and the Narrative of Decline (2013), and Valerie Barnes Lipscomb’s Performing Age in Modern Drama (2016). In this chapter, I turn to these authors and other forerunners in the field for definitions of such core terms as aging and old age. I then survey historical views of aging and old age in order to give context to current cultural constructions. Next, I provide an overview of some of the ways that aging and old age have been mobilized in theatre over time, especially through the use of stock characters. These historical framings demonstrate that aging and old age has been understood in different ways in different times and places, but that the decline narrative has persisted over time and has frequently been represented in Western plays. This overview of older aged theatrical characters serves as a backdrop for understanding current representations. Building from this overview, I next describe research approaches that have been used to study   36 age and theatre in order to locate my own work within the field, and to clarify how my work is distinct. Finally, I review the writings that have most closely guided my own approach. These represent critical analyses of age both on stage and in dramatic texts from an age studies perspective. Although these works are few in number, they provide a solid basis from which my work expands.  2.1 Defining Age, Aging, and Old Age  A fundamental problem facing scholars who wish to study the inter-relationship between theatre and age, aging, or old age is that these terms are notoriously difficult to define. However, as literary and age studies scholar Leni Marshall argues in Age Becomes Us: Bodies and Gender in Time (2015), we need language to communicate, even as we problematize and deconstruct that language. Although terms such as old, aging, senior, and elder are imperfect, we lack robust alternatives (Marshall 13). Understanding terms and their problematic nature is key. Depending on the disciplinary context, specific object of study, and primary research question, a broad range of definitions of “aging” and “old age” have had traction in contemporary research. As I demonstrate in the brief survey that follows, several distinguishing principles emerge across the definitions and rely on discourses from disciplines such as gerontology, biology, sociology, psychology, gender studies, literary studies, and performance studies. Understanding the many ways that age has been, and is still, understood, helps to position my own approach. Aging is the simpler term to define. While Gullette notes that aging has been conflated in our common language with “old” or “elderly” (Aged by Culture 106-107), the term can be applied to the experience of becoming older throughout our lives. Basting describes aging as “an historical, social, psychological, and biological process” (19). It is a doing or becoming that “can   37 never be precisely pinned down,” adds Gravagne (11). In Agewise Gullette demonstrates that it is useful to qualify the term with phrases such as “aging-past-youth” and “aging-in-the-middle-years” (5). I use the term “aging” as it is universally accepted in age studies to describe the process of becoming older experienced by persons of all ages, at all times, throughout the life course.  Defining age is more complex. How do we describe what human age is? What is old age and how do we recognize, categorize and define it? How old is old? Here I look to contemporary conceptions of age, recognizing that ideas and definitions of age have changed over time and continue to evolve.xv In “Performing Age, Performing Gender,” Kathleen Woodward, literary scholar and one of the key founders of the field of age studies, suggests that definitions of age can be distinguished by chronology, biology, psychology, culture, and statistics. She defines chronological age as “the number of years a person has lived,” differentiating it from biological age or “the state of a person’s physical capacities” (“Performing Age” 183). Woodward further distinguishes between the two by explaining that a person suffering from a severe disease in middle age would be understood to be functionally older than their chronological age would normally suggest (183). Here, although she does not list it among her definitions, Woodward suggests the idea of functional age, a concept proposed by sociologists Toni M. Calasanti and Kathleen F. Slevin that “involves an assessment of an individual’s physical and mental abilities in relation to an ideal type for his or her age group” (17). Calasanti and Slevin also propose the related idea of occupational age, suggesting that “people may be considered ‘old’ at different ages according to their employment” (17).  Woodward goes on to define social age as “the meanings that a society accords to different categories of age, with the instruments of social policy providing clear-cut measures”   38 (183). For example, in Canada “senior discounts” are given at movie theatres and many stores starting from the age of fifty-five. Further, Canadians can collect Old Age Security from the age of sixty-five and the Canada Pension Plan (if eligible) after age sixty. Depending as they do on a sense of chronology, Woodward notes that social and chronological ages are strongly associated. Cultural age refers to “the meanings or values that a culture assigns to different people in terms of age” (183). Significantly, Woodward argues that in defining cultural age, “status and power are crucial”—aging women are considered older than men of the same chronological age (183). Woodward goes on to distinguish between two remaining categories of age. Psychological age, she claims, refers to “a person’s state of mind in terms of age,” suggesting that a person may feel older or younger psychologically than their chronological age (“Performing Age” 183). Basting uses the term personal age to refer to a similar conception, defining it as “age that is self-selected” (The Stages of Age 17). Finally, statistical age, Woodward notes, describes “predictions concerning age based on large data sets” (“Performing Age” 183).  Basting highlights the enduring legacy of the traditional life-stage model. While in medieval and classical times “ages of man” models divided the life course into distinct segments, it is uncertain to what extent the life course was thought of as a continuum versus discrete stages. However, some Early Modern texts emphasize specific years of profound change which they call climacterics (Ellis 5). For example, according to Ellis, “the English physician William Vaughan warned in 1626 that every seventh year in a person’s life was ‘Climactericall’ and thus perilous; the influence of Saturn, the planet associated mythologically with old age, was held responsible” (5).  The more modern life-stage or life-cycle model, popular since the industrial revolution, is based on social and chronological age definitions and ties social roles to specific chronological   39 ages (The Stages of Age 17). In this model, the life course is divided into fixed stages typically described as infancy, education, work, and retirement. Definitions of old age which correspond with retirement most often consider old age to begin at sixty-five years. This socially constructed definition of old age is based on the historical decision of Otto von Bismarck in the late 1880’s, who followed actuarial advice and determined that sixty-five would be the age at which military personnel would be eligible for a pension (at that time mortality rates meant few people lived long after the age of sixty-five). Gradually this age was adopted as the norm of retirement and became entrenched in our social institutions. (Chappell et al. 27)   Definitions of old age based on a life-stage model that associates old age with retirement are often criticized for homogenizing all people over the age of sixty-five, assuming that their life courses are the same. To address this issue, some theorists have proposed breaking down the life course into further categories. For example, in her 1974 chapter “Age Groups in American Society and the Rise of the Young Old,” American psychologist Bernice L. Neugarten categorizes the elderly population into the young-old (sixty-five to seventy-four), the middle-old (aged seventy-four to eighty-four), the old-old (aged eighty-five to eighty-nine) and the frail-old (aged ninety and over) (187-198). More recently, in another direction, Julia Twigg combines chronological and functional age, and offers alternatives for the term “old age.” In “The Body, Gender, and Age: Feminist Insights in Social Gerontology,” she employs the terms “Third Age” and “Fourth Age.” Third Age is taken to approximate the ages of fifty to seventy-five, and Fourth Age the ages seventy-five plus (64). However, Twigg highlights that the distinction between the two ages is qualitative, not chronological. The point of transition is marked by the onset of serious infirmity. She states, “As a result, the Fourth Age can seem to be not just about the body, but nothing but the body. It dominates the subjective experience, to the extent that it   40 swamps all other factors in determining matters like morale or wellbeing” (6). Woodward further explains that Third Age is characterized by independence and health, “which we might call ‘aging,’” and Fourth age is distinguished by “dependence and frailty, if not debilitation and decline, which we might call ‘old age’” (“Performing Age” 2).  While age studies scholars universally critique the homogenization of all people over the age of sixty-five, the field has not widely adopted the above noted models that still divide the later life course into stages. While these distinctions attempt to de-homogenize seniors, they are criticized for being essentializing since they forcibly group people into categories according to their chronological age, when considerable variation still exists based on, for example, race, culture, gender, ability, social and financial status, health history, and personal experience. As Leni Marshall astutely notes that, “attempts to quantify the stages of aging highlight the impossibility of taking such a positivist approach” and that “[c]onnecting a fixed chronological range to a particular age category is inherently arbitrary” (Marshall 11). Helen Small, who researches literary and philosophical approaches to old age, suggests in her 2007 monograph The Long Life that refinements to old-age terminology, such as terms like “old old age,” “late age,” “late life” (and in earlier periods, “green old age”), betray the basic poverty of our vocabulary, and “are often impediments rather than aids to social and political reform” (3).  Some theorists have tried to avoid chronological divisions by reconceptualizing and redefining the aging process. In “The Mask of Ageing and the Postmodern Life Course” Mike Featherstone and Mike Hepworth argue that the term “life cycle” implies fixed categories and a stable, inflexible system. They propose the term “life course” as it suggests a more flexible view of biological patterns with a constantly changing social system (386). However, Cruikshank counters that seeing aging as part of the overall life course instead of as a unique time may “de-  41 emphasize the role prejudice plays in aging in our society. [. . .] [and] obscure[] the fact that youth is favoured, while age is not” (6-7). Other theorists propose formulations of the life course which organize life stages around specific qualities and tasks that might occur at any age but are typical of certain general age groups (Basting The Stages of Age 17). For example, in the 1950s and 1960s developmental psychologist Erik Erikson created a new model for the life course based on functional definitions of age. In this model, the life course is divided into eight stages, each of which holds a unique challenge and reward for the individual. For example, the last stage of life is seen as the search to overcome “despair” and achieve “integrity” through integration, which involves coming to terms with one’s past and the inevitability of approaching death. Successful “emotional integration” yields wisdom and self-respect, and a willingness to lead as well as follow. (Erikson 98-99) The distinctive quality of Erikson’s model is that it defines stages of the life course free of fixed chronological categories, constructing maturity as a functional stage involving struggle for integration (versus despair and disgust), rather than defining it as a particular chronological age range. While Erikson’s model has been criticized for universalizing the aging process across gender, race and class (Basting The Stages of Age 15; Zender 9), Basting suggests it is one of the few models that “find[s] meaning and purpose for old age,” and “reestablish[es] a view of aging as both positive and negative” (The Stages of Age 15, emphasis in original).   2.2 Age Performativityxvi The idea of understanding age as inherently performative has been explored by authors such as Basting (The Stages of Age), Gullette (Aged by Culture), Lipscomb (“Age in M.”; Performing Age in M.D.; “Performing the Aging Self”; “’Putting on Her White Hair’”),   42 Lipscomb and Marshall (Staging Age) and Woodward (“Performing Age”). These critics and others look to the conscious performance of age in acting roles, not only as a way of understanding how specific performances shape cultural notions of age, but also as a means of understanding age itself as fundamentally performative.   The concept of age performativity draws on Judith Butler’s influential arguments concerning gender’s inherent performativity. For Butler, gender identity does not constitute something essential but is created through the act of its repeated performance. As Butler puts it, “Gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being” (Gender Trouble 44). According to Anna Harpin, Butler implies there are two types of repetition involved with performative identity: “one that affirms conservative foundational narratives and one that subverts these foundations by exposing their fictionality through a process of parody and pastiche” (79). Since gender identity is thus understood as created through behavioral scripts that can never be repeated exactly, it offers the possibility that those scripts can be undermined and changed. The notion of age performativity holds, likewise, that age identity is achieved by repeated stylizations of the body offered within a “highly rigid regulatory frame” (Butler Gender Trouble 43), that gather meanings, over time, that seem substantive and natural. This “stylized repetition of acts,” explains Gravagne, “can institute the illusion of an essential aging or aged self” (15). So, while age characteristics conventionally may be thought to manifest in innate ways at particular life stages, from an age performativity perspective, such age identities are produced through repeated performances that interact with a culturally sanctioned age script, and therefore are not essential but only appear to be so.   43  Both age studies scholars and theatre scholars have raised questions about the applicability of Butler’s performativity theory to their respective fields of study. Age studies critiques of performativity turn on the notion that a view of age as purely performative dismisses the very real effects of time on the body. Age scholars such as Basting (The Stages of Age ), Gullette (Aged by Culture), Lipscomb and Marshall, and Woodward (Figuring Age; “Performing Age”), among others, agree that age cannot be understood as wholly performative. In Figuring Age, Woodward passionately contends:   [. . .] unlike other markers of difference (gender and race, for example), old age cannot be theorized or understood as a social construction only, one that erases the real changes of the body that can come with aging and old age. There is a point at which the social and cultural construction of aging must confront the physical dimensions, if not the very real limits of the body. (xxii)   But while the legitimacy of this argument is widely acknowledged, most age studies scholars still find the concept of age performativity profitable because it allows for the possibility of subversion, and because, as Basting explains, it moves us toward a social space in which “no single image or experience of aging is deemed ‘natural,’ ‘normal,’ or [. . .] ‘pathological’” (The Stages of Age 19).  In terms of theatre, critiques of Butler’s theory of performativity hinge on the lack of specificity in Gender Trouble between the terms ‘performance’ and ‘performativity’. Butler addresses this in Bodies That Matter, arguing that in the case of performativity the subject does not precede the gesture but rather is produced by it (24). By contrast, in the case of performance,   44 the performer precedes the act of impersonation according to Butler. However, Christina Wald points out that Butler “no longer allows for theatre’s critical distance from itself, for a self-referential sense of its own history” (21). Drawing on the work of many theorists,xvii she makes a case for the relevance of performativity theory to theatre studies. Wald argues that Butler’s gender performativity theory is applicable to theatre for the following reasons: that theatrical performance exists within a set of theatrical conventions that precede the performer, similar to the social ideals, rules, and rituals Butler describes as dictating gender performativity (17); that for actors, agency does not necessarily stem from deliberate and conscious acts (18); that actors must reproduce a script and performance, but the idea of an original is imaginary (18-19); and that the split awareness of theatre audiences and performers distorts complete illusion and contradicts Butler’s notion that “what is performed works to conceal, if not to disavow, what remains opaque, unconscious, un-performable” (Butler, Bodies That Matter 234, qtd. in Wald 17). For Wald, “the resignification that can take place within theatrical performance equals that of gender performativity” (18). I agree and echo her citation of Elin Diamond: “Performance [. . .] is the site in which performativity materializes in concentrated form, where the ‘concealed or dissimulated conventions’ of which acts are mere repetitions might be investigated and reimagined” (Diamond 47). There is widespread acceptance, then, in both age studies and theatre studies, that Butler’s theory is generative to their theoretical foundations. Theatre and age studies scholars such as Basting (“Performance Studies”), Lipscomb (“The Play's the Thing”), and Moore, all argue for the role of theatre as a research site where age can be critically examined through the multiple realities of performance, and where “disruptive effects might be generated or discovered” (Moore par. 1). Performing a character’s gender or age on stage intersects with an   45 actor’s own age, the theatrical conventions within which the actor is performing, the requirements of the character and role, the time structures, design and staging of the play, and the culture within which the play is received. This creates a performative age identity on stage that can give insight into how we understand age performativity more broadly. As age studies researchers continue to seek useful definitions of key concepts, Gravagne addresses the mercurial nature of these terms:  The reality of a concept as intangible as age may be that it is inherently ambiguous, that it is all these things [the many definitions of age] and none of them at once. Whether or not we manage to accurately capture its essence or describe its behavior, the ways in which we define age and the meanings we attribute to it have very real physical, psychological, and material effects on our lives. (12)  Throughout this dissertation, I will clarify how I mobilize or define key terms, as I, like most age studies scholars, use different definitions for different purposes. For example, when I investigate old-age stereotypes, I consider a broad range of the lifespan from midlife onward, in order to capture the sweeping and homogenous application of prejudicial ideas about old age (in theatre and otherwise). My work, as it actively searches for alternatives to the decline narrative, necessarily unsettles definitions which cast old age as “Fourth Age” since transition to “Fourth Age” is defined as the transition to serious infirmity and decline. In Chapters 3, 5, and 6, I am attentive to how age is constructed differently according to gender and ability. Considering age as performative is key to my work in Chapters 3, 4, and 6. The role of place in defining age is relevant to my analyses in Chapters 5 and 6, as is the materiality of age and embodiment. Finally,   46 the relationship of time to definitions of age is crucial to my work in all of the chapters that follow.    2.3 History of Perspectives on Aging and Old Age  The broad range of definitions for old age reflect the fact that “[c]onceptions of old age vary with the time and place, the person, and the society” (Hutcheon and Hutcheon 6). For my purposes, I have been most interested in the current narratives of aging and old age in contemporary Canadian culture and how they have developed over time. To a large extent these have been influenced by broader shifts in Western culture’s understanding of aging and old age. I recognize that more than just Western histories influence contemporary productions with themes of aging and old age, and their reception in Canada. In my broader research program, I hope ultimately to engage beyond this scope, but the current field builds on Western-based work. Further, the works I found in response to Gullette’s call draw on Western theatrical traditions and have been produced in mainstream Canadian professional theatre contexts.  While a full history of conceptions and experiences of aging is neither possible nor desirable here, it is helpful to highlight a few of the striking shifts in Western culture that demonstrate changing attitudes toward old age over time. Both Basting (The Stages of Age ) and Heather Addison (11-13) provide useful historical overviews as context for their performance analyses, highlighting similar historical transitions, with Addison adding insights into the role of consumer culture and the advertising industry. I draw on these helpful summaries as well as the more comprehensive research of historians Thomas R. Cole (The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America), Lawrence R. Samuel (Aging in America: A Cultural History), and David G. Troyansky (Aging in World History). Although Pat Thane’s research is specifically on   47 the English context, I also incorporate this historian’s work (Old Age in English History: Past Experiences, Present Issues) as she provides useful critique of widespread historical narratives of aging and old age.  According to Thane, “[a]ll cultures have a variety of images of ageing available to them from which individuals and groups shape their expectations. These images shift and compete and if any one of them gains hegemony it does not necessarily do so for long” (6). Thane contends that interpreting past discourse about old age is difficult because, “it often serve[s] polemical and metaphorical rather than descriptive purposes” (6). For example, while it is commonly argued that life expectancy in historical societies was around the ages of thirty-five to forty, Thane clarifies that these statistics are skewed by the high rates of infant and child mortality prior to the 20th century. She asserts that a person who lived past the age of twenty had a good chance of living into their fifties or sixties, especially if female (3).  Samuel proffers that from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries in America, old age was comparatively rare and, perhaps because of this, people who lived a long life were esteemed, and advanced old age was seen as divinely ordained (7). On the contrary, Thane argues that old age in most historical societies was, in fact, not as rare as we tend to think. It was also not universally venerated: “The very poor of all ages have always lived on the margins. [. . .] Older people were, and generally are, respected, or not, for their social position or their personal qualities rather than on account of their age” (7).  In terms of attitudes toward old age, Cole notes that prior to the mid-sixteenth century numerical age had virtually no social significance, and few people knew how old they were (5). Addison specifies that prior to the 19th century the Western Puritan-influenced model of age was one that acknowledged potential infirmity in the elderly, as well as seeing old age as having   48 redemptive spiritual potential. Pre-industrial America was based on economies of agriculture and artisanship, and thus, Addison argues, age did not play a strong role in stratification. Generations were not divided or isolated but lived and worked together supporting strong interdependence and mutual respect (Addison 11-12). Related age narratives, then, had contradictory elements, but offered an “essentially hopeful vision of the human life cycle” (Addison 11).  Troyansky also describes the rise of the grandparent at this time: “In a process that extended from the middle of the eighteenth century into the nineteenth, the idea of the grandparent evolved from a reminder of lineage and ancestry to an emphasis on specific individuals and their affective relationships with their grandchildren” (70). The grandparent became a figure that could soften the authority of parents, mediate conflictual parent-child relationships, supplement children’s socialization, and act as loving confidant (Troyansky 71). Thane, however, suggests that the idea that in the past families were the mainstay for older people is faulty. According to Thane, at least in the English context, “it was never the unquestioned custom in England, as in some other cultures, for families to be the main source of support to older people. [. . .] Adult children felt an obligation to give emotional support to ageing parents and what material support they could. But they were also not expected to impoverish themselves or their families to do so” (11). Thane suggests that intergenerational relations in historical periods should not be idealized; “at all times, some older people, with or without relatives, have been lonely and neglected, though most were not” (12). One of the most significant shifts with respect to the meaning and value of old age in Western societies, writes Basting, occurred in the late 1800s as a result of the industrial revolution and the development of a burgeoning middle class (The Stages of Age 10). Workers were now favoured for their speed, strength, and endurance rather than their experience, which   49 created a more negative view of aging (Addison 12). Cole argues that beginning in the eighteenth century an increasingly rationalized, urban, industrial society gave rise to the emergence of the individual lifetime as a structural feature of modern society (3). According to Cole, “chronological age came to function as a uniform criterion for sequencing the multiple roles and responsibilities that individuals assumed over a lifetime” (3). Samuel, taking a different tack, argues that economic class replaced age as the primary differentiating factor among Americans (7). The increasing national values of democracy and independence undermined the authority of age, as did the fact that nineteenth-century heroes were primarily young men (Samuel 7-8). Samuel asserts that, “[o]ldness in all forms was condemned in an increasingly modern society, and old people were considered a drag on the noble pursuit of progress” (7).  Also, in the later part of the nineteenth century, in the United States (and Canada), age limits for hiring and forced retirements served to stratify the life cycle into stages (Basting The Stages of Age 11; Samuel 8). Around the same time, the introduction of age graded school for children had a similar effect. Both served to decrease interdependence and thus the value given to aging and old age (Basting The Stages of Age 11). However, Thane provides critique of this view of retirement:   To interpret the spread of retirement as degrading the lives of older people by depriving them of the status associated with paid work is to romanticize often bitter hardship in the past. Far from being a source of status and respect, the paid work to which many people for many centuries clung for survival as they aged [. . .] was itself marginalized and degraded and thankfully abandoned for the security of even a small pension. (7)    50 Despite Thane’s critique of negative views of retirement, it is clear that life-cycle models that included retirement as a distinct phase of aging grew in popularity at this time.  Concurrently, the emergence and growing popularity of Victorian morality, which emphasized both self-control and productivity, contributed to a dualistic model of old age in which health, vigor, and self-reliance were lauded as “good” old age associated with God’s grace (Basting The Stages of Age 13), and decay and dependence were devalued as “bad” old age (Addison 12). The middle class lost the ability to perceive of aging as both decline and life fulfillment, and as a result aging became increasingly associated with a stigmatized understanding of disability and loss (Basting The Stages of Age 11). Around the turn of the century, improvements in sanitation and hygiene meant that infant and child mortality declined (Basting The Stages of Age 11-12). Before this time, people who lived beyond childhood and especially into old age were considered necessarily healthy. However, once longer life spans were expected, societal views of aging focused more on its negative aspects and began to view aging as a scientific and technical problem, rather than a mystery or existential concern (Addison 12). As medical specialties such as gerontology and geriatrics developed, they secured the pathologization of old age as something to avoid or delay (Addison 12; Samuel 10). The mission of these professions was to study the physical and psychological symptoms of aging and to develop treatments for aging-related ailments (Troyansky 73). This laid the foundation for science and medicine to seek ways to interrupt or reverse the aging process. No longer seen as a sign of God’s grace or moral achievement, old age was increasingly cast as a “functionless fall from the heights of health, productivity, and reproductivity,” and the idea that “the elderly constituted a problem for society” began to proliferate (Basting The Stages of Age 13).    51 Drawing on the research of Fernando Torres-Gil, Samuel argues that the 1930’s were particularly hostile to old age. At this time the idea of age-related wisdom lost considerable worth. The economic pressures of the Depression meant that more older Americans were economically dependent and received subsidized benefits, “creating the image of older Americans as unproductive people and a costly drain on society” (Samuel 8). A similar phenomenon occurred in Canada where the first public pension plan was introduced in 1927. In addition, in the early twentieth century the rapidly growing advertising industry shifted from using a product-centred approach to sell commodities, to employing psychological methods that preyed upon consumers’ fears and insecurities. This consumer culture was founded on the “exaltation of youth” (Addison 12-13) and its narratives served to further devalue old age, especially in women.  The 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of an anti-ageism movement in North America. This targeted negative stereotypes about the elderly that had resulted from decades of viewing age as a problem and disease. However, while the movement inspired older people to advocate for their own rights and well-being, its strategy of replacing negative images with positive ones ultimately sabotaged more significant change. This was in part because it failed to question the division between ‘successful’ and ‘unsuccessful’ aging and fueled denial of physical and psychological changes natural to the aging process (Basting The Stages of Age 14). Samuel also notes that as part of the anti-ageism movement, the development of associations for retired people, while also contributing to positive changes, helped to “brand older people as less than fully contributing members of society and more of a liability than an asset [. . .]” (9). Discourses developed in the 1970s that likened the expanding aging demographic to a “quietly ticking time bomb” (Shabecoff as cited by Samuel 34). In the 1980’s these discourses increasingly used the   52 metaphor of the silver tsunami. Both images served to instill fear and resentment of aging by equating the aging demographic to a wide scale disaster. Thane certainly asserts that the 20th century marks a period during which the range of experience in later life (or old age) is the greatest of all historical periods (8).  Today negative views of aging persist in cultural narratives, primarily the narrative of decline. According to Chappell et al. in Aging in Contemporary Canada, the roots of ageism include fear and vulnerability toward aging and death (old people forewarn young people of their futures and it scares them), marginalization of older people in industrialized countries and a reduction in their participation in social affairs, social separation of young and older cohorts in modern society, and circulation of negative information about the elderly (3). Negative narratives of old age infiltrate our belief systems such that the status of people in contemporary Western culture increases from youth to middle age but declines thereafter (Chappell et al. 3). According to Baars, “the modern Western tradition of the last four centuries harbors few inspiring narratives about aging” (“A Triple Temporality” 36). Gullette concurs. She denounces the devastating influence of the decline narrative and its primacy in contemporary [North] American culture. However, Gullette is also optimistic that changing our narratives about aging and old age, including those promoted by contemporary theatre, can positively influence cultural attitudes towards aging, and the treatment of older people.   2.4 Theatrical Traditions and Stereotypes of Aging and Old Age In order to recognize change and progress, it is helpful to reflect on tradition. To this end, I summarize key ways that Western theatre has contributed to constructing and perpetuating stereotypes of aging and old age (especially negative ones) over time. This is critical as my   53 analyses in subsequent chapters engage with these stereotypes, chiefly to explore how the chosen plays reinforce, resist, or reinvent them. Mangan argues that ageism is often articulated through stereotypes, and that theatre has drawn frequently on stereotypes and stock figures (23):  [. . .] the social and communal nature of the theatrical experience and the immediacy of the relationship between the stage and the audience mean that theatrical performance is quick to adopt and recycle beliefs and attitudes, the codes and the signifiers, the prejudices and stereotypes of everyday life (Mangan 79).  Age-related character types and patterns of behavior recur time and time again in the Western dramatic canon, and many of these are consistent with the narrative of decline.  To date, Mangan has offered the most detailed mapping of these recurring types and representational patterns in Western theatre. Focusing on the senex, or stock figure of the old man, he traces its origins in Greek New Comedy and Roman Comedy, where he argues it had two main variations. The senex iratus or angry old man usually appeared as a domineering father, controlling his children and obstructing their erotic desires. Interested in money and status, he often pursued a match for his child that would benefit him in these contexts (Mangan 79). Examples include Knemon in Menander’s Dyskolos (The Bad Tempered Man) from Greek New Comedy, or Euclio from Aulularia, Plautus’s variation on the same story in Roman comedy. The other type, the senex amans, was the stock character of an old man who fell inappropriately in love with a much younger woman, for example Demipho from Plautus’s Mercator (The Merchant). This character type was often portrayed as lecherous or devious and was ridiculed about impotence. He also was often motivated by money (Mangan 80-81). Both   54 variations were represented as exaggerated two-dimensional characters who were the butt of jokes, most often about their decline. They formed stereotypes that became the root of many portrayals of old age for centuries.  Mangan describes development of the senex over time, mostly through comedic forms, with the two types of senex sometimes fused into one character (Mangan 80). He notes variations of the senex in the Corpus Christi cycle plays of the Middle Ages in which Joseph was written as much older than Mary and sometimes as foolish (85). According to Ellis, in 16th-Century Italian comedy, “ridicule of the comedic senex intensified [. . .] even as writers in other genres were finding new reasons to champion old age” (Ellis 4). Both Ellis and Mangan track the senex in commedia dell’ arte (which expanded throughout Europe from the 16th to 18th centuries) through the stock characters of Pantalone, the Venetian merchant, and Graziano, (also known as Dottore), the Bolognese doctor (Ellis 115-35; Mangan 88-89). Both characters, but more consistently Pantalone, were featured as a father of one of the lovers, or the male lover’s rival, or sometimes both (Mangan 88-89). According to Mangan “Pantalone with his greed, his pettiness, his lechery and his self-centredness, [. . . was] a negative stereotype of old age which spoke to generation after generation in location after location” (89).  Mangan further points to variations of the senex in the 17th-Century French plays of Molière, who was strongly influenced by commedia, and used the stereotypes and recycled plots of classical Greek and Roman comedies in his French neoclassical comedies. In his chapter “Molière’s Miser, Old Age, and Potency,” which appears in Lipscomb and Marshall’s Staging Age, Alan Wood also notes Molière’s repeated use of the senex, identifying Harpagon in L’Avare (The Miser), Orgon in Tartuffe, Monsieur Jourdain in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, and Argan in Le Malade Imaginaire as all representative of obsessed authoritarian father figures. Harpagon   55 also takes on the role of a senex amans in that he is in love with a much younger woman (Wood 151). To those who argue that satiric representations of aging and old age such as these have a positive social function through warning audiences of how not to act out their senescence, Mangan replies, “[I]f behind this portrait of a vain and mean-spirited old man, there may lurk an implied ideal of what a good old man might be, to say this is not to say very much: it is something that is true of nearly all satire” (89). We are still shown a negative portrait of old age which highlights the character’s social and moral failings and alienates him from the audience’s sympathies. However, Mangan also notes that audience sensibilities change over time and that audiences of one period might respond quite differently to a play’s age representations than audiences of another era (103-104). These ideas regarding comic portrayals of aging and old age and the stereotypes implicated in them are important to my analyses of comedies in Chapters 3 and 5.   The senex persisted in the 16th-Century English Renaissance, reflects Mangan, most notably through the plays of Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare demonstrated an ambivalent attitude toward old age in his plays, including nuanced and positive portrayals of old age as well as ridicule (Charney; Ellis; Martin), the presence of “heavy” fathers (i.e. stern, controlling patriarchs) and foolish older lovers is evidence of the enduring ageist stereotype(s) of the senex during this period. Maurice Charney identifies Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Prospero in The Tempest, Brabantio in Othello, and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (49-61) and Polonius in Hamlet (65-66) as variations of the heavy father in Shakespeare (49-61). All are stern, irritable, and interfere in their children’s love partnerships. Charney argues that Polonius is “an extreme example of the senex type. He is not only long-  56 winded but also frequently shown losing the thread of the conversation. There is thus the implication of [. . .] senility” (63).  The senex amans can be recognized in Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Charney 87-97). In addition, Charney’s analysis of the title character in Othello, and Leontes in The Winter’s Tale suggests that both are variations on the senex amans—they “imagine themselves the victims of adulteries and see themselves as cuckolds” (Charney 98). Anthony Ellis also points to the senex in Shakespearean tragedy, arguing that the character King Lear represents both senex iratus and senex amans. He is irascible and also obsessed with his daughters’ love for him; his love for his youngest daughter Cordelia, and his unwillingness to renounce his libido, are at the root of his madness according to Ellis (38). However, in contrast to the classical senex, Lear maintains the audience’s sympathy. Because of the character’s advanced age, Christopher Martin posits, King Lear stands apart from Shakespeare’s other plays, as well as other drama of the period, in its “sustained meditation on actual senescence” (174). An understanding of these stereotypes is helpful to my analysis of King Lear in Chapter 4.  Moving forward to the 17th century, the senex was further recycled and reinvented throughout English Restoration comedy, although was usually only a secondary character due to the culture’s heightened focus on youth, and mistrust of older authority figures (Mangan 95).xviii The jealous, slow-witted, and cuckolded Dr. Davy Dunce in Thomas Otway’s Soldier’s Fortune is an example of a Restoration senex (Mangan 96). Importantly, during the English Restoration examples of a female senex were notable, most famously Lady Wishfort from William Congreve’s The Way of the World. This character-type likely also extends from certain portrayals of aging women dating back to Attic Old Comedy, in which, according to Jeffrey Henderson, examples can be found where the sexually-interested older woman was ridiculed and exploited   57 for comic purposes, especially the woman who tried to look younger (119). However, in Attic Old Comedy these were minor characters, and the genre as a whole often portrayed older women in positive ways.xix The legacy of the more prominent male senex amans of Greek (or Attic) New Comedy strongly influenced the Restoration female senex. The female senex figure was a post-menopausal woman, who on the one hand fulfilled parental qualities, but on the other was foolishly in love with a younger man. According to Mangan, “The incongruity of such an old woman in a love-plot [was] a source of unending comedy” (98). Although she maintained some social status through her wealth, she was the centre of cruel, sexist and ageist jokes, especially in her attempts to appear and act youthful (102-103). In both male and female variations, the Restoration aging lover was fair game for ridicule. This derision usually hinged on his/her failure to conform to age expectations and emphasized his/her decline. However, as Mangan notes, “if the old men may sometimes get away with their follies in Restoration comedy, the same is rarely true for older women” (98). Such sexist age portrayals became an enduring feature of Western entertainment. The negative, formulaic portrayal of a sexually-interested older woman is important to my Chapter 3 analysis of Sally Clark’s play Moo, and its subversion of this stereotype.  Incarnations of the senex over time have been influenced by the political and social specificity of the culture, and according to Ellis, at certain times this has led to more nuanced pictures of senescence than at others (4). Mangan argues that “the senex flourishes best in societies, or in situations, where there is resistance to real or perceived gerontocratic power and authority” (Mangan 80). Ellis also asserts that the outcome for the senex is strongly tied to genre—for example, the outcome for the comedic senex amans’s inappropriate love is humiliation (he may even regain a prominent place in society if he repents enough), whereas the   58 outcome for the tragic senex amans is madness and/or death (Ellis 32). Ellis argues, then, that the senex is not a simple, static convention. However, Mangan counters that the character type is still usually rooted in decline and is most often the object of ageist ridicule. He explains,  The figure of the senex [. . .] articulates tension and resistance to the perceived power and/or authority of an older generation—a power or authority which might in reality be minimal, or even illusory, but which generates a reaction and a challenge. This is why the senex is so typically a character who has some degree of social power and authority, but whose grip on that authority is increasingly fragile. His attempts to impose that authority, and to hang on to his power, generally result in his becoming the butt of the play’s humour. Mean, obstructive, inappropriately lustful – these are all traits which make the classic senex a target of comedy and alienate him (or her) from the sympathies of the audience. In the history and the genealogy of the senex we see theatrical performances which repeatedly reaffirm negative stereotypes of old age in order to mock them. (Mangan 111-112)   The enduring presence of the senex iratus and senex amans in contemporary theatre and other media forms shows these stereotypes’ tenacity. Whether stereotypically rigid, grumpy, stingy, or overly critical older characters, or ones that are portrayed as foolish and inappropriately lustful, both male and female versions of the senex still appear in contemporary works. We can recognize the senex iratus in television characters such as Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show, Ida Kenzel from Malcolm in the Middle, and Sister Evangelina from Call the Midwife. Hannah Pitt in Tony Kushner’s 1991 Angels in   59 America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is a theatrical variation of the blocking mother. In contemporary Canadian theatre, Queenie in Ronnie Burkett’s Penny Plain is another good example. The elderly Queenie is rash, rude, angry, and constantly demanding and insulting towards her adult daughter. The character of Appa in Ins Choi’s Kim’s Convenience also reiterates this type, especially as he interferes with his daughter’s love life. We can identify the senex amans in characters such as Melvin Udall in the 1997 romantic comedy As Good as It Gets, as well as Blanche Devereaux in The Golden Girls and Mona Robinson in Who’s the Boss, both late 1980’s television sitcoms. In 2016 an adaptation of The Golden Girls called That Golden Girls Show! A Puppet Parody was staged Off-Broadway using puppets and showed the continued popularity of its characters including Blanche (Simoes). In a recent pantomime version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Vancouver’s Theatre Replacement, the evil stepmother queen was portrayed as a fusion of the two types of senex (although in this case, casting the character with a male actor somewhat subverted the stereotype).  The principal legacy of the senex amans is the message that old people interested in sex are ridiculous, grotesque, and worthy of ridicule (for women, especially, this message is often applied to anyone past midlife). A lasting message tied to the senex iratus is that aging parents are irritable, angry, selfish, and obstructive. Such older parents are usually blamed for the family’s discord and dysfunction. Further, portrayals of senex iratus-type mothers, such as the aforementioned Queenie, or Violet in August: Osage County whom I discuss in Chapter 4, can also be linked to the monstrous mother archetype common in Western literature which has been detailed by Kristin Hanson in her 2006 Louisiana State University dissertation “Stage(d) Mothers: Mother-Daughter Tropes in Twentieth-Century American Drama.” Both the senex iratus and senex amans are usually condemned for causing family disharmony. This feeds the   60 recurrent theme of intergenerational discord in Western theatre, which is not only common to comedy (for example, Molière’s Tartuffe, Michel Tremblay’s Les belles-soeurs, Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance, Ins Choi’s Kim’s Convenience), but also extends throughout the genre of tragedy as well (for example, Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Marsha Norman’s ‘Night Mother). This theme of rupture across generations and its relationship to the angry, obstructive, jealous, blocking parent undergirds my analysis of August: Osage County and 4000 Miles in Chapter 5. Although the theatrical treatment of senex characters is traditionally ageist, in some instances senex characters have been consciously used by playwrights to disrupt age expectations. Mangan contends that the senex has a flipside as a subversive trickster character similar to the trickster in folklore (112). He suggests that anarchic examples of old-person-as-trickster were staples of the music halls and live variety shows of late 19th- and early 20th- Century British popular entertainment and can be traced through to contemporary British sitcom and cinema. Tricksters can be old or young, but one of their defining features is that they lack social power or authority: therefore, elderly tricksters hold an important function in societies, cultures and situations in which the old lack agency (Mangan 112). The trickster is a boundary crosser traversing between right and wrong, sacred and profane, clean and dirty, male and female, young and old, living and dead (Hyde 7; Mangan 112). Features of this character are unconventionality, originality, and wisdom (Myerhoff 221). Variations of this stereotype, according to American anthropologist Barbara Meyeroff, include “The wily old man, the truly frightening powerful old witch, the curmudgeon recluse in the hills, the mysterious unpredictable old crone” (221). Theatre variants of this figure include Friar Lawrence in Shakespeare’s Romeo   61 and Juliet, The Witch in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods, Professor Marvel/The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz (The Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage version by L. Frank Baum), and Geppetto in Ronnie Burkett’s Penny Plain. An understanding of the function of the aging trickster provides background to my Chapter 3 analysis of Clark’s characterization of Old Woman in Ten Ways to Abuse an Old Woman. It is also relevant to my Chapter 5 analysis of Vera in 4000 Miles. Both of these characters cross boundaries, subvert age expectations in surprising ways, and rely on humour.  The final old-age stereotype relevant to my analysis is that of idealized pastoral figures. These are wise old characters who approach the sublime in their flawless intellect, morality, metaphysical powers, and/or spiritual pursuits. Mangan describes variations of this type as common in the Middle Ages when Christian elements were integral to the drama of the period (84). Dramatized biblical stories or tales of saints’ lives incorporated such figures, and ideal old age was also used as allegory to represent wisdom and salvation (85). Charney notes examples of variations of this character type in Shakespeare including Old Duke and Old Adam in As You Like It, and Gonzalo in The Tempest (77-81). Another example is Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel that was adapted into numerous dramatized versions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Frick). We can recognize this figure in fairy tales such as the grandmother in Little Red Riding Hood (e.g. recent version by Josephine Evetts-Secker) and Geppetto in The Adventures of Pinocchio (original 1883 novel by Carlo Collodi). Modern theatrical examples include Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings (2006 stage version by A. R. Rahman, Christopher Nightingale, Värttinä, Matthew Warchus and Shaun McKenna) (Russell), and Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (2016 stage version by Jack Thorne, J. K. Rowling, and John Tiffany). This character type has an important relationship to   62 problematized modern day inspirational images of aging and old age, which yoke successful aging to ideals of youthfulness through showing older characters as exceptional in their physical skill, unchanging youthful appearance, fashion sense, sexual prowess, active lifestyle, social popularity, and/or philanthropic enterprise. An understanding of this stereotype is useful as background to my analysis in Chapter 6 where I analyse portraits of inspiring aging that avoid or resist this stereotype.  2.5 Approaches to Studying Aging and Old Age in Drama, Theatre, and Performance Despite anecdotal evidence and the scholarly community’s sense that these stereotypes are pervasive and recurrent on stage, the systematic and critical study of such stereotypes, as well as other representations of aging and old age in drama and theatre, remains limited and as yet incomplete. Nonetheless, there has been a variety of approaches to the study of aging and old age in theatre which I will now outline to situate my own research within the broader field. Senior theatre, intergenerational theatre, and various forms of research-based theatre have all focused on topics related to aging and old age. These fields of artistry and research include many interesting and thoughtful representations and analyses of issues and experiences related to aging beyond midlife. Some of these seek to intervene in the stereotypical traditions I have described above, for example Edmonton Alberta’s GeriActors and Friends is a not-for-profit company that creates and promotes intergenerational theatre. They describe their purpose and approach as promoting health and social/civic participation:   Adhering to the principles of Creative Aging, [GeriActors Theatre] believe[s] that seniors’ engagement in the arts at a level of comparative mastery leads to significant   63 health benefits, an overall sense of well-being and a marked increase in social and civic engagement. Working intergenerationally, seniors have more creative energy and greater opportunities for expression. The stories they tell and the theatre they create are entertaining, but also challenge stereotypes, strengthen memory, develop skills associated with performance, and articulate issues of aging. (Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council)  However, as I outlined in Chapter 1, these types of companies and research projects encompass topics, audiences, and methodological approaches that are different from mine. Research related to these forms of theatre mainly focuses on analyzing their processes for play development, evaluating the well-being of their participants, or determining the effectiveness of knowledge transfer to their audiences. As these are not my goals in this study, I will not review these areas of research in further depth here.  There are broad surveys of narratives of old age in Western history and literature that sometimes draw on dramatic works, along with other literary texts, to reflect historical attitudes toward aging and old age. Examples include the following: Simone de Beauvoir’s La Vieillesse (The Coming of Age) originally published in 1970, Pat Thane’s Old Age in English History: Past Experiences, Present Issues (2000), David G. Troyansky’s Aging in World History (2016), and Jeanie Watson et. al. (eds.) The Portrayal of Life Stages in English Literature 1500-1800 (1989). Helen Small’s 2007 monograph The Long Life is also an instructive text which analyzes philosophical aspects of old age as expressed in Western philosophy and literature and suggests that old age can best be understood when viewed in conjunction with larger philosophical and moral concerns. All of these texts chronicle notions about old age across historical periods,   64 drawing on a variety of classical and contemporary texts, which sometimes include plays. However, none offers an in-depth study of drama. They tend to focus on plays in terms of their literary themes about aging, but do not think about plays in performance, nor do they offer performance analyses. Lorna Berman and Irina Sobkowska-Ashcroft’s Images and Impressions of Old Age in the Great Works of Western Literature (700 B.C. – 1900 A.D.): An Analytical Compendium, published in 1987, offers a broader survey of attitudes and depictions of old age in theatre over time. Of the 267 works analysed in this compendium, it draws on seventy-four dramatic texts dating from the 7th-Century BCE to 19th-Century CE. The compendium categorizes the attitudes of their authors toward aging and the elderlyxx and the attributes of aging characters described in each text. Through analysing twenty-nine comedies, twenty-four tragedies, and twenty-one plays categorized as “drama: romantic drama, tragi-comedy,” this compilation provides a summary of how each work portrays aging. It lists the publication information for each text, information about the author including his/her age when writing text, the target audience, the genre, the popularity of the text, the setting of the story, the specified age of the old character(s), how the text describes the elderly, and the mode of description used (for example, realistic portrayal, allegory etc.). Finally, the compendium provides a brief plot summary for each work. This compilation does not offer in-depth close readings of any of its literary texts, however it does provide a cross section of Western dramatic literature over time up to 1900 CE. It shows that aging and old age have been the subjects of many dramas over time. It also confirms the claims of authors such as Ellis, Mangan, and Thane that aging and old age have been viewed in a variety of ways at differing times and places, but that negative attitudes have persisted throughout history, and, as Mangan asserts, have been demonstrated often in theatre.   65 Canonical Western dramas that turn on old-age narratives have been further analysed in studies that offer close readings of literary texts of a particular historical period, or sometimes of a particular genre. For example, Maurice Charney’s Wrinkled Deep in Time: Aging in Shakespeare provides an in-depth reading of Shakespeare’s aging characters and textual references to aging, proposing a continuum of what it meant to Shakespeare to be old, which ranged from senile, to foolish and intemperate, to wise, courageous, and resilient (2). Another example is Thomas Falkner’s 1995 book The Poetics of Old Age in Greek Epic, Lyric, and Tragedy which examines the poetic traditions and social environments of ancient Greek texts in order to determine what kinds of meaning they carry regarding old age and how these relate to aspects of political, familial, and spiritual life.  Falkner argues that “different treatments of old age are determined by the nature of these contexts as well as by the projects of specific works” (261). Studies of this sort offer alternatives to the decline narrative. For example, Jeffrey Henderson’s 1987 article “Women in Attic Old Comedy” describes positive portrayals of aging women including nurses, housekeepers and doorkeepers (108, 123, 127). In addition, one of Lipscomb’s early writings argues that old men and age difference are used as plot subversion in the works of George Bernard Shaw (“‘Old Gentleman’”). However, many such investigations of canonical Western plays focus more on analysing negative portrayals of old age than on searching out or discussing alternatives to decline.  There is also a body of work which considers how artists of various genres (novelists, poets, painters etc.) confront their own decline and construct a range of related narratives, both positive and negative, in their later works. Such considerations of late style posit that there are connections between an artist’s age (or place in the life course) and the narratives about age contained in that artist’s work. Examples of the study of a dramatist’s late style include Kenneth   66 Muir’s Last Periods of Shakespeare, Racine, and Ibsen (1961); Russ McDonald’s Shakespeare’s Late Style (2006); and ‘Make Sense of Who May’: Essays on Samuel Beckett’s Later Works (1989) edited Robin J. Davis and Lance St. J. Butler. Most such studies focus on white male playwrights, primarily consider plays as literary texts rather than thinking about them in performance, and do not engage with aging beyond the biographical details of the author and their stylistic shifts. The concept of late style is also contested. Hutcheon & Hutcheon argue, for example, that underlying generalizations about creativity in later years are ageist. They suggest that, “universalized (rather than individualized) deployment of the term—whether positively or negatively—has led not only to falsifications, to elisions of distinctions and differences, but also to explicit or implicit denigrations of later-life creativity that are, in fact, ageist” (3). Whether one agrees with or opposes the validity of the concept of late style, this area of research represents a different approach to the study of aging and old-age narratives from that which I pursue in this dissertation. My concern is with the messages about age that plays convey to the public; I am less concerned with what they reflect about their author.  Finally, there is a small but important body of work that falls at the intersection of theatre studies and cultural age studies and employs theoretical approaches from both fields. This type of research is concerned with critically analysing plays both as dramatic texts and in performances. Such research has been most relevant to me in shaping my thinking and guiding my theoretical and methodological approaches. Within this field of research, analyses typically go beyond considering a play’s themes related to aging and old age. Close readings of plays also focus on the role of dramaturgy in creating age narratives, and performance analyses also consider issues such as age performativity and other aspects of embodiment, as well as audience reception. For my primary purpose of actively seeking alternatives to the decline narrative in   67 contemporary Western theatre, four books in this vein have been most pertinent to my research, each of which applies a critical age studies perspective to analyses of theatre or other performance. Listed in chronological order, they are the following: The Stages of Age: Performing Age in Contemporary American Culture by Basting (1998), Staging Age: The Performance of Age in Theatre, Dance, and Film edited by Lipscomb and Marshall (2010), Staging Ageing: Theatre, Performance and the Narrative of Decline by Mangan (2013), and Performing Age in Modern Drama by Lipscomb (2016). Looking at the four alongside each other in more detail will help me to clarify how my own project builds from them and also moves in different directions.   Basting’s The Stages of Age: Performing Age in Contemporary American Culture, established the field of age studies in theatre. Her seminal research explores eight different performances that trouble traditional Western constructs of aging. These performances include five amateur and three professional productions encompassing senior theatre, experimental theatre, and commercial theatre. Basting also describes the organizational structures of many of the producing companies and provides brief production histories for some of the plays. Through her analyses, which overlap theatrical performance with theoretical performativity, Basting draws on theory from gender studies, performance studies, psychology, sociology and social gerontology. Her insightful readings propose ways that the eight performances interrupt, transform, and highlight stereotypes of aging and old age.  Basting’s goal is “to invoke and challenge academic discourses of gerontology, feminism, and postmodernism, and offer diverse, hopeful, yet realistic alternative models of aging” (The Stages of Age 23). In this dissertation I build on Basting’s thesis that theatrical representation offers a way to imagine old age as a valuable stage of life, one that links   68 generations, that is engaged with both present and past, and that is constantly changing. I am guided by Basting’s assertion that “[. . .] consideration of the whole life course and the relationships between generations are critical if we are to dislodge ourselves from the narrative of decline” (The Stages of Age 5, emphasis in original). My approach in Chapters 4 and 6 is especially informed by Basting’s focus on live performance, although unlike Basting I also include analysis of written scripts in Chapters 3 and 5. In particular, Basting’s model of the body in temporal depth, or performative depth model of aging (The Stages of Age 134-146) has been critical to my own analyses as I seek to affirm and expand the model. Inspired by Basting, I specifically look for alternatives to the narrative of decline in the theatrical performances that I study. My work begins, in a sense, where Basting’s left off. I consider plays produced since her book was published in 1998 (Basting’s work since that time has focused on dementia and the performance of self; she has not pursued a broader range of alternatives to the decline narrative in theatre). In addition, and as distinct from Basting, I consider the contemporary Canadian context and include Canadian and British plays where she focused on those that are American. I also focus only on professional theatre which was the minority of the work Basting considered.  Succeeding Basting’s formative work, Lipscomb and Marshall’s edited collection Staging Age: The Performance of Age in Theatre, Dance and Film has also been highly instructive for my research. The book aims to “stimulate further research and undergird pedagogy” (1) and consists of essays under the categories of Film, Theatre, and Dance from a variety of disciplines including cultural studies, psychoanalysis, film and theatre studies. The section on theatre consists of four essays. The three most instructive to me analyse narratives of aging and old age in canonical works (those of Shakespeare, Beckett, and Molière). Chapter 4 “Performing Female      69 Age in Shakespeare’s Plays” by Janet Hill and Valerie Barnes Lipscomb, and Chapter 7 “Molière’s Miser, Old Age, and Potency” by Allen Wood, both of which analyse age narratives in classical plays, inspired me to think about theatrical stereotypes of aging and old age and how these are constructed by both script and performance. Hill and Lipscomb’s chapter also encouraged me to think about casting and its relationship to age narratives. Chapter 5 “Mediating Childhood: How Child Spectators Interpret Actors’ Bodies in Theatrical Media” by Jeanne Klein, though less applicable to my work because of its focus on child spectators, still encouraged me to think further about embodiment and reception. Audience reception is central to my analyses in Chapters 4 and 6. Ruth Pe Palileo’s Chapter 6, titled “‘What Age Am I Now? And I?’: The Science of the Aged Voice in Beckett’s Plays,” motivated me to think about aspects of performance that were less obvious than the spoken words or the visual images of the actor’s body and costume. This eventually led to my focus on interactions with dramatic space, stage properties and structures of time in Chapter 5. As these and other essays in the collection explore performativity, embodiment, default bodies, casting, and masquerade, they have pressed my research forward. They differ from my work in that none of them considers narratives of aging and old age in the works of contemporary playwrights, which I do in Chapters 3, 5 and 6. My work also considers the Canadian context which this collection does not include. I build on the essays in Lipscomb and Marshall’s book through the use of different theatrical examples, and bridge to new ideas as I consider additional factors such as the use of stage properties, dramatic space, structures of time, auto/biographical performance, as well as under-studied themes with respect to old age and theatre, such as age-related memory loss, aging female sexuality, and generational continuity or rupture (intergenerational relations).    70 Following Lipscomb and Marshall’s collection is Mangan’s Staging Ageing: Theatre, Performance and the Narrative of Decline. This book, which incorporates theatre and performance studies approaches, is an exploration of “the way that drama, theatre and performance engage either with old age as a socio-cultural category, or with old age as a lived experience, or with old age as a combination of the two” (Mangan 175). Through exploring selected texts and performances, both historical and contemporary, Mangan considers how plays and performances have shaped understandings of aging at various points in time. His historical examples are mostly drawn from canonical texts, while his current-day examples derive from contemporary British theatre, television, radio drama, dance performances and rock concerts. Mangan’s historical investigation of negative stereotypes, especially through the stock figure of the senex (a major portion of the book), has informed my work in establishing the recurrent stereotypes that the plays I analyse resist. In addition, I am guided by Mangan’s “Chapter 7: On Memory and Its Modes” which includes explorations of several plays that focus on the themes of aging and memory loss, some explicitly about dementia. Here his thoughtful analyses add to my consideration of the relationship between memory and identity. These ideas are most directly related to my Chapters 3 and 6, both of which expressly discuss aging and representations of memory loss. In addition, Mangan’s writing about reminiscence and its relationship to autobiography, as well as the role of nostalgia, was informative to my work on autobiography, memory, and nostalgia in Chapter 6. Like Mangan I am interested in the material, social and ideological conditions surrounding representations of age in theatre. As his title suggests, Mangan is most attentive to the narrative of decline and how it is expressed and resisted in various plays across time—a project very similar to my own. My work differs from Mangan’s in that I place increased emphasis on age performativity. Further, Mangan’s contemporary   71 examples are drawn from the British context, whereas I focus on the Canadian. In addition, Mangan’s approach tends toward breadth; he discusses a wide range of contexts, historical periods, and themes related to aging and old age in theatre (i.e. gerontology, liminality and late style, negative stereotypes, memory, reminiscence, longevity, institutions, song and dance). By contrast, my study encompasses a much more specific and limited time period, and focuses on detailed, in-depth close readings of six plays. Highly instructive to my own research and building on the work of both Basting and Mangan, Lipscomb’s Performing Age in Modern Drama investigates the conventions of performing age in canonical plays written in English, from the early twentieth century to the year of the book’s publication: 2016. Lipscomb includes plays that have contributed significantly to American culture as indicated by critical and commercial success on the American stage, although not all works included are American dramas. Analysing works by playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Tom Stoppard and Brian Friel, Lipscomb’s is the first book to consider the staging of ages across the life course (not just old age). Lipscomb seeks to provide an inclusive model for analysing age that encourages age studies to move away from investigating exclusively older age—an approach that she believes reinforces the youth/age binary and continues to segregate the elderly (6). The book considers mostly Modern canonical scripts produced on the professional stage; however, her last chapter also includes three original amateur senior theatre productions. Lipscomb analyzes the dramatic text with an eye for both literary themes and performative elements, and also considers plays in production through analysing performances she has attended as well as reviews of prevalent productions. I emulate this approach in so far as I also approach dramatic texts from the point of view of both literary   72 elements and performance characteristics. Moreover, like Lipscomb, I incorporate both close readings of plays and performance analyses into my broader study. Lipscomb proposes several ways that memory plays reinforce or question the idea of a stable, enduring, ageless self; these are chiefly through dramatic structure, theatrical devices, and age-related casting. While the plays she investigates reflect varying attitudes toward age, as a whole, Lipscomb argues that both the memory plays and the Senior Theatre performances she interrogates reveal the longing for an ageless, essential self, a stable self that is recognizable and represents a unified identity regardless of the passage of time (10). Lipscomb concludes “Thus, the memory play as a subgenre can challenge contemporary Western culture’s binary construction pitting young against old, as it calls attention to all ages sharing a performative basis” (Performing Age in M.D. 6). This book adds to Lipscomb’s influential previous body of work which includes articles such as “Performing the Aging Self in Hugh Leonard's ‘Da’ and Brian Friel's ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’” “‘Putting on Her White Hair’: The Life Course in Wilder’s The Long Christmas Dinner,” and “Age in M. Butterfly: Unquestioned Performance.” As a leading scholar of research on age and theatre, Lipscomb employs an approach that guides my own in numerous ways, especially methodologically. First, her focus on age narratives on the professional stage and their influence on American culture inspires my similar interest in the influence of professional theatre’s messages about age on the Canadian cultural imaginary. Lipscomb is expressly interested in both the literary themes and performative elements of the dramatic script, as well as the play in performance, which is also my approach. Her interest in age performativity and the effects of age-related casting inform my analyses in Chapters 3, 4 and 6. Lipscomb’s intricate close readings of canonical plays guide my work, particularly in Chapters 3 and 5, in which I also employ the technique of close reading. Like Lipscomb, in Chapter 3, I   73 analyse reviews of prominent productions in addition to the plays themselves. Lipscomb’s final chapter “The Fullness of Self: Performing Identity in Senior Theatre,” although considering amateur productions which are not my focus, much like my work, it references Basting’s performative, depth model of aging (Basting “The Stages of Age” 145), as well as Marvin Carlson’s theory of theatrical ghosting, both of which are important to my work in Chapters 4 and 6. Lipscomb’s interest in structures of time also influences my thinking in all chapters of my dissertation. While firmly guided by Lipscomb, my work differs from hers not only by considering the Canadian context, but also by focusing specifically on narratives related to aging and old age, not on ages across the entire life course. While I admire her desire to establish an inclusive model for age studies that incorporates all ages, and I agree that it can contribute to reducing ageism by lessening youth/age binaries, I am also influenced by the fact that ageism is experienced most often and most forcefully by those who have aged past midlife. My particular interest, then, is in studying how contemporary professional theatre staged in Canada variously reinforces, redresses, and reimagines stereotypes and negative narrative tropes related to aging into and experiencing old age.  Beyond these four books, several key journal articles on staging aging have been particularly influential to my research. Gullette’s chapter titled “Acting Age on Stage: Age-Appropriate Casting, the Default Body, and Valuing the Property of Having an Age” (Aged by Culture 159-178) was the first to consider the age effects of casting. It guided my thinking in this respect, especially informing my Chapter 4 analysis which employs her concept of the default body. Woodward’s “Performing Age, Performing Gender” also contributed to my thinking about age performativity and age stereotypes in visual culture and media. Her concept of “the youthful structure of the look” (“Performing Age” 164) had been key to my Chapter 3 analysis of Clark’s   74 construction of older female characters on stage. Fuchs’s two articles “Estragement: Towards an 'Age Theory' Theatre Criticism" and “Rehearsing Age” both discuss how dramatic structure can be implicated in promoting ageism. While I do not specifically apply her concept of “estragement” [sic], thinking about the role of a play’s dramaturgy in constructing age narratives has been central to my analyses in Chapters 3, 5, and 6. I also found instructional Anna Harpin’s “The Lives of Our Mad Mothers: Aging and Contemporary Performance” which investigates representations of aging in contemporary British and Irish theatre through an examination of stereotype, comedy, illness roles, acting, intergenerational heritage, tragedy and politics (67). Like Harpin, I investigate contemporary plays that rethink the meaning of aging and old age, considering age performativity, auto/biographical techniques, memory, comedy, and intergenerational heritage. However, unlike Harpin, I focus on Canadian theatre and also include analyses of theatricalized male aging. Finally, with respect to research on Canadian theatre, I have been inspired by Casado-Gual’s “Ambivalent Pathways of Progress and Decline: The Representation of Aging and Old Age in Joanna McClelland Glass's Drama.” Although Casado-Gual analyzes McClelland Glass’s entire oeuvre, whereas I investigate individual plays in more depth, her thoughtful consideration of characterizations, plot structures, and temporal frameworks has been instructional to my research in all chapters of this dissertation.  2.6 Conclusion As Switzky astutely comments, “Theatre, as an embodied art that unfolds over time, can both model and challenge narratives, affects, and cultural understandings (and misunderstandings) about aging” (137). In this dissertation, I seek to build on the work that has come before my own and offer new insights into narratives of aging and old age in contemporary   75 professional Canadian theatre. The following chapters contribute analyses of six plays that consider ways in which these theatrical works challenge, complicate, or offer alternatives to the simplistic or stereotypical decline story of aging, as well as denaturalize other stereotypes and narrative tropes concerning aging and old age.     76 Chapter 3: “I’m an old fucking woman as of today”: Sally Clark’s Dramaturgies of Female Agingxxi  Award-winning Canadian playwright Sally Clark has been an influential figure in Canadian theatre and scholarship since the 1980s.xxii Her unorthodox, tragicomic plays have been produced professionally in New York and across Canada, anthologized in collections,xxiii and taught in Canadian postsecondary courses. While critics have traced complex feminist impulses in her work,xxiv none have yet focused on how her plays unsettle dominant paradigms of aging and old age—a striking omission considering the transgressiveness of her characterizations of elderly women. Here I analyze Clark’s two plays that feature central female characters in old age: Moo (1988) and Ten Ways to Abuse an Old Woman (1983; henceforth, Ten Ways).xxv Like Clark’s complex feminism, her constructions of aging and particularly old age are not straightforward; they walk the line between reinforcing ageist narratives and offering resistant alternatives to commonly held beliefs. While at times this tends toward aporia, I argue that in these plays—which were written well before the recent expansion of the anti-ageism movement—Clark does important work toward contesting the fixed scripts that serve to anchor ageist notions, particularly the ubiquitous decline narrative. Neither play completely departs from tropes of physical and mental loss accompanying aging. Indeed, certain readings might interpret Clark’s writing as reinscribing these devaluing tropes of decline, particularly if they fail to consider ways in which the text’s satirical elements can be exposed through performance. I argue, however, that although Clark is not always successful, in key ways both plays resist fixed, stereotypical framings of old age, highlighting instead the ambiguities and incongruities of old-age identity. I contend that Clark’s use of dramaturgical techniques including achronicity,   77 disruption of rising conflict, intratextual polyvocality, ambiguous endings, and humour results in constructions of female aging and old age that highlight performativity, challenge disease as an objective category, and disrupt the simplistic association between aging and loss.xxvi Clark’s work has significance because of its striking, focused, and complex engagement with negative fixed assumptions about female aging and old age.  Clark’s short play Ten Ways employs a darkly comedic approach to explore the relationship between an apparently senile elderly mother and her middle-aged daughter, in which the mother seems happier and often better adjusted. Moo is a black comedy that tells the life story of Moo (short for Moragh) and her obsession with a “rotter” named Harry (Moo 11), which leads to years of mutual torture, strained relationships, and Moo’s probable murder at his hand. At the same time, it presents Moo as free-thinking and shows her transcendence over abuse and stereotypes.  Like Clark’s other plays, Ten Ways and Moo feature complex female protagonists replete with ambiguities. Unlike her other plays, however, both feature central female characters aging into and experiencing old age; in the case of Moo, the character ages from approximately her late teens to her seventies, while in Ten Ways, “Old Woman” is likely about aged seventy or more, since her daughter is described as aged fifty (“Ten Ways” 319). Despite the fact that Clark’s central female characters might at first seem to lack agency—both potentially suffer abuse and exhibit senility in their old age—attention to the satirical elements of the plays reveals that these women are not objects, but rather agents of comedy.  According to Lisa Colletta, “Satire is an attack [. . . ] which exposes human vices and folly to scorn and ridicule” using strategies such as inversion, exaggeration, contradiction, incongruity and juxtaposition (209). While an analysis of Clark’s comedy is not the primary   78 focus of this article, discussions of her use of humour and satire contribute to my analysis of the ways in which her dramaturgy resists ageist narratives. By highlighting performativity, resisting decline, and incorporating humour, Clark’s dramaturgy creates provocative portraits of female aging that are often resistant and rebellious.   3.1 Age Performativity  One way Clark creates defiant portraits of age in Moo and Ten Ways is by clearly foregrounding age performativity to defamiliarize dominant age scripts. For a more detailed discussion of age performativity, please refer to Chapter 2, pages 41-45. Clark’s notes concerning the casting of Moo play an important role in understanding the play’s enactment of age performativity. Clark writes, “This play can be performed by eight actors: 5 women and 3 men” (Moo 10) and she recommends under “suggested casting” that Moo be played by the same actress throughout the play (10). Moo has been cast this way in all productions I have uncovered. Toronto Star reviewer Robert Crew describes this casting in a review of the play’s first Toronto production at Factory Theatre: “Moo starts as a determined teenager and ends as a senile woman in her seventies. It’s a gloriously dangerous assignment for an actor” (“Moo Puts Humourous Bite on Snatches of Family Life” C2). Because Moo spans fifty years, the lead actress playing Moo must play outside her own age range. In the first two productions, Moo was cast and successfully played by actresses of quite different ages. In the first production, at the 1988 Alberta Theatre Projects’ festival of new plays, thirty-one-year-old Wendy Noel played the title role. Peter Wilson for the Vancouver Sun reviewed her performance: “Wendy Noel, as Moo, dominates every scene she is in, always perfectly in sync with the age and mental state of her character” (D6). In the 1989 Toronto Factory Theatre production, Patricia Hamilton was about   79 fifty-one when she played the role. Reviews also recognized her facility with performing age. Ray Conlogue wrote in the Globe and Mail:  I saw the play before with a young actress doing the role, and in some ways that worked better [. . .] But Hamilton is so consummately and exuberantly at one with Moo’s spirit that it doesn’t matter after the first two seconds. If she says she’s 19, then she’s 19. (C9)  In the Toronto Star, Crew noted that, “The final scenes [played by Hamilton], of a weak, tired and forgetful old woman still obsessed by her Harry, are powerful and touching” (“Moo Puts Humourous Bite on Snatches of Family Life” C2). Much like how Lipscomb describes the character Mother Bayard in Thorton Wilder’s The Long Christmas Dinner, Moo “embodies senescence while recounting girlhood” (“‘Putting on Her White Hair’” par. 8) in the relatively short time span of the play. The jumps back and forth in the play’s chronology mean that the actress playing Moo is required to shift her stylized performance of age quite quickly. Similar to The Long Christmas Dinner, in Moo “the accelerated time forces audiences to confront the physical transformation of age” (par. 14). Reviews suggest that actresses with a twenty-year age difference have both successfully achieved this effect.   Not only does the actor playing Moo have to perform a wide age range, but Clark also suggests that the characters Ditty, Sarah, and Harry be played by one actor per role, so these actors, too, must produce performances of age spanning fifty years (Moo 10). Other actors are double cast and also perform various ages. The Globe and Mail review of Moo’s Factory Theatre production noted, “All these actors, over the half-century time span of the story, play several other roles: [Michael] Simpson, remarkably, goes from being Moo’s father to being her son, and   80 pulls it off” (Conologue C9). The responses of reviewers demonstrate that audience members were able to recognize performances of age despite the fact that the physical body of the actor did not always match the chronological age of the character. This supports the idea that potentially controllable aspects of performance (nuance in movement, facial expression, vocal tone, etc.) play a role in constructing age, but also that certain aspects of performative identity remain consistent over time, since the audience was able to recognize a character despite the character’s shifting age and the fact that the same actors played multiple characters. Because the same bodies play a variety of ages, age is revealed as a system of beliefs and behaviors mapped onto the bodies of the actors. This draws attention to what Lipscomb describes as “performative elements that mark the self as aging and aged” (“‘Putting on Her White Hair’” par. 30), and serves to denaturalize and defamiliarize dominant age ideology, which tends to consider particular age characteristics as essential or natural to discrete life stages.  3.2 The Decline Narrative  Michael Mangan has noted that the representation of aging as decline has been a significant force throughout Western theatrical history (23, 79), and stereotypes have often denigrated aging and old age. For a more detailed discussion of the decline narrative, please refer to Chapter 1, pages 4-5. In recent years, Western theatre has shifted away from a singular focus on decline. Harpin observes that beginning in the 1980’s British and Irish theatre began to mirror the increased cultural presence of older women (71). She claims that this period brought “an emerging focus on the complexities of the lived experience of female aging [on stages] in the UK and Ireland and the narratives of decline and stereotypes of eccentricity attendant on such experience” (72). In Canadian theatre, a similar phenomenon occurred. The 1980s saw the   81 emergence of a greater number of older characters on English Canadian stages, and this included the appearance of several nuanced portraits of older women. The first English language productions of two important French Canadian works appeared at this time. In 1979, the well-known Acadian play La Sagouine, by Antonine Maillet, featuring an old washerwoman, was first performed in English on CBC (Bite Size Canada par. 3). In 1985, Albertine, en cinq temps (Albertine in Five Times) by Michel Tremblay had its first English production at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre (Tarragon Theatre). It was during this period that Sally Clark’s plays Moo and Ten Ways were first produced. I now turn to a discussion of how unique elements of Clark’s dramaturgy serve to interrupt the decline narrative in these two works.  Gullette has argued that the decline narrative is deeply ingrained in our unconscious by early exposure to accepted story-structural forms that tell the meaning of time passing (Aged by Culture 12-13). Theatre might be understood to produce such a conditioning effect by its use of traditional dramatic structure. Theatre scholar Ric Knowles argued in 1999 that, especially since the 1960’s, the dramaturgical unconscious of most playwrights, directors, theatre critics, and audiences in Canada had been shaped by the combined influence of Aristotle’s Poetics, the Oedipus myth, and the Bible, all of which promote dramatic structure in the form of exposition, complication, reversal and denouement (The Theatre of Form 31). Knowles contends the following:   This Aristotelian/oedipal/biblical narrative, then, has become the standard structural unconscious of dramatic naturalism in Canada [. . .] and the meanings and ideologies that it inscribes, [are] fundamentally conservative and patriarchal [. . . and] constitute the   82 primary and affirmative social impacts of the plays that use it, whatever their (conscious) themes or subject matters. (31)  Through adhering to and reproducing familiar structures, such works “deny form or structure any ideological weight or cultural coding, treating them as neutral and value-free tools” (26). As audiences, then, we have tended to accept hidden messages in plays because they fit with our unconscious expectations about plot and characters, many of which are shaped by ageist narratives. For example, contemporary Canadian audiences may fail to question why the oldest character in a play is written as eccentric or forgetful, or as unwittingly causing conflict, because the story structure unfolds in a way that we expect and thus naturalizes such depictions.   In contrast to this dramaturgical approach, Sally Clark uses what Knowles terms “dramaturgy of the perverse.”  According to Knowles:  As a structural principle, perversity may usefully be seen as a revisioning of Aristotelian reversal [sic] (and recognition) as well as an intertextualist (or “interstructuralist”) rejection of modernist purity, clarity, and self-containment. Unlike the more familiar concept of subversion, however, the perverse is not simply arranged in an oppositional (and therefore affirming) relationship to the dominant. Perversion is dialogic in Bakhtin’s sense, more variously disruptive and less simply reactive than the concept of subversion suggests. (The Theatre of Form 44-45)  This approach uses dramaturgical techniques such as chronological jumbling, narrative instability, and disruption of rising conflict. Prior to the 1980s, when Clark’s plays were first   83 produced, such techniques were not uncommon in European and some pockets of Canadian modernist theatre. However, in Canada, theatrical production had long been dominated by the tradition of realism and the well-made play (Barker and Solga vi-xi)). Thus, Clark’s use of these techniques ran against the common grain of realism in Canadian theatre, and in so doing, helped to challenge the depiction of age as a natural and inevitable process of decline and loss.  Clark’s play Moo is constructed in forty-seven short scenes. While the overall narrative tells Moo’s life story from youth to old womanhood, the play does not unfold in a chronological sequence. For example, in Act 2, scene 7 Moo appears in a nursing home; we know she is older than sixty-five at this point. In the next scene Harry, Moo’s former husband and the object of her obsessive love, reappears to deliver a brief monologue. His presence reminds us of Moo’s youth when we last saw them together. Next Moo appears with her young son, locating her as the mother of a child. The direct juxtaposition of scenes in which Moo appears as an old woman, with scenes in which she is a variety of younger ages, reminds us of her varied experiences at many points across her life course and undercuts the representation of old age as a category yoked to decline and distinct from youth.   In terms of staging, Clark specifies, “With the exception of the blackout after the first scene, the play should be performed without blackouts or fades” (Moo 9).xxvii The audience is not given a moment to look away or separate the scenes. Rather, the successive showcasing of multi-aged images disrupts what Woodward describes as the cultural convention of looking away from old age and illness, which she terms “the youthful structure of the look” (“Performing Age” 164). Woodward suggests that in American [and, I would add, Canadian] visual culture, spectators typically cast themselves as younger than and superior to the old person they see portrayed, unless they are invited to do otherwise by the non-normative nature of the cultural text   84 (164). Clark offers precisely this kind of non-normative invitation by juxtaposing scenes of old age with those of different ages, never fixing on a clear chronology. In each case the same actor plays Moo and as audiences become invested in her narrative, they follow her in successive scenes in which her age varies. Their sense of her as a character is based on an accrual of perspectives that does not follow the neat logic of either chronology or straightforward decline. The absence of black-outs, the use of the same actor, the jumps forward and back in chronology and the recurrence of leitmotifs such as Moo’s obsession with Harry, her recoveries from supposed illness and injury, and her non-conventional and often unorthodox responses to situations build the sense of complex continuity between Moo at different ages.   Clark also challenges the decline narrative by avoiding Aristotelian dramaturgy’s steady linear cause-and-effect complication toward a single climax. Clark incorporates many small climatic moments throughout her achronological scenes; none of them leads to clear resolution. Some of the mini-climaxes show Moo’s health compromised at various stages of her life. Decline is not constructed as inevitable or (apart from her probable death) as irreversible. Near the beginning of the play we see Moo as a young woman confined to an insane asylum by her husband, Harry. Moo claims that there is nothing wrong with her: “Look, Harry is lying. I don’t know why he’s lying but he’s lying. Call my sisters” (Moo 20). We then see Moo start to question her sense of reality: “You’re sure I have a sister [. . .] And Harry is not my brother” (Moo 61). However, she is then released from the asylum and once again appears self-assured. Next, we see Moo as an even younger woman who is shot in the head by Harry, yet she recovers. As a relatively old woman, Moo experiences a broken hip; it is unclear if this was caused by a fall or by her sister, Ditty, jumping on her. As a result, Moo’s sisters have her confined to a nursing home, claiming she is unfit to live alone. This recalls her commitment to the asylum in   85 her youth, and again causes us to question whether Moo is actually physically or mentally compromised, or whether her sisters construct her “decline” because it is convenient to them. Clark shows Moo in decline at a number of life stages, but this decline is not continuous; it is reversed a number of times, challenging its validity as a natural process. Although Clark’s disruption of this narrative is not complete—Moo’s decline seems accelerated as she becomes older and is questioned less at her oldest age— by highlighting and interrogating the social factors influencing decline, Clark moves toward denaturalizing it as the primary and inevitable story of aging.   In Ten Ways Clark employs similar dramaturgical techniques. This play, like Moo, is structured in short scenes – fifteen in all; the play is only thirty minutes in length. In this case the temporality is ambiguous. The repetitive nature of both Old Woman’s actions (such as boiling eggs, running the dishwasher, and preparing food for the deceased dog), and her interactions with her daughter, gives a sense of cyclical time. Old Woman is not portrayed as more physically or mentally compromised in any scene as compared to any other. Ratsoy suggests that the brevity of the play and the fragmentary nature of the scenes, combined with the play’s title, echo popular how-to manuals (317). Generally, how-to manuals provide a set of specific instructions to help people (usually non-experts) accomplish a specific task, but here Clark perverts the essential purpose of the how-to manual. Not only is her topic not socially affirming (as opposed to most how-to manuals), but the goal of the manual is never accomplished. Throughout the play, we see Daughter “abusing” her mother in different ways, but Old Woman never seems to suffer from the abuse. She remains happy throughout. For example, in scene 13, when Daughter and George remind Old Woman that her husband, Charlie, is dead and that she was very unhappy about it for years, Old Woman “mulls it over” and replies, “But, I’m happy now” (“Ten Ways” 328). As   86 Daughter grows increasingly outraged throughout the play, her angry reactions become comically excessive, particularly because Old Woman remains unfazed. Since the abuse does not appear to have any impact or to accumulate between the discrete scenes, the manual form reads more like a collection of strategies in resisting ageist mistreatment. Through such an outrageous, humorous, and culturally taboo representation (including the audacity of naming the character “Old Woman” and the brazen satire of the play’s title), Clark deliberately foregrounds the issue of elder abuse.  Clark also uses the dramaturgical technique of ambiguous endings to challenge the decline narrative. According to Knowles, use of such perversion techniques “disrupts the complacent, voyeuristic, oedipal, or ecstatic satisfaction and containments provided by dramatic catharsis” (The Theatre of Form 45). Robin Whittaker argues that in Clark’s plays ambiguous endings “function as a complication instead of a resolution or a restabilization of culture values” (“Narrativizations and Perversions” 18). In the second-to-last scene in Moo we see Harry enter Moo’s nursing home room with a gun. He places her hand on the gun, “raises the gun to Moo’s heart. Moo does not resist. She and Harry pull the trigger” (Clark Moo 131). This is apparently assisted suicide, but it could be murder. We never get to see the outcome. We are left wondering whether this was Moo’s ultimate moment of agency, whether she was victimized, and we might even wonder if Moo actually died.  The idea that Moo’s life would end in old age by non-precontemplated assisted suicide or by murder is clearly troublesome from the perspective of ageism. Gullette worries that the media's neoliberal messages that old people are expensive "burdens" might be putting pressure on older women, and men as well, to end their lives prematurely (by refusing care or committing suicide) (Gullette “V. Why I Hesitated”). She denounces the growing numbers of spousal   87 murders (by husbands of their dependent, often memory-impaired, elderly wives) that often go unpunished, considered "euthanasia" by a legal system that is not upset when old white men use their guns (Gullette “Our Frightened World”). I wish not to minimize these critical issues. But Clark’s ending also serves a useful purpose—the unresolved shooting of Moo, through disrupting dramatic catharsis, prompts the audience to question the personal, social, and cultural factors that would lead to such a violent, complicated end to a long life.  In Ten Ways the ambiguous ending similarly complicates the decline narrative. In the last scene of the play, Daughter and George discover Old Woman “sitting in the dark, staring straight ahead of her” (Clark “Ten Ways” 329). The audience is left uncertain whether Old Woman has died, as Daughter and George question her continued vitality and shockingly decide to “put a blanket over her and leave her till tomorrow morning” (330). As Daughter and George brutally turn their backs on a woman who could be either sick or dead, it is unclear whether this is the ultimate scene of abuse, or whether Old Woman has played a trick on them and will have the last laugh. Here Clark plays with the duality Woodward describes as producing the older female body as both invisible and hypervisible in Western culture and media (Figuring Age xvi-xvii). Old Woman is made invisible and objectified by being covered by a blanket. Paradoxically, however, this makes her hypervisible at the centre of the final scene of the play and serves satirically to expose the barbarity of Daughter and George’s actions. In both plays, then, by creating ambiguous endings, Clark disrupts traditional dramatic catharsis and emotional resolution. Rather than restabilising cultural values linking aging and old age to decline, Clark asks audiences to question the inevitability of decline as the master narrative for aging adults.     88 3.3 Aging Female Sexuality  In addition to manipulating dramatic structure, Clark also poses a direct challenge to the decline narrative in her construction of Moo as a woman who is sexually interested and active at the age of sixty. In recent years media discourses have constructed the sexuality of aging adults such that “active sexuality—defined narrowly as the ability to perform heterosexual intercourse—has become a key indicator of positive and successful aging” (Barbara Marshall 170). Such framings of aging women’s sexuality are often complex and contradictory. For example, in film roles aging stars such as Helen Mirren now represent a challenge to notions of aging women as asexual (Overton et al. 195). But such representations are not all positive. Scholar of aging, gender, culture, and media, Sadie Wearing, argues that Mirren’s sexuality is framed as having a complex relationship with power and sexual victimization (157).  While such contemporary constructions still represent progress, in the late 1980’s when Clark wrote Moo, these were not common media representations of women in midlife or beyond. Our cultural image repertoire of aging at that time was more in line with how Woodward described the late 1990’s in “Performing Age, Performing Gender,” as a culture not used to accommodating visions of older women as sexual or reproductive beings (170). Woodward pointed to the “the sexless and comfortable grandmother” as one of our stock images of older woman (170). The 1967 film The Graduate exemplified the popular depiction of a middle-aged woman as sexually predatory of a much younger man (although the “middle-aged” character was only forty-two, and the actress who played her, Anne Bancroft, only 36) (Overton et al. 186-187). Leni Marshall and Aagje Swinnen note that such media portrayals (another example being Blanche Devereaux in Golden Girls) serve to represent “aged female sexual agents” as “predatory ‘cougars’ or as comedic figures [. . .] reinforcing their social exclusion and restricting   89 old women’s ability to act even as objects of desire” (159). So, in 1988, by writing Moo as a sexually active and interested sixty-year-old woman not predatory of a younger man, and as a character we laugh with, not at, Clark was pushing against common contemporary representations.  In a scene that stages Moo’s sixtieth birthday party (an event that highlights her age), the character twice proclaims, “I’m an old fucking woman as of today” (Clark Moo 84, 85). Here Clark draws together Moo’s age and her sexual appetite, reclaiming the term “old” as positive. In the scene, Moo’s sexuality is not sentimentalized, sanitized, or infantilized; rather, it is refracted through different ages and presented in excess. We see Wally, referred to as an “old man” (84), trying to pull off Moo’s dress. The two then disappear under the table as the other guests attempt to toast Moo’s birthday. Moo’s sexuality is represented as “in-the-moment” (her niece Jane complains, “Must she celebrate here and now” [86]) and as somewhat reckless (she disappears with Wally under the table at an otherwise decorous party). This is consistent with her behavior at younger ages and serves as a point of character continuity.  Clark also perverts the cultural norm of female attraction to a handsome man. As Moo enthusiastically talks about Wally: “[I’m] Never too old to play with Wally. Isn’t he disgusting? I think he’s the most repulsive man I’ve ever come across. And that’s saying something” (87). Moo’s interest in Wally is not represented as a last resort; she is not a victim but zealously chooses him. Clark’s construction of Moo’s sexuality recalls Mikhail Bakhtin’s descriptions of the carnivalesque (303) and its topsy turvy world of exaggeration and hyperbole, temporary liberation from established social order, ambivalent laughter, and sexual excess (1-12). Moo’s sexual attraction to Wally is presented as liberating through its fulsomeness. Moo and Wally as ‘older’ characters are presented as the two people having fun at the party, while younger   90 generations experience interpersonal friction and worry about social propriety. The audience identifies and laughs with Moo because she is enjoying herself, and because she offers an opportunity for them to admit their own sexual perversions. Here laughter is not demeaning but liberating as Clark upends age expectations about sexuality (the young are more conservative, the old more liberated).  While today representations of women’s sexuality in midlife and beyond are becoming more common, the construction of a sexually interested and active sixty-year-old woman in 1980’s Canadian theatre was a rare occurrence. The fact that the role of Moo was played (in all cases I have uncovered) by bodies chronologically younger than age sixty-five does problematize the representation, as it could suggest a more youthful physical ideal is necessary to be sexually desirable or active. The impact of such casting could only be properly analyzed by observing the actual performing bodies on stage. It is also recognized that this representation is limited to heteronormative aging female sexuality. Still, through constructing Moo’s sexuality using carnivalesque humour and performative excess, Clark opens up the possibility of representing aging women as interested and active participants in their own sexual lives.  3.4 The Complexity of Overcoming Decline  While Clark effectively unsettles decline through the techniques I have discussed, the complexity of overcoming this narrative is also evident in her plays, particularly in Moo. If taken in isolation, Act 2, scene 15, in which Moo appears in a nursing home, might be thought to produce a negative age-effect by emphasizing decline and personal failure. In the brief monologue that makes up this scene, Moo complains: “I’m old and Harry Parker never loved   91 me,” and also, “I’m an old dog left out in the rain. No one likes my smell and it’s time to die” (118).  But the suggestion that Moo has become devalued in old age is challenged in the following scene when her niece, Susan, comes to visit. Susan declares, “All the relatives say you’re senile but I know you’re not. Don’t worry. I’ll get you out of here” (119) Here Susan demonstrates ongoing trust and desire for connection with Moo. Also, the negative physical associations drawn in this monologue are countered in Moo’s final scene (in which she appears at her oldest age). Harry’s only line in the scene is “Moo? (goes to MOO, takes her hand) What beautiful hands you have. You always had beautiful hands” (131) which reinforces her enduring beauty in old age. Within the Act 2 scene 15 monologue itself, Moo suggests that her youth was imperfect and a building block of her current situation: “I have done selfish things in my time [ . . .]. My youth and my love — foolish, frail, self-deceits” (118). Her increased self-knowledge over time disrupts the narrative of decline.  Both in this scene and throughout the play, Clark presents Moo as not just a victim, but also a highly culpable agent of her own misfortunes. In constructing Moo this way, Clark shows a complex and self-reflexive character. She avoids simplistic inspirational images of old age that can result in positive stereotypes of the elderly that, according to Woodward, can be as limiting as negative ones (Figuring Age xxii). However, Clark does evoke associations between negative physical images and old age and locates the greatest deterioration of Moo’s relationships at her oldest age (Susan becomes angry with her, the nurses in the nursing home do not believe her, her sisters no longer visit). So, while Clark is able to challenge or subvert the decline narrative in many ways, in her construction of deep old age in Moo, the decline narrative proves difficult to escape.   92 3.5 Senility, Narrative Instability, Questioning Disease  Memory loss arises in both Moo and Ten Ways. This theme, common to stories about aging and old age, often functions to naturalize mental decline as part of the aging process and instill a sense of fear about the prospect of aging. Critics invite us to think reflexively about the language surrounding memory loss. In the last half-century, a medicalized, pathology-based understanding of old-age memory loss has become increasingly favored; it is now most often articulated as the medical diagnosis of “dementia,” or, its most common form, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) (Cohen “Introduction: Thinking About Dementia” 7-8; Gravagne 137-138). Framing old-age memory loss medically was an attempt to destigmatize the term “senility,” divorce it from negative associations established in the Inquisition (Cohen No Aging in India 73-74), and root it as a physiological—not moral—problem (Gravagne 132). However, it also has served to other those experiencing the condition (132). Basting asserts that in recent years, “Alzheimer’s has [. . .] become something much more than the disease. It has swollen into a fear that permeates the cultural consciousness of the United States” [and, I would add, Canada] (“Looking Back” 87). This fear both infiltrates and is bolstered by many artistic representations of AD and related dementias as seen in film and theatre. Film scholar Sally Chivers argues that in film this fear has shaped the use of AD as a symbolic shorthand for old age and as a way “to neatly signify a set of simple losses rather than to convey the complex transformations that cognitive decline invites and entails” (60). In short, many of our artistic outputs reinforce a medicalized understanding of old-age memory loss by naming it dementia or AD and presenting it as an individual’s pathology. This hinders our ability to contemplate other meanings that might be given to the experience.   93  Contrastingly, Lawrence Cohen, in Thinking about Dementia: Culture, Loss, and the Anthropology of Senility discusses “senility” as a term that extends beyond the specificity of dementia or AD. He defines senility as “the perception of deleterious behavioral change in someone understood to be old, with attention to both biology and the institutional milieu in which such change is marked, measured, researched, and treated” (“Introduction: Thinking About Dementia” 1). According to Cohen, senility has had, at various times and places in history, “broader relevance for critical thought and application” (3). He reclaims the term “senility” because it “leaves open the hierarchy of relations between the varieties of material and social process at stake in understanding loss, voice, and the body in time” (No Aging in India xv).  I adopt Cohen’s perspective because I am interested in how theatre (as an art form and cultural institutional milieu) has constructed—and continues to construct—meanings about senility (under which I group dementia and AD). I am attentive to how “senile” characters behave, to what various characters seemingly believe (or say) about senility, and also to how a play functions dramaturgically to construct cultural messages about what senility is and how it manifests. I adopt this term because I find the terms “dementia” and “AD” at times cannot capture the way that old-age memory loss is represented in theatre. This is particularly evident in Clark’s plays, which stage a memory loss that is contested, subjective, and not medically framed.  Presentation of the oldest character in a play as senile or becoming senile is a recurrent theme in canonical Western plays: for example, Lear in Shakespeare’s King Lear, Maria Josefa in The House of Bernarda Alba by Frederico Garcia Lorca, Mrs. Winemillar in Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams, and Firs in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. To date there has been no comprehensive overview of historical representations of senility (or dementia) in   94 Western theatre generally, or Canadian theatre more specifically. Mangan, referring to what I term senility but what he calls dementia (reflecting the inconsistent use of these terms), notes that “drama—and live theatre in particular—has tended to fight somewhat shy of the representation of dementia; ever since King Lear, certainly, comparatively few plays have attempted to portray dementia ‘from the inside’” (145).  In recent years more portrayals of senility, particularly medically-framed understandings of it, are appearing on North American and British stages. Some considerations stage a dementia that is not specified, but that is clearly constructed so that causes other than the physiological remain unquestioned, for example Daisy in Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy. Other plays tell stories specifically about AD or a related dementia, for example Peter M. Floyd’s Absence (Aucoin). Often plays focus on the caregiver’s perspective and tend to promote themes of burden and loss, for example Dennis Foon’s adaptation of Scar Tissue (Thomas) or Marcus Youssef’s How Has My Love Affected You? (NeWorld Theatre), both recent Canadian works. While some plays reinstate negative beliefs about senility, others, particularly in recent years, have functioned to disrupt entrenched narratives. Various dramatic techniques that challenge expectations about age and memory loss have been described by Basting (“God Is”), Harpin, Pia Kontos (“Alzheimer Expressions”), Mangan, and Moore, and involve the non-traditional use of dramatic structure, characterization, narrative, and language in recent plays.xxviii These authors highlight the richness of theatre as a site for reimagining senility, representing it as an experience beyond the memory impairment, decline, and loss that typically accompany a medicalized “dementia” perspective. These researchers and the playwrights they discuss are notably invested in questioning the varying truths surrounding representations of senility: Is senility/dementia represented accurately and from whose perspective? Is a life given value? To   95 what extent is the disease allowed to be performed? How is identity represented? Where Clark’s works differs from these later plays is in her greater concern with questioning the social construction and validity of the condition itself. While I have already discussed the effects of her disrupted chronology, I now turn to her use of narrative instability and its influence on her construction of senility.  Clark uses the technique of polyvocality in Moo and Ten Ways to create narrative instability, and unsettle the assumption that disease is an objective category. Whittaker describes polyvocality as the use of conflicting voices such that synthesis is not the desired conclusion, but rather the goal is an open-endedness that allows for multiple interpretations (“Narrativizations and Perversions” 29). Clark sets up opposing narratives as a catalyst for conflict (25). For example, in Act 2, scene 7 of Moo, when Moo appears in a nursing home for the first time, she and her sisters offer different interpretations of what led to this situation:  MOO – It was your idea, wasn’t it? Lock me up for good this time. SARAH – (to DITTY) What’s she talking about? MOO - (to DITTY) Don’t try to deny it. I saw you looking at me. Goddammit, you paused, counted to three and then you jumped. DITTY – I did not jump on your hip. [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] SARAH – Moo? Are you going senile? MOO – So help me, you may think you’ve got me right where you want me. But I’m getting out of here if it’s the last thing I do.     96 [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] DITTY – She’s going senile, isn’t she, Sarah? SARAH – Yes, dear. I’m afraid she is. (Clark Moo 100-101)  Here, Clark sets up the narrative so that we never know whose side of the story is “true.”  Another example of Clark’s use of polyvocality is seen in Ten Ways: the narrative is structured so that we question whether Daughter and her partner George’s reactions of anger and frustration toward Old Woman are warranted based on her actions. For example, in scene 13 Old Woman is eating with her plate on her lap and does not notice that anyone is talking to her. Her daughter asks loudly (as indicated by Clark’s capitalization), “WHY DON’T YOU PUT YOUR PLATE ON THE TABLE?” (319). When the Old Woman responds, “I’m very happy, thank you, dear. [ . . . ] We’re all in this world to be happy. Ho ho ho,” George exclaims, “That’s it! You’re right, enough’s enough. She has got to go!” (327).  Clark’s narrative formulation leads us to question whether Old Woman is acting out of true confusion and disorientation or out of choice. In actions such as not passing on phone messages or taking out her hearing aid so she cannot hear Daughter, it is not clear whether Old Woman acts “out of malice or as a result of senility” (Whittaker “Narrativizations and Perversions” 25). Here again, the audience is asked to reflect on whether (or how) senility is socially or personally constructed. We are propelled to contemplate whether Old Woman’s apparent forgetfulness is an organic condition (i.e., a biomedical understanding of dementia), whether it has been caused by social factors, or whether it could be a choice to escape unpleasant conditions and interactions. Thus, Clark asks us to evaluate the role of subjectivity in our understanding of decline and, in particular, of mental losses. By compelling audiences to   97 consider that senility might be socially constructed or even self-chosen, Clark destabilizes representations of the elderly that insidiously link old age to mental deterioration. On the one hand, by writing her older female characters as perhaps having memory problems, Clark does reinstate the link between old age and memory loss; she is not telling an alternative story, so the repertoire of how we talk about old age remains fixed on the same themes. By introducing this common narrative and then undoing it through narrative instability and humour, however, Clark undercuts notions of old-age memory loss as necessarily pathological and inevitable.   3.6 Conclusion  Clark’s dark and satirical plays about two elderly women (Moo and Old Woman) speak of individual lives. While they are not attempting to be universal stories, they open up possibilities for the inclusion of a wider range of older adults’ life stories, particularly those of women, in our theatrical and literary culture. By perverting traditional Western character and plot construction through the use of achronicity, disruption of rising conflict toward a single climax, intratextual polyvocality, ambiguous endings, and humour, Clark’s plays work to dismantle entrenched narratives of aging and old age that link aging to physical and mental decline and limit the expression of aging female sexuality. However, the complexity of cultural narratives means that even texts like Clark’s that attempt to challenge age norms, and in many ways succeed, also reassert negative age ideology in surreptitious ways. Clark does not venture far from themes such as physical and mental decay, deterioration of relationships, and the invisibility of old women to offer unique themes about aging. However, through her many dramaturgical twists on these themes, she often manages to resist and rework traditional ageist narratives, which position aging as a process of decline and loss. Her portraits of old women are   98 thus paradoxical, non-traditional, and in many ways rebellious. For the time in which they were written, these early works by Clark were quite innovative.  Analyzing plays and the way they are realized in performance provides a valuable angle from which to consider cultural narratives of aging and old age. Lipscomb writes, “Too often consideration of aging in dramatic form is limited to textual themes regarding older characters, and occasionally to issues of casting” (“‘Putting on Her White Hair’” par. 2). Less often do analyses consider how age performativity can be revealed through performance, or how a play’s dramatic structure works to expose or conceal, subvert or reinforce dominant age ideology. Through considering these elements, this particular analysis of Sally Clark’s plays Moo and Ten Ways reveals the complex processes through which age narratives are imprinted on our cultural consciousness in the ways that stories are told—not just through their themes, but also through their structure, which influences how we understand time, the finitude of events, and the prominence of voices. Sally Clark was in her early 30’s when she wrote Moo and Ten Ways. Now, about thirty years later, she has two new plays in the works. It will be interesting to see if and how she brings forth elderly female characters that reflect her own shifting experiences with and perspectives on aging.     99 Chapter 4: Challenging Age Binaries by Viewing King Lear In Temporal Depthxxix  As the previous chapter demonstrates, dramatic form plays a key role in shaping cultural age narratives. As Clark’s plays reveal, however, the body of the actor is also central to theatrical performances of aging and old age. Interest in embodiment is central to age studies. This has stemmed partly from recognition of the limitations of chronological time and its corresponding way of defining age in terms of a linear progression of fixed life stages. By disconnecting points across the life course, such definitions create the youth-age binary foundational to ageism. Recognizing the limitations of the life-stage model, postmodern discourses have considered age in terms of its performativity. Building from Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity (Bodies That Matter; Gender Trouble), age theorists have looked to theatre as a way to study age’s inherent performativity. Such considerations risk dismissing the idea that aging involves the embodiment of time because, in postmodern tradition, they do not want to understand time as simply progressive and linear. However, certain age theorists such as Woodward argue that it is impossible to deny aging as the embodiment of time since aging brings with it very real physiological changes; time is inscribed on the body (Figuring Age xxii). By contrast, Basting insists that there can still be a postmodern poetics of the aging body that acknowledges its temporal component. In The Stages of Age, Basting refers to this as “the performative, depth model of aging” (145). The model provides a way to acknowledge “the body’s performance of time in/across the life course” (145). It invites scholars to engage closely with actual bodies and their temporal registers on stage.     100 In this chapter I use Basting’s model to analyze the age-effects in a Vancouver production of Shakespeare’s King Lear by Honest Fishmonger’s Equity Coop. Through a close reading of the actor’s embodied performances and my affective response to them, I argue that Basting’s performative depth model of aging (The Stages of Age 145) reveals how the contemporary production of a classical work can engage with postmodern concepts of time while still considering age, and thereby highlight more positive textual narratives about aging rather than reinforcing a narrative of decline. The process of applying the model also raises questions concerning how to differentiate one age from any other. If, as the model claims, age is performative, and every performance of age is an amalgamation of past and future age-selves, how can old age, or for that matter any age, be recognized or distinguished? To address this question, I propose to extend Basting’s model by drawing connections with Marvin Carlson’s theory of theatrical ghosting, a theory that considers the recycling of materials in theatre and how such recurrence interacts with personal and cultural memory to influence theatrical reception. In particular the recycled body and persona of the actor (53) become relevant in considering postmodern embodied performances of age. Bringing Carlson into conversation with age studies, and in particular with Basting’s model, reveals that reception of theatrical performances of age is not only influenced by traditional ghosting or layering of memories of past performances of age on stage, but also by a kind of anticipatory quality engendered by the ghosting process, which I term a “ghosting forward”. My analysis contributes to the rather new body of research at the intersection of age studies and Canadian theatre studies.  My analysis of King Lear deliberately toggles between the theoretical and the personal, specifically attending to my feelings evoked while watching bodies performing age during this production. I borrow from the methodological approach that Basting uses in her chapter “The   101 Body in Depth: Kazuo Ohno’s Water Lilies” (The Stages of Age 134-146). While I explore this Chapter in further depth below, it is important to note here that Basting attends to details of her affective response to Ohno’s performance of Water Lilies and uses this to springboard into discussion of concepts of time and postmodern poetics of the aging body. Similarly, Bridie Moore bridges her personal responses to performance with theoretical analysis of theatrical representations of age, aging, and old age in her award-winning article “Depth, Significance, and Absence: Age-Effects in New British Theatre,” published in 2014 in Age, Culture, Humanities. I am also informed by Ann Cvetkovich in her 2012 book Depression: A Public Feeling, and Woodward in her 1999 article “Statistical Panic,” both of whom describe the compelling nature of blending the theoretical with affective engagement and embedding it within personal experience. Cvetkovich argues that:   [. . .] the focus on sensation and feeling as the register of historical experience gives rise to new forms of documentation and writing, [. . .] practices often turn the ordinary into the scene of surprise, and they slow down so as to be able to immerse themselves in detail and to appreciate the way that magic and mystery sit alongside the banal and the routine. (11)  Woodward also elucidates the value of critical analysis of feelings: “Identifying a particular and pervasive feeling, or a structured complex of feelings, as the cultural materialist Raymond Williams has argued, can help us recognize the emergence of a new social formation” (“Statistical Panic” 181). She suggests that “an attention to feeling can itself be a methodology” (181). More specifically, in terms of theatre, I turn to Erin Hurley, to justify the value of   102 attending to my personal affective engagement with this specific production. In her 2010 book, Theatre and Feeling, Hurley writes:  Feeling is the core of theatre. It furnishes theatre’s reason for being, cements its purpose – whether such purpose is construed as entertainment or instruction – and undergirds the art form’s social work and value. Moreover, it organises theatre’s functions and theatre’s people’s professional lives. And finally, it attracts audiences. [. . . ] We go, in the end, because feeling matters. (77)  Feeling matters. And so, like Basting and Moore, I offer my own embodied critical perspective on the performances of age in this case study of Honest Fishmonger’s’ King Lear, through the application of Basting’s depth model of aging.  4.1 Age, Time, and Narrative It is important to begin with a detailed overview of Basting’s depth model of aging, Carlson’s theory of theatrical ghosting, and related theoretical considerations of time and embodiment. Basting’s depth model of aging suggests that when we see a person performing age (in life or on stage), we are not seeing an isolated life moment. We are seeing the performance of an amalgamation of the person’s former selves and a projection of their future selves, revealing not only the present moment, but the “accumulation of the moments across the life course and across generations” (The Stages of Age 140). She asserts that to see the body in depth “is literally to see time across space” (The Stages of Age 141). Basting developed her provocative model to understand the world-renowned butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno in Water Lilies, a performance that   103 she describes as semiotically spilling over simple divisions of youth and old age (The Stages of Age 134-146). At the time of the October 1993 performance, Kazuo Ohno was eighty-seven-years-old and his son and fellow performer, Yoshito Ohno, was fifty-five years of age.xxx The performance was composed of solo dances and duets, marked by changes in music and costume, in which father and son “alternately dance[d] roles ranging from a coy young girl and a sophisticated aging lady, to a young man exploding with anger and energy and an older man barely able to lift his wooden staff” (140). Basting writes that Ohno’s performance “exemplifies an embodied post-modern poetics of the aged body, one in which the body is irreducible to discursive binary divisions, and one which acknowledges the body’s performance of time in/across the life course” (145, emphasis in original). Anca Cristofovici’s work is foundational to Basting’s depth model. In “Touching Surfaces: Photography, Aging, and an Aesthetics of Change” Cristofovici contends that we often think of aging internally as a split between a younger self and an older, stranger self that is aging away from youth (269). While this suggests more of a binary that Basting is willing to concede, Cristofovici also proffers the idea that “[. . . ] on the inner screen of aging, these shadows – memories of younger selves, anticipations of older selves – meet, conflict, interact” (269). Her essay focuses on ways photographic images can create a sense of continuity, of “the possibility of bridging our different age-selves, of creating a space of communication between one’s own ages and between generations” (269). Like Basting, Cristofovici is concerned with aesthetic representation of both “the state of being old and the process of growing old” (271) and sees it as possible to perform various age-selves across time, all present (and in tension) in the same moment.     104 Marvin Carlson is also interested in the amalgamation of selves in performance. Through his theory of theatrical ghosting, he contends that theatre is a site of both personal and cultural memory and that it constantly recycles material to evoke memories. These memories “have conditioned the processes of theatrical composition and, even more important, of theatrical reception in theatrical cultures around the world and across the centuries” (4). Carlson argues that in theatre, memory functions in a more central way than in other arts (6), in that theatre audiences do not encounter “a new but distinctly different example of a type of artistic product” (7), but rather the identical thing that they have experienced before. Theatrical texts, performing bodies, stage properties and sets, theatre spaces, performances within a production, even entire remounted productions, as well as theatre audiences themselves, are all part of a process of recycling. Carlson names this process theatrical “ghosting” (7). Of particular interest here in relation to the idea of simultaneous performance of multiple age-selves within the same body, is Carlson’s chapter on “The Haunted Body” (52-95) in which he considers “the recycled body and persona of the actor” (53). Noting that “text does not in fact become theatre until it is embodied by an actor and presented to an audience” (52), Carlson explores how the ghosting of famous performances of a role, and the ghosting of an actor’s previous performances of the same role or of other roles, evoke memories and create expectations which influence theatrical reception of the performance. Much like Basting and Cristofovici, Carlson suggests that any performance is received as an amalgamation of previous performances, and thereby also a synthesis of previous performances of age. I will return to Carlson as his theory figures into my later analysis.  Why did Basting feel the need to develop her depth model of aging, and why has Moore found it useful in studying age-effects in theatre? Why are both Carlson and Cristofovici also interested in the simultaneous embodiment or aesthetic representation of multiple ages within   105 one performing body, and by extension in reworking ways of defining aging? What is wrong with a more traditional understanding of age as the progressive embodiment of chronological time? In order to address these questions, I now explore various constructions of time (chronological, postmodern, Shakespearean), and their implications for narrative and embodiment. According to aging, philosophy, and social theory scholar Jan Baars, we begin to think about time when we experience change (“Critical Turns of Aging, Narrative and Time” 145). A chronological or chronometric sense of time is interested in defining the regular changes that occur across time in order to be able to influence or predict processes. While the earliest understanding of this was grounded in the rhythmical movements of the earth and moon (145), a growing sense of chronometric time came to dominate Western thought as a result of the industrial revolution in the late eighteenth century (Basting The Stages of Age 11). As speed and efficiency became valued over experience and wisdom, time was separated from the rhythms of nature and became an external phenomenon linked to clocks and schedules. Time was thus stripped of personal meaning in favour of precision. The time used to measure human aging, then, became “not based on the rhythms of living nature, but on the ‘movements’ of dead material such as oscillations of cesium or aluminum atoms [in atomic clocks]” (Baars “Critical Turns” 146, emphasis in original). Such a sense of time defines age objectively in terms of the number of years a person has lived (Woodward “Performing Age” 183), and divides the life-course into stages – infancy/childhood, education, working life, and retirement.xxxi In “A Triple Temporality of Aging: Chronological Measurement, Personal Experience, and Narrative Articulation,” Baars asserts that chronologically dividing the life course into successive stages is problematic because it presupposes a causal concept of time that implies that the effects of time   106 are steady and universal, that people of a certain chronological age should inevitably experience certain effects of time (4). Further to this, Basting specifies that dividing the life course into measurable chunks creates binaries in which one stage is valued and its opposite is marked as an undesirable other, for example: productivity/non-productivity, activity/inactivity, health/disease, life/death (The Stages of Age 135). Baars and Basting are both interested in how the meaning of aging is influenced by concepts of time. According to Baars “the one-sided emphasis on chronological time tends to neglect not only personal meaning but all meaningful dimensions of aging” (“A Triple Temporality” 17, emphasis in original). From the perspective of narrative, the dominance of a chronological sense of time has led to an equation of aging with decline. As discussed in Chapter 1, the decline story has become a master narrative for our culture. It infiltrates our laws and policies, the things we create and market, and our artistic products including theatre. While historically dramatists have expressed a range of attitudes toward old age, and more recently playwrights have started to rewrite negative age-related stereotypes, the decline narrative has played a prominent role throughout much of Western theatrical history (Mangan 23). Stock characters, life-stage models of age, and linear plots are all used extensively and serve to articulate and perpetuate ageism through reinforcing the decline narrative. Modern and contemporary Western theatrical narratives of aging and old age, then, frequently show older adults as on the edge of good health about to descend into illness, on the edge of sanity about to descend into madness, on the edge of productivity and self-sufficiency about to descend into dependency, and on the edge of life about to experience death.xxxii Unless dramatic strategies clearly interrupt linear chronology, plays tend to be interpreted through a chronological lens (by directors, producers, and audiences), often reinforcing the pervasive decline narrative that predominates Western views of aging.    107 I now turn to Shakespeare because key aspects of his dramaturgy draw focus away from chronometric time and therefore can be useful in theatrical explorations of aging. Shakespeare lived and wrote during an era when chronometric time did not structure society in the same way it has for the last two hundred and fifty years. Perhaps as a result, Shakespeare puts less emphasis on chronology and this results in a more ambiguous view of aging and old age. On the one hand, the life-stage model associated with chronological time is at times foregrounded. For example, Jacques’s speech from As You Like It (2.7.139-166) clearly separates man’s life into seven distinct stages, the last two of which offer a deeply negative view of aging, linking aging with loss and a return to helpless childishness.xxxiii On the other hand, according to Charney in Wrinkled Deep in Time: Aging in Shakespeare, Shakespeare as a dramatist is not concerned with chronological time (32). He mostly avoids mention of specific ages of characters and the specific amount of time elapsed during dramatic action (32). He employs a sense of “double time” in which there is “a sharp contrast between time projected by the narrative and time imagined to have elapsed during a specific scene” (29). According to Charney, Shakespeare’s characters age as a result of dramatic context rather than the logical progression of the narrative (29). They mature or age psychologically as they face important decisions, and as a result, usually gain important insights. For example, in Romeo and Juliet when Juliet is abandoned by her parents and nurse, she develops a maturity and resolve as she prepares herself to take Friar Lawrence’s potion and readies a dagger in case the potion fails. Suddenly she seems much older although little chronological time has passed (Charney 30). So, Shakespeare offers us a view of aging that acknowledges a potential gain (achieving knowledge or worldliness), rather than a decline narrative that focuses purely on loss. Loss remains a prominent theme, however, and the before/after paradigm still creates binaries that disconnect stages of the life course.    108 4.2 Age Performativity and Postmodern Time When we consider Shakespeare’s plays, it is necessary to remember that they were meant to be performed. As such, narrative emphasis is not simply created within the text, but achieved through performance. At times performance can oppose or reorder the emphasis in a written script, and therefore must be considered in discussing theatrical narratives of aging. For example, there have been a number of recent adaptations of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in which the lead characters are experiencing old age. This can be seen in Tom Morris and Sean O’Connor’s Juliet and Her Romeo, and Ben Power’s A Tender Thing (both British), and the Canadian play The Last of Romeo and Juliet written and directed by Mitchell Cushman.xxxiv While these adaptations alter and reorder the script to varying degrees, the words remain Shakespeare’s, and the most striking change in narrative emphasis is achieved through performance, by virtue of casting Romeo and Juliet with older actors. The result is that rather than exploring the more common trope of teenage forbidden passion, the plays reflect on the seldom-staged theme of romantic love in old age. To understand such staged performances of age better, we must also explore age performativity. Considering age as performative offers a way to approach age in a non-chronological way, thereby offering an alternative to the narrative of decline. Judith Butler’s work on gender’s inherent performativity is useful here. As discussed in greater depth in Chapter 2, Butler understands gender to be performative. According to Butler, “Gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being” (Gender Trouble 44). Butler does not consider gender to be an inherent fixed category, but rather a series of performances repeated over time that give the impression of being substantive and natural, but   109 rather are constructed through stylizations of the body. Similarly, authors Basting (The Stages of Age), Gullette (Aged by Culture), Lipscomb (Performing Age in M.D.) and Woodward (“Performing Age”), among others, all consider age to be at least in part performative.xxxv Lipscomb and Marshall’s explanation of age performativity is illuminating: “[. . .] each of us performs the actions associated with a chronological age minute by minute, and [. . .] the repetition of these performances creates a so-called reality of age both for the subject and for those who interact with the subject” (2). According to Basting, the value of considering age to be performative is that it does not allow any single image or experience of aging to be privileged as more natural, acceptable, or appropriate than any other (The Stages of Age 19).  Age performativity is linked to the concept of postmodern time. Some researchers resist this idea because postmodernism as a movement has been critiqued for its lack of coherence and because some think its relativism discounts the reliability of any knowledge. However, the concept of postmodern time has still shown to be useful to age studies scholars. Beyond Basting’s writing, this is evidenced, for example, by Stephen Katz’s 2009 chapter “Growing Older Without Aging? Postmodern Time and Senior Markets” in Cultural Aging, Life Course, Lifestyle, and Senior Worlds. Katz writes that conceptualizing of postmodern life courses and postmodern time offers ways to resist “bureaucratic standardization of age-graded behaviours and identities and the industrial segmentation of the life course into distinct age differences” (189). Katz argues that “postmodern treatment of traditional age categories has fostered new experiments with time and timelessness” (191), and allowed for consideration of concepts such as agelessness, uni-age (or multi-aged) bodies, new age identities, unique living situations such as retirement communities, and reconceptualizations of senior’s sexuality (for example with the advent of sexual dysfunction medication like Viagra).   110 Basting’s enthusiasm about age performativity and its embrace of postmodern time is adopted particularly cautiously by some. Basting herself cites scholars Harry Moody and Kathleen Woodward as critical of the idea of postmodern definitions of age since they consider ideas of embodiment to be incompatible with the economies of postmodern time (Basting The Stages of Age 144), which emphasizes replication, speed, impermanence, simultaneity, and immortality (Katz Cultural Aging 191). Embracing such concepts can neglect the consequences of time on the body. In her influential manuscript Aging and Its Discontents, Woodward writes that the body in advanced old age cannot be accounted for by postmodern discourses; “We can resist and we can destabilize social constructions of old age. [. . .] But death we cannot ultimately deny” (Aging and Its Discontents 156). Woodward emphasizes her belief that “[. . .] there can ultimately be no postmodern poetics of the aging body” (157).xxxvi The problem that she and others see with postmodern theories of aging is that, in order to avoid understanding time as simply progressive and linear, they dismiss the idea of aging as the embodiment of time. Like Woodward, theorists who are interested in embodiment are often wary of postmodern definitions of aging because they lack a temporal component that embraces the body’s change across time.  Lipscomb and Marshall who whole-heartedly espouse the concept of age performativity, still caution that, “As with gender, age may be socially constructed and performative, but that performativity is in tension with the undeniable ongoing change of the body as it physically ages” (2, emphasis added). Basting’s depth model of aging offers a possibility to understand age as an embodiment of time without limiting time to a linear chronological conceptualization. In performance, Basting argues, time is produced by the body rather than the body being destroyed by, or being a victim of, time (The Stages of Age 145). I tend to agree. I believe that performances of age can be received as simultaneous embodiment of multiple points across the   111 life course and therefore be understood to produce a postmodern poetics of the aging body. The reception of such performances of age, I believe, is influenced by the receiver’s history with other age performances and experiences with conceptions of time.   4.3 Performing Age in King Lear: Temporal Depth, The Default Body, and Theatrical Ghosting I now return to theatre as an important medium to analyze the performativity of age because it often carries our master cultural narratives, at the same time that it has the potential to rewrite them. According to Mangan:  An emphasis on the performed text is particularly appropriate in relation to the theme of ageing, because in theatrical performances the physical presence of the actor’s body itself—and the way that that body is used in conjunction with the codes and conventions of movement, gesture, make-up and costume—inevitably becomes one of the theatrical signs from which the audience constructs meanings (6, emphasis added).  A written text like King Lear contains internal narratives that could be interpreted or emphasized in a variety of ways through performance.xxxvii King Lear tells the story of the aging king of Britain, who rejects his youngest, best-loved daughter for her lack of flattery, and divides his kingdom between his other two daughters who ultimately betray him. The tragedy teaches the necessity of looking beyond a person’s rank, power, and words before judging their loyalty and worth. The play has been much studied for its age-related themes. Some research focuses on associations between aging and loss.xxxviii However, Small proposes that Shakespeare’s textual   112 construction of Lear in some ways opposes Aristotle’s negative account of aging and shows a man who is not diminished in mental and moral capacity (67-88). On the other hand, while Gullette feels, along with other critics, that Lear grows through his ordeal, and attains a moral stature that is hard to imagine in the first Act, she argues that in performance, “Some of the startling ‘novelties’ in directing King Lear in recent years come from directors and actors making ageist changes in the interpretation, staging, and acting of the play” (“Losing Lear” 61). One explanation for such renditions is that the play can be interpreted through a chronological lens by contemporary directors, focusing on the decline and losses that accompany old age. However, the Vancouver Honest Fishmongers Equity Co-op’s production of Shakespeare’s King Lear pushed beyond a chronological age-stage paradigm. The production, directed by Kevin Bennett, was performed at the Havana Theatre in Vancouver from February 23 to March 17, 2012. By applying Basting’s model to some of the production’s acting and directorial choices, I demonstrate how embodied performances of age can de-emphasize the decline narrative and offer a more nuanced image of age by exposing the body in depth. Honest Fishmongers is a collective that describes its style as follows: “We work with extreme intimacy, and surrounding our audience with the play, creating an inclusive, surround sound, lively theatrical experience” (The Honest Fishmongers par. 3). Extreme intimacy was truly my experience of this production, and for me it served in certain moments to foreground an anti-ageist postmodern poetics of embodied aging. The play was performed in a small black box theatre. The audience was seated in alley style with a raised and a lower row on each side of the theatre. In addition to using the central aisle, the actors often moved between the two rows of audience seating on each side of the theatre. The central alley was not more than six feet across. The actors often spoke directly to audience members, and at times even touched them,   113 effectively dissolving the boundary between actor and audience. In terms of my interests, this proximity allowed me to readily observe the subtleties of performances of age. The idea that Simon Webb as Lear was performing age was first highlighted by the staging and style of the opening. As audience members entered the theatre they were greeted by the actors who were not in character but spoke as themselves. Webb (who would play Lear) welcomed us, chatted warmly and suggested where we should sit. His posture was upright and elegant, his movements assured. He laughed and made witty jokes with the audience. There must have been a signal as the actors suddenly moved from casual conversation, to a tightly choreographed original song and dance. Webb performed with upward-directed energy and lightness of foot. He accomplished the choreography with apparent ease [see Figure 2]. At the end of the number, as the audience applauded, the actors moved to their positions for the first scene. Now, Webb (who was sixty-one years old), transformed to a much older man – Lear of “four-score and upward” (King Lear 4.7.61). Although he donned simple additional costume pieces, Webb’s transformation was primarily achieved through embodiment. His shoulders rounded as if weighed down by years of responsibility. His movements became more deliberate and rooted in a downward energy, as if he sought contact with the ground to maintain equilibrium, an equilibrium perhaps upset for the character by physical and psychological changes which accompanied aging. His hands appeared to tremble subtly as he handled the maps and documents before him, as if betraying the unraveling of his assurance [see Figure 3]. His voice deepened and his pauses for breath elongated. The transformation in Webb’s demeanor was sudden, complete, and extremely detailed, and thus served to emphasize the performative nature of age.xxxix     114  Figure 2: Simon Webb performs his own age or “default body” in the opening number of Honest Fishmonger’s King Lear. Photo by Emily Cooper.  I focus on Simon Webb’s performance of old age because it stood out as a performance in temporal depth. The role of Gloucester, Lear’s contemporary, also offers opportunities to play the body in depth, but despite an otherwise strong acting performance, Anthony F. Ingram (who was forty-five at the time) tended at times to resort to stereotypes of old age in his embodiment of Gloucester, particularly after Gloucester’s blinding (e.g. shuffling feet and searching arms). In her analysis of the role of Kent, Helen Small argues that textual references suggest Kent is also a contemporary of Lear, but ‘acts’ and claims to be younger in order to secure a position in the service of Lear (an older man would have been considered undesirable) (69-88). In this sense, David Bloom’s performance of Kent was successful, in that his embodiment of age was    115  Figure 3: Webb demonstrating age performativity as he transforms to Lear of “four-score and upward.” Photo by Emily Cooper.  somewhat ambiguous. He did not appear to be ‘old’. However, he seemed to be simply playing his own default body (he was fifty-two at the time); acting and staging choices did not create a sense of layering of former and future age-selves and did not create the nuance of a man trying to disguise his age or offer the ambiguity of embodiment that Small describes. In contrast, Webb’s performance transcended age stereotypes. At several moments in the production Webb’s staging and acting choices created a performance of age that could be perceived as stretching across the lifespan and occupying multiple points in time, simultaneously. In these moments the edges of age categories were dissolved, and the binaries dividing youth and old age transcended.    116 The most notable of such moments occurred in Act 4, scene 6, when Lear according to stage directions, enters “fantastically dressed with wild flowers” and meets Gloucester. Webb entered wearing a wreath of flowers around his head [see Figure 4]. His shirt was unbuttoned to the waist, his cuffs undone, his shirttails out. He carried a handful of flowers. Among the range of images he conjured was one of frailty as his movements suggested those we often associate with an old chronological age, a slight wobble on certain steps, a quivering of the hand as he presented his flowers to audience members. But also there was sensuousness to his movements, a slight swaying of the hips and lightness of movement that was reminiscent of a younger adult self. There was also a sense of wonder, of a pure joy in nature that recalled a child playing in a field. Thus, Webb’s performance of age seemed a composite of former selves; he simultaneously performed an old man experiencing a dotage of frailty and confusion, a young adult flower child searching to right social wrongs by spreading love, and an innocent child. Perhaps it is the common cultural narrative that associates old age and infirmity with childishness that helped to construct some of these images in my mind. But they did not serve to diminish King Lear. The child-like image seemed redemptive not infantilizing, and importantly it was not the only image; it was layered with the other images and served as a point of connection. So in keeping with Basting’s and Cristofovici’s discussions of accumulation, Webb’s simultaneous embodiment and performance of multiple age-selves seemed to acknowledge and perform both the connection and tension between them and ultimately gave the sense that he was drawing on a sort of elemental understanding of justness which existed across time (despite other points in his life when wealth and power obscured this). For me this strengthened the play’s message that sometimes it is only through letting go of our fixed beliefs (or perhaps fixed performances) that we come to see more clearly.   117  Figure 4: Webb as Lear (Act IV, scene vi) demonstrates performance of age in “temporal depth.” Photo by Emily Cooper.  Basting’s model thus proves useful in considering the embodiment of age across time and illuminates aspects of this production of King Lear in terms of performance of age. What continues to intrigue me, however, is how we might define old age within this model. If we consider age to be performative, and performances of age to be a composite of former and future selves, how can we differentiate between ages? And how can we do so in a way that does not restore binaries that contribute to ageism?  Basting herself describes the difference as follows: “To see the older body in-depth is to recognize the wrinkles and age spots while also seeing the thick, pliant skin of a child. To see a younger body in depth, on the other hand, is to imagine the uncharitable changes that the body will produce” (The Stages of Age 141). In order to propose an expanded way of defining old age   118 within this model, I would like to consider two moments in this production, when staging facilitated a comparison of the performance of age by Webb as Lear and Katherine Gauthier as Cordelia. My comparison of these two performances could be criticized for suggesting a youth/age binary since Cordelia is young and Lear is old. However, I believe that the extreme connection between these two actors, along with their notably charismatic performances, and the similarities in their staging served to highlight the connection between the generations rather than create a youth/age split. In Act 4, scene 7, Lear is reunited with Cordelia. Webb was carried on stage by the Fool (played by Sebastian Kroon) [see Figure 5]. Webb’s body curled into Kroon’s chest creating a sense of fragility seeking protection. He appeared weak and ill, representing the decline narrative of old age. But at the same time, his body recalled that of a child protected and nursed by his father, or an injured boy being carried off a sporting field by his coach, an overindulgent youth being rescued from a party by his mate, or perhaps a man whose friend supported him after some unimaginable grief. Webb’s performance of age read primarily as a multi-layered composite of his former selves. In contrast, during the final scene of the play, after Cordelia has been killed, Lear carried her body on stage [see Figure 6]. He appeared from the same entrance as he had when carried by the Fool. Webb carried Gauthier in the same manner that he had been carried. Yet, Gauthier’s performance of age was quite different. While the image did recall a young child carried by her father as she slept (a former self), Gauthier’s performance of age placed greater emphasis on the future selves she might have become. As her head hung back and her left arm dangled, her breasts were raised to the sky. Her body appeared mature, sensuous, womanly. We saw her as a lover, as a powerful queen, as a mother who should have carried her own children thus. The    119   Figure 5: Webb’s performance of Lear’s old age (Act IV, scene vii) read primarily as a multilayered composite of former selves. (Pictured with Sebastian Kroon, as The Fool.) Photo by Emily Cooper.    120 image also, in recalling the way Lear was carried by the fool, reminded us of the old woman Cordelia eventually should have become. Basting herself notes that this forward projection is “tricky territory” (The Stages of Age 141) in that we can never account for all of the future factors that will actually influence a person’s aging. But she believes that “a rough sketch is quite sufficient” (141) to acknowledge the links between the many stages of the life course. To me Gauthier’s performance achieved this beautifully; the staging and acting choices resulted in a performance of age that highlighted Gauthier’s projected future selves. I would like to propose that we could define old age within this model, as the combination of willful actions and biological imperatives that produce a performance of age such that the expression of former selves reads like a deep, rich, extensive repertoirexl of past performances, so much so that it partially eclipses the projection of future selves. The performance of future selves, while still present, represents a thinner, relatively tapered collection of potential performances that read as secondary to the performance of the multilayered composite of former selves. This is not to say that in old age the future is of no value or that the focus should be retrograde, but simply that the embodied performance of old age highlights the past repertoire of a rich life lived. In the case of Webb’s performance of King Lear, because I saw a repertoire of past performances of self that eclipsed the projection of future selves, I defined this as a performance of old age. In the case of Gauthier’s performance of Cordelia’s age, the projection of future selves was emphasized, which caused me to categorize her as performing a younger age on the continuum. Such a premise—the idea that performance is a composite of performances of self—is bolstered by Marvin Carlson’s theory of theatrical ghosting. Carlson’s concept of “the haunted body” or the recycled body and persona of the actor (53) relates particularly to performances of   121  Figure 6: Katherine Gauthier’s performance of Cordelia’s youth highlighted her projected future selves. Photo by Emily Cooper.  age. This partly involves the phenomenon that our reception of an actor’s portrayal of a role is ghosted by the former roles we have seen that actor play. Carlson notes that, while in the United States (and I would add Canada) casting traditions in recent times have largely favoured   122 verisimilitude in terms of age (57) (or I believe at least discouraged older actors from playing younger), in other time periods and cultures, it has been and still is common for actors to specialize in role types or ‘lines of business’ in which they play characters of a similar age for their entire careers (62-66, 81-84). Carlson describes the actor’s “haunted body” as being ghosted by multiple previous performances:  Before we too hastily condemn the apparent folly and vanity of an aging actor still playing youthful roles, we must recall that every new performance of these roles will be ghosted by a theatrical recollection of the previous performances, so that audience reception of each new performance is conditioned by inevitable memories of this actor playing similar roles in the past. The voice that might seem to an outsider grown thin with age may still to a faithful public echo with the resonances of decades of theatregoing, that slightly bent body still be ghosted by years of memories of it in its full vigor. (58)  Here Carlson traverses similar territory to Cristofovici and Basting. He describes a ghosting process whereby audiences not only see well-known actors performing their current ages and roles but an amalgamation of previous ages and roles they have been seen playing in the past (67-68). Their performance exists in and across time, although Carlson does not address projection of future selves directly as these other authors do.  Ghosting, then, influences our perception of a character’s age in that it describes the layering of memories of past performances of age with our reception of the present performance choices. Perception of a character’s age is also influenced by what Gullette describes as “the   123 default body”, which she defines as a person’s “package of habits”, or embodied cultural attitudes and ways of behaving (Aged by Culture 161). The default body functions in the Butlerian sense (Butler Gender Trouble 44) such that repetitive stylized performances of age become consolidated over time so as to appear as a natural way of being. Gullette writes “A body, like an identity, is better thought of as a series of try-ons and reaffirmed performances: new consolidations. Age on the body can involve both passive accretions and will” (Aged by Culture 161). While Gullette is concerned with audience reception of performances of age on stage and believes that reception of age hinges on “our culture’s unconscious shared understanding of the default body’s development” (166), she focuses mostly on age as the consolidation of past performances from the actor’s perspective. For example, she believes actors can more readily play their former default bodies than ages they have not yet experienced because they retain psychological memory of those bodies (170). Gullette shows concern for how cultural age scripts influence reception, but she is less specific about the role of audiences’ past theatrical experiences. Reading Gullette alongside Carlson is generative then and suggests  that Gullette’s default (aged) body is not only a matter of consolidated performances, but rather also a matter of reception influenced by theatrical ghosting. Well-known actors do not simply perform their default body, but rather are ghosting previous default bodies and performances of age, their own and those of others.xli Ghosting then influences our perception of the performance of a character’s age, and I propose it is influenced by the time span and the range of ages over which an actor has appeared before the same audience in the past, as well as the age ranges of other actors who have been seen (or heard of) playing the same or similar roles. Lipscomb’s book Performing Age in Modern Drama went to press shortly after the original article on which this chapter is based was published in Theatre Research in Canada. In   124 the last chapter of her book she also considers Carlson’s theatrical ghosting, arguing that ghosting can account for an audience’s willingness to accept an older actor playing a younger role. In the case of a known actor or celebrity, Lipscomb agrees with Carlson, that the ghosting of past performances can lead audiences to accept an older body playing a younger character. Lipscomb adds that in the case of an unknown actor, the incongruity between the performer’s older body and the characteristics of the younger role-type can subvert expectations.   The performance can invite the audience to consider age norms on and off stage, from typical casting practices and the dearth of meaningful roles for older actors to the assumptions about appropriate behavior among older people. . .. The audience is afforded the opportunity to consider and reject limitations placed on the self by the cultural norms of aging. (Lipscomb Performing Age in M.D. 177)  In King Lear, although Webb was playing older not younger, Carlson’s ghosting figured into my reading of his performance of age. Webb has been a prominent actor in Vancouver’s theatre scene for many years, thus many theatregoers will readily ghost memories of his past performances. My own reception of his performance of Lear (and of Lear’s age) was ghosted by the range of ages and type of roles I have seen him play which include the following: Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady (Gateway Theatre Co.), Polonius in Hamlet (Honest Fishmongers), an ageless god-type character in The 8th Land (Pi Theatre), Joe Gargery in Great Expectations, Estragon in Waiting for Godot, and the Button-molder in Peer Gynt (all with Blackbird Theatre). This made it easy to perceive Webb’s performance of age as primarily a repertoire of former selves. While the ghosting of other actors’ performances of Lear (for example Christopher   125 Gaze’s 2008 Lear at Vancouver’s Bard on The Beach, or Ian McKellen’s famous performance in the 2008 television movie directed by Trevor Nunnxlii) no doubt filtered into my reception, the fact that I had not seen these performances live, coupled with the compelling charismatic nature of Webb’s performance meant that his own ghosting had far more leverage on my reception. Perhaps my reception of Webb’s performance was influenced by our cultural tendency to homogenize all older ages (usually those over sixty years) into the single monolithic category of “old” causing me to see his sixty-one-year-old body as convincing when playing eighty. But considering that I am aware of this issue, I do not think this was entirely the case. I believe theatrical ghosting, combined with Webb’s superior skill as a physical actor which allowed him to palimpsestically layer on top of his default, meant that although he was playing twenty years outside his age range, he remained convincing in his performance of Lear’s age. Carlson also suggests that if an actor is less known to audiences but playing a well-known role or type of role, that actor’s performance will likely be more strongly ghosted by performances (particularly famous ones) of that role or role type by other actors the audience has previously seen or heard of (59). In a way this could be seen as what Basting describes as a projection of future selves. The lesser known actor’s performance is an amalgamation of their own thin repertoire of previous performances of age, but more strongly ghosted by performances of the role set by well-known actors who in many cases may be older. This is almost a ‘ghosting forward’; it gives us a sense of the future ages the young unknown actor might play, and the future roles he or she might take on. Gauthier was a young up-and-coming actress at the time of this production. I had only seen her in one prior performance: Honest Fishmongers’ Hamlet in which she played a male character. Thus, ghosting of the recycled body and persona of this particular actor had minimal   126 impact on my reception. My response was not so much shaped by memories of Gauthier’s previous performances, but rather by expectations based on performances by better-known actors in the same or similar roles. For example, her performance for me recalled Melissa Poll playing Cordelia in Vancouver’s 2008 Bard on the Beach production, or Romola Garai in Trevor Nunn’s 2008 television movie (both tall striking blondes like Gauthier). These were performances that occurred prior to Gauthier’s and involved actors of chronologically older ages; ages that Gauthier had still to become. This, combined with my knowledge that she was an actress on the rise, made it more likely that I read her performance of age as projection of future selves.  4.4 Conclusion In both cases my reception of Webb’s and Gauthier’s performances involved the sense that they transcended stereotypes of age—an important contribution considering theatrical interpretations of King Lear often employ negative age clichés. Old age, despite the growing proportion of elderly people in our population, is still marginalized, under-represented, and often negatively constructed in our culture, including in our artistic products. One contributing factor is the dominance of a chronological sense of time which can result in theatrical texts with aging themes being interpreted for the stage in ways that disconnect life stages and highlight loss. However, some contemporary productions of classical works function to re-imagine representations of aging and old age through embodied performances which redress or downplay the decline narrative and highlight more positive messages about aging contained in their texts. This was the case with Honest Fishmonger’s’ production of King Lear.  Basting’s depth model of aging offers us a way to understand how some of this production’s acting and staging choices engaged with postmodern concepts of time without   127 neglecting time’s effects on the body. Read alongside Basting, and Gullette’s concept of the default body, Marvin Carlson’s theory of theatrical ghosting provides a way to build on Basting’s depth model of aging. Carlson’s concept of recycling allows us to understand how familiarity with an actor’s previous performances of age, as well as with famous performances of the role (or similar roles), prime an audience to receive a performance as one involving a body in temporal depth.  Lipscomb argues that, when enhanced by the effects of theatrical ghosting, referential disjuncture (or collision between a role and our expectations for that role) can be transformative, especially in relation to aging: “The disjuncture between actor and role when the senior plays against apparent age can truly enact change in the lives of the performers and community” (Performing Age in M.D. 177). In addition, I contend that, as Basting found with Ohno and I found with Gauthier and Webb, a performance of aging in temporal depth that acknowledges the body’s performance of ages in and across the life course and is irreducible to age binaries can also be transformative by the affective power of its portrayal. By examining my subjective, emotional responses to performances of age in this production of King Lear through the lenses of Basting’s and Carlson’s theories, I offer a way to differentiate between performances of age without relying on a chronological sense of time or restoring age binaries. I believe that considering the relative ratio of the layering of the repertoire of former age-selves to the projected future age-selves, offers a generative non-ageist way to think about performances of age.     128 Chapter 5: Generational Continuity Versus Rupture: A Comparative Analysis of Dramatic Space, Stage Properties, and Structures of Time in August: Osage County by Tracy Letts and 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog  As exemplified by Lear and his daughters, antagonism between generationsxliii pervades the Western dramatic canon. Although stories of legacy and domestic harmony can also be found, intergenerational conflict is a widespread and recurrent theme. It is represented on stage, for example, in Greek tragedies like Euripides’ Iphigenia, in the works of Shakespeare such as Hamlet, in realist dramas like Ibsen’s Ghosts and Chekhov’s The Seagull, and American Expressionist works like Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, and Treadwell’s Machinal. In such plays the older generation is often made liable for the family’s dysfunction. Particularly, older mothers are frequently vilified, and blamed for family discord and their children’s failures.xliv The recent award-winning and widely-produced American family dramas August Osage County (henceforth, August) by Tracy Letts and 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog continue the tradition of exploring intergenerational conflict as families cope with crises. Both plays are set in the home of an aging maternal figure and examine how she and her family cope with tragedy and loss. The two plays invite comparison on several grounds, despite the fact that Vera of 4000 Miles is considerably older than Violet of August, and that 4000 Miles stages a grandparent-grandchild bond, in contrast to the parent-child kinships that are the main focus of Letts’s drama. Both plays arise from the same moment in American cultural history, they are set in the same year and season, and they explore similar weighty themes such as incest, drug use, and broken relationships. They also confront issues of aging.    129 In this chapter I move from focusing on how stories about aging are told through an individual aging character (as I did in Chapters 3 and 4), to considering how meanings of aging and old age are constructed through depictions of intergenerational family relations. Because I am interested in what the live theatrical event uniquely contributes to stories about aging and old age, I am intrigued by how characters’ interactions with dramatic space, stage properties, and time structures orchestrate and arrange intergenerational interactions and how these interchanges, in turn, shape the meanings of aging and old age. I ask what tacit instructions space, props, and time produce for characters across generations during live performance. In my analysis I apply the concepts of generational continuity and rupture. I argue that in August Letts formulates interactions with stage properties, dramatic space, and time structures such that they highlight generational rupture and cast the older generation as responsible for family discord, thus reifying longstanding ageist stereotypes. In sharp and revealing contrast, Herzog’s use of space, props, and time in 4000 Miles emphasizes continuity across generations and offers a narrative of intergenerational reciprocity and hope that resists stereotypes of old age. My purpose is not to equate parent-child relationships with grandparent-grandchild relationships. Rather, by reading the plays against each other, my purpose is to illuminate the hidden repertoires of oppression and resistance related to age ideology that are embedded in characters’ interactions with dramatic space, stage properties, and time structures. Although representing relations across generations as antagonistic is a recognizable trope in dramatic (and other) literature, Woodward contends that this understanding is grounded in a patriarchal, Freudian viewpoint that considers only two generations, placing them in violent struggle with one another (“Tribute” 100). She argues that generations are not necessarily divided by negative forces such as envy, fear, hostility, guilt and jealousy. Reflecting on her own   130 relationship with her grandmother, she describes a sense of connectedness—“an emotional attunement and mutual recognition that stretched across a continuity established by three generations” (Figuring Age 149). For Woodward generational linkage should be understood in terms of more than two generations (“Tribute” 96). Generational identity, she suggests, “entails a difference based on similarity that finds its temporal expression in continuity” (98). Patricia Mellencamp, expanding on Woodward’s ideas, defines generational continuity as a “way of thinking through time that includes lifetimes ahead and behind” (320). To Mellencamp, continuity means “to persist, to persevere, to carry further” (320). It is a force that “joins, unites, holds things together [. . . .] brings coherence and establishes value” (320). The antithesis, Mellencamp maintains, is generational discontinuity or rupture (319-20). Both Mellencamp and Woodward focus on continuity of female lineage as a perspective that resists the oedipal struggle between generations embedded in Freudian psychoanalysis. My approach is not restricted to female generations and does not involve Freudian concepts; however, I was inspired by Woodward’s descriptions of her relationship with her grandmother. In “Tribute to Older Women: Psychoanalytic Geometry, Gender, and the Emotions” she remembers how their connectedness was grounded in visits to specific places, such as the beach and a hotel room (91). In “Inventing Generational Models” she describes the role of objects in inspiring feelings of companionship and affinity with her grandmother:  [. . . ] my grandmother and I would stay in the bedroom [. . .] while I explored the contents of the bottom drawer of her chest of drawers, fingering objects that seemed to me fragile and exotic while she embellished them further with stories—tiny seed pearls   131 from oysters, a small book of drawings of birds, a miniature bronze pineapple [. . . ]. It was the objects that enchanted me then. (Figuring Age 149)  These anecdotes stimulated me to think about the role of space, objects, and time in promoting or disrupting generational continuity. I became interested in how playwrights’ use of these devices on stage might work to reify age stereotypes or support alternative representations. While generational continuity and rupture can exist simultaneously and in varying degrees, I purposely chose to compare plays with opposing narratives. August tells a story of extreme generational rupture; 4000 Miles tells one of strong generational continuity. I wanted to compare how the use of dramatic space, objects (represented on stage as stage properties), and time structures were implicated in the telling of these stories. I also wanted to examine ways that narratives about aging and old age were embedded, often surreptitiously, in interactions with space, objects, and time. This chapter, then, represents a close reading of the plays August and 4000 Miles in which I demonstrate how dramatic space, stage properties, and time structures contribute to understandings of age, aging, and old age, and the processes of generational continuity and rupture. At core, my approach rests on two foundational texts. First, I draw on questions from Fuchs’s article “EF’s Visit to A Small Planet” to guide my analysis. Fuchs’s describes her approach as a “template for critical imagination” (“EF's Visit” 5) and offers a series of questions to ask during play analysis which are meant to “forestall the immediate (and crippling) leap to character and normative psychology that underwrites much dramatic criticism” (5). Focusing the key tenets of this influential text through an age studies lens allows me to demonstrate the ways   132 in which dramaturgical choices about dramatic space, stage properties, and time structures shape the play’s representations of age, aging, and old age in profound ways.  Second, my analysis is guided by Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume’s approach to “production analysis.” They describe it as follows:  By the term we mean interpretation of the text specifically aimed at understanding it as a performance vehicle— “reading with a directorial eye,” if you like. While heavily grounded in textual analysis, such criticism will be undertaken on the principle that what should emerge is a sense of multiple possibilities in actual performance. Production analysis should draw freely on theatre history and drama history. [. . .] The object is to clarify possible meanings and effects, primarily for readers, critics, and theatregoers, secondarily for the interested director. The result should be improved understanding of the performance potentialities of the play at issue. (10)  Andrew Sofer, who adopts this approach in The Stage Life as Props, also provides insight: “the production analyst is more interested in the horizon of performance possibilities generated by the text than in the realization of those possibilities within a given performance” (The Stage Life of Props 5). Adopting this approach from an age studies perspective, I analyse the scripts of these plays for the horizon of possibilities informing how age, aging, and old age might be portrayed, particularly in the unfolding of intergenerational relations.     133 5.1 Justification for Comparing the Two Plays Upon first consideration, the plays August and 4000 Miles have several distinct differences. August is a large-cast family drama, featuring sixty-five-year-old Violet, the Weston family matriarch, who has mouth cancer and is addicted to a host of prescription drugs. During the Prologue her husband, Beverly, an alcoholic and former award-winning poet, hires twenty-six-year-old Native American Johnna to be their housekeeper. She is the youngest adult in the play. Beverly then goes missing, and in response, Violet summons home her family, consisting of her sister (Mattie Fae), her three middle-aged daughters (Barbara, Ivy and Karen), and their partners and off-spring. Barbara’s daughter, fourteen-year-old Jean, is the play’s youngest character. When it is discovered that Beverly has committed suicide the family gradually implodes as family members find it impossible to escape cycles of addiction, lies, cruelty, and abuse. The play focuses most strongly on the relationships between the older mothers and their children, but in terms of my arguments, it also notably stages Violet and Jean’s grandmother-granddaughter interactions, and the relationships between Johnna, the young outsider character, and various family members. Structurally, the play has a linear plot and fits Fuchs’s definition of a tragedy as it moves from threat to disaster (“EF's Visit” 8).  In separate studies, authors Blatanis, Kochman, and Mohler, all suggest that the value of August is its post-modern ruminations revealing “the gaps, ruptures, and contradictions in ‘master narratives’ of Western culture” (Kochman 10). Mohler argues that Letts uses ironized nostalgia and the Native American character, Johnna, to point toward the breakdown of the idealized (white) American Family and the failure of the American Dream with its ideals of “domesticity, fidelity, independence, and progress” (137). Kochman asserts, “that in August the value of poetry is diminished and this devaluation is shown to be detrimental to the individual,   134 the family, and society” (66). Textual references to poetry, she claims, not only criticize the American Dream, but suggest that reframing our thinking from a narrative perspective to a poetic one might offer guidance toward progress (68). Blatanis contends that in August “the dystopia of the family hearth directly mirrors and is intensified by the disintegration of the enveloping sociopolitical space” (257), causing us to “re-examine the nature of family bonds by revealing ways in which the microcosmic sphere interrelates with the macrocosmic one” (254). Blatanis proposes that Letts “explores the tragic in ways that depart markedly from safely-defined and conventional ones,” valorizing encounters with suffering and meaning (258). While these authors make compelling arguments, I maintain that the master narratives of aging and old age are not fully exposed or challenged in August. Instead the play reifies negative stereotypes about aging, particularly female aging and older age. I contend that in August, the stereotypical treatment of the older female characters is emphasized through the staging of relationships across generations, especially as depicted through the use of dramatic space, stage properties, and structures of time.  By contrast, 4000 Miles has a much smaller cast of four and begins when ninety-one-year-old Vera discovers her twenty-one-year-old grandson, Leo, at the door of her New York apartment in the middle of the night. He has arrived after biking across the country—a journey during which his best friend was tragically killed. The play also addresses Vera’s ongoing adjustment to the loss of her husband, Joe, who died ten years earlier. While this play too consists of a linear plot, 4000 Miles fits Fuchs’s definition of a tragicomedy as its plot moves from threat to peaceful celebration (“EF's Visit” 8). The primary relationship staged in this play is the grandmother-grandson bond between Vera and Leo. Their seventy-year age difference brings to light the kind of connectedness across three generations that Woodward describes (“Tribute” 96). In 4000 Miles the middle generation of parents, and their conflicts with Vera and   135 Leo, are discussed but not staged. As a result, the focus of the play is on continuity that skips a generation. In contrast to August, 4000 Miles uses stage space, props, and time to promote a narrative of generational continuity and recast aging and old age in a more nuanced and positive light. Despite their differences, these two plays invite comparison on several grounds. As mentioned in the introduction, they both address weighty themes such as incest, drug use, broken relationships, as they also confront issues of aging. The two originate from the same moment in American culture and history. Both are set in 2007 and have further temporal similarities which I will discuss in my analysis of time. Both plays also stage a traditional heteronormative White American family. Both garnered critical acclaim, and both had significant runs in New York before going on to be produced throughout North America and in Europe.xlv While August has attracted some scholarly attention, neither play has yet been considered from an age studies perspective. This is striking given that both plays centre on intergenerational relations and foreground an aging maternal figure in whose home the play is set. While I do not wish to homogenize aging past mid-life, it is clear that, despite their notable age difference, the characters Violet and Vera have similarities. Both are dealing with significant personal losses, as are the younger family members in each play. Both women have lost their husbands and both are negotiating relationships with younger family members who now share their living space. Both women are also experiencing physical and cognitive decline. Where Vera’s is connected to her advanced years, Violet’s is explicitly related to illness and drug use. Both women, too, express negative attitudes and dissatisfaction toward their own aging. Violet attempts to hold onto a younger identity. She likes Eric Clapton because, she states, “I’m not old, you know” (Letts 28). However, she also bemoans her own aging: “I was beautiful. Not anymore . [. . . ] Women are   136 beautiful when they’re young, and not after. Men can still preserve their sex appeal well into old age. [. . . ] Women just get old and fat and wrinkly” (65). Vera is past claiming she is not old.  However, like Violet, she resists and laments her own aging. Several times in the play she describes the effects of growing older as “disgusting,” for example she says to Leo, “[. . .] it's getting harder for me to hold the whadayacallit, the – key, because my hand shakes, which is disgusting” (Herzog 25). Vera struggles with the losses she experiences: “You know, there are a lot of bad things about getting old, but the worst one is not being able to find my words. I just hate not being able to find my words, I feel like an idiot half the time” (21). While 4000 Miles focuses on a grandparent-grandchild relationship and August puts more weight on parent-child relationships, both plays deal with issues of aging and intergenerational relations and make use of dramatic space, stage properties, and structures of time to express their narratives. Although Vera and Violet both voice opinions about “getting old” as an undesirable experience, their interactions with younger characters and with space, props, and time structures create in each play quite contrasting portraits of aging and old age, particularly in light of how they stage generational continuity or rupture.   5.2 Dramatic Space I first consider how the mimetic (onstage) and diegetic (offstage) spaces of a play, including the greater landscape within which the drama is set, work to create narratives about generational interconnection and about age. Space is fundamental to our understanding of and interaction with the world according to Henri Lefebvre in The Production of Space. His conceptions of space have laid the groundwork for spatial considerations in many disciplines. Lefebvre understands space to be both physical and mental, and always a social product.xlvi   137 According to theatre scholar Joanne Tompkins, “Lefebvre’s influential work addresses spatiality at large, but it barely mentions the obstacles and opportunities that shape the art form of theatre” (Unsettling Space 3). Tompkins argues that “theatre, more than other art forms, offers the opportunity to experiment spatially with the depiction of possible worlds in performance” (Theatre's Heterotopias 8). Theatre space can be studied from a variety of perspectives. As Tompkins summarizes, “‘Space’ might include the imaginative setting created with and through a narrative, the scenic space of a production’s design, the contribution to meaning that the architectural, cultural, or historical surrounds of a venue might offer, and/or the efficacy of an unconventional venue” (Theatre's Heterotopias 1). In Land/Scape/Theater editors Fuchs and Una Chaudhuri further develop considerations of theatrical space by proposing “landscape” as a new paradigm for understanding the spatial dimensions and cultural meanings of modern theatre. Fuchs submits “landscape dramaturgy” as an analytical technique that exceeds the limitations of more conventional character-based approaches to dramatic structure (“Reading” 37). She posits that, “Every dramatic world is conditioned by a landscape imaginary [. . .]. This spatial surround both emerges from the text and shapes its interpretation, guiding the ‘visitor’ to a reading in depth of the dramatic world’s scale and tone” (“Reading” 30). In “Estragement: Towards an ‘Age Theory’ Theatre Criticism,” Fuchs melds landscape dramaturgy with age theory, demonstrating the paradigm’s efficacy in revealing narratives about aging and old age. While her thesisxlvii does not apply directly to my work, I take from her writing the belief that landscape conditions our understandings of age, aging, and generations. Like Fuchs, Sofer contemplates more than the spaces that are staged. In Dark Matter: Instability in Drama, Theater, and Performance he examines the meanings of spaces (as well as things) that are absent in theatre and performance. His work is influential in guiding my   138 considerations of how spaces that are not staged influence narratives of generational continuity and rupture, as well as age identity. Sociologist Kevin Hetherington foregrounds the importance of space in his analysis of the formation of expressive identities:   Identity, as well as being about identification and organization is also about spatiality. In part, this means that identity involves an identification with particular places, whether local or national. It also means that certain spaces act as sites for the performance of identity. (105)  Similar to Hetherington, I focus on how spatiality shapes identities, age being an identity category. I ask how dramatic space organizes and shapes age identities and generational identities by either encouraging generational continuity or rupture.  5.2.1 Space in August: Osage County August is rife with examples of how the landscape and setting shape age and generational narratives and identities. As its title suggests, the play is set in Osage County, Oklahoma, a county named after the federally recognized Osage Nation to which it is home. The nation’s name in the play’s title foregrounds the centuries-long Indigenous presence and engagement with the land in this territory. It highlights the layers of history and ancestry embedded in the place—a place that for hundreds of years has been threatened, encroached upon, occupied, and dominated by settlers, despite the shrewd negotiation skills and exceptional political power of the Osage people.xlviii As Mohler puts it “Historically, culturally and politically Oklahoma symbolizes the ultimate success of the United States’ colonial and imperial project” (134). The plains setting,   139 Mohler notes, is “ideologically central to the development of the American Dream: agricultural development, values of industry, and Christian family living eventually prevail on land once deemed undesirable by the United States government” (135). The term “the American Dream” was first coined by James Truslow Adams, and describes a belief that prosperity and upward mobility can be achieved through hard work regardless of social class or the circumstances of one’s birth (Adams 170). In August, this dream “in which so many generations of Americans have placed their faith” has “failed the Westons entirely” (Mohler 135). Blatanis argues that Letts’s drama exposes “the gaping wound of the family narrative” (254). Likewise, Choate writes that the play “exploded [. . .] the fiction that nothing untoward occurs within the walls of the home” (105). In terms of landscape, Letts sets up the pastoral of the plains and then dismantles it, emphasizing the Westons’s failure to achieve the idealized family of the American Dream. Barbara’s response to the geography of the place in Act 1, scene 1 accentuates the collapse of a romanticized home setting: “The jokers who settled this place. The Germans and the Dutch and Irish. Who was the asshole who saw this flat hot nothing and planted his flag? I mean, we fucked the Indians for this?” (Letts 29).  Besides the greater landscape, the onstage scenography in August also highlights the disintegration of family. The extensive set, as specified by Letts in stage directions, consists of a country house described as “rambling” with numerous playing areas (9). On the first floor to stage-right is the dining room. The “sitting room” or living room is located down-stage. To stage-left is the study, and far left, the front porch. A stairway advances to the second floor where there is a landing leading to offstage bedrooms. Another stairway rises to the third-floor attic, which is a single bedroom with a “peaked roof and slanted walls” (10). Letts’s opening stage directions note that “Additions, renovations and repairs have essentially modernized the   140 house until 1972 or so, when all structural care ceased”—the play is set in 2007 (9). The decaying Weston home not only signifies the dissolution of family, but also yokes deterioration and neglect to the process of aging. Additional stage directions describe the interior at the top of Act One: “All the windows in the house have been covered with cheap plastic shades. Black duct tape seals the edge of the shades, effecting a complete absence of outside light” (10). Both Violet and Beverly have, over time, and fueled by alcohol and drugs, allowed their home to deteriorate. Several characters object to how hot Violet keeps the house. Not only is it the month of August, as the play’s title indicates, which is historically the hottest month in Oklahoma, but the windows are sealed and there is no air conditioning. The heat is so stifling, Barbara proclaims that at one time Violet’s pet parakeets repeatedly died: “It was too hot. They were dying from the heat . . . These are tropical birds, all right? They live in the fucking tropics” (20).  In addition to the oppressive heat, Beverly’s disappearance and then his demise also mark the space. His absence is felt throughout the play. Sofer’s concept of “dark matter” describes “the invisible dimension of theater that escapes visual detection, even though its effects are felt everywhere in performance” (Dark Matter 3). Beverly’s spectral presence continuously imposes itself by means of his many books. Mattie Fae in the past told Violet to burn them in order to assert her own identity and presence in the home: “You take all those goddamn books he’s so fond of and you make a big pile in the front yard and you have yourself a big bonfire. Take his papers too, just everything and throw it in—” (Letts 18). The specter of Beverly exerts a gravitational pull within the world of the play, repeatedly reminding us of the family’s failure to achieve the American Dream or develop positive attachments to one another. His felt absence does the phenomenological work of creating a looming sense of death for the audience. His spectral presence combines with the deficiency of outside light, the extreme, sweltering heat, and   141 the scenography depicting the rambling, decaying home, to support the central narrative of decline and ruin. As a result, the space becomes antithetical to family bonding and accentuates a narrative of failed progress undermining connection across generations. Not only is the house in disrepair and overheated, it also feels over-crowded. It is difficult for family members to find privacy. Jean’s usual room has been re-assigned to Johnna (Letts 43). Barbara and Bill sleep on a hide-a-bed in the living room (48), Ivy on an inflatable mattress in the study (99). Remarkably, there is no mention of their childhood things persisting in the space. No actual aspects of the space conjure Barbara, Ivy, or Karen’s girlhood histories. In Act 2, for example, Karen laments that their old fort has been torn down (90). In addition, we do not see Violet making her family comfortable or preserving family memories through interactions with the space. The overcrowding also means that characters lack room for self-reflection, privacy, or solitude, despite the expansiveness of the set. Blatanis argues that for members of the Weston family “survival coincides with the act of flying away from the center” (255). Barbara’s children do not wish to persevere in the space, but rather to flee from it.  The one instance in which Violet seems invested in the space in a way that could nurture generational continuity takes place in the first scene of Act 3, when she joins her three daughters in Beverly’s study. She makes a bid for connection by reflecting on how the space holds memories of their teenage years for her, and she links these experiences to her own. It is the only time during the play when she acknowledges that her dwelling houses memories of value to her, and perhaps to her daughters as well.  VIOLET: [. . .] You girls together in this house. Just hearing your voices  outside the door gives me a warm feeling. These walls    142 must’ve heard lots of secrets. KAREN: I get embarrassed just thinking about it. VIOLET: Oh . . .nothing to be embarrassed about. Secret crushes,  secret schemes . . . province of teenage girls. I can’t imag- ine anything more delicate, or bittersweet. Some part of you  girls I just always identified with . . . no matter how old you  get, a woman’s hard-pressed to throw off that part of herself [. . . ] (Letts 106)  While the moment holds potential for mutual connection and shows a reflective side of Violet not revealed elsewhere in the play, it does not develop into a deeper expression of generational continuity. This, in part, is influenced by the sense of discomfort created by the space. The scene is set in Beverly’s study, a space where he appeared during the Prologue, but that is now marked by his absence and death. The space creates a sense of uneasiness during this interaction as we realize that the walls of this room have not listened to Violet’s daughters’ secrets, so much as concealed Beverly’s—secrets that have led to the family’s dysfunction and will later in the play lead to its destruction. Violet’s contemplation in this particular space seems strange and out of place and does not succeed in forging any forward-looking connection with her daughters.  We also have a sense in August that Violet’s space is not her own. In addition to Beverly’s presence, which continuously encroaches on Violet’s space and her independent identity, we also see Violet’s space changed against her will. In Act 1, scene 1, stage directions tell us that Mattie Fae “start[s] to peel the tape from one of the shades” (Letts 21) to let in light. It is clear that this is not Violet’s desire when Charlie tells Mattie Fae to stop, “[. . .] this isn’t your place, you can’t come into somebody else’s home and start changing—” (21). In the   143 Prologue, Beverly hires Johnna to care for the space, declaring that his drinking and Violet’s pill addiction have “over time made burdensome the maintenance of traditional American routine: paying of bills, purchase of goods, cleaning of clothes or carpets or crappers” (11). He grants Johnna free reign over the space, proclaiming “You’re welcome to make use of anything, everything [. . .]” (15). Subsequently, the house becomes tidier and homier throughout the play. Stage directions at the top of Act 2 note “The house has been manifestly refreshed, presumably by Johnna’s hand. The dull, dusty finish has been replaced by the transparent gleam of function” (57). In addition, at the top of Act 3 stage directions state that “The window shades have all been removed” (99). However, Violet opposes and resents Johnna’s presence in her home. At no time do we see Violet consent to or approve of the changes Johnna makes. So, Johnna, then, alters the space against Violet’s will and presumably in collusion with Violet’s daughters. She also materializes Beverly’s continuing spectral presence by carrying out his wishes in spite of Violet’s objections. Mohler argues that Letts consciously uses the outsider Native American character of Johnna to critique the values of the “American Family,” arguing, “Dramaturgically, Johnna represents what the family is not: she is calm when they are turbulent, strong when they are psychologically and physically weak, and spiritually grounded as they curse and damn one another” (130). Borrowing a term from literary critic Linda Hutcheon, Mohler asserts that Johnna represents a type of “ironized nostalgia” (131). Through Johnna, “Letts illustrates the fragility of [. . .] cultural myths [for example progress and independence] by ironically positioning a Native woman who never neatly fit into (white) American ideals in the first place, as the one sane and active character in the play” (Mohler 137). Johnna’s presence in the home brings to mind Indigenous displacement and dispossession of the land by colonial settlers. Her   144 restorative interactions with space are the inverse of the violence of colonial land appropriation. Through Johnna’s investment in and care for the space, she demonstrates more functionality. Her interactions with the space bring coherence to the home and create opportunities for connection across generations. For example, she cooks meals for characters to share (Letts 80, 129), she tidies and decorates the space to make it more comfortable (17, 57, 84), she calmly cleans up messes (83), and she occupies the spaces others reject, for example the chair at the kids’ table (81). As Mohler concedes, however, “In some ways, her [Johnna’s] role as spiritual-guide-cum-house-servant renders her as a ‘historical relic’ who lives on the margins of white centrality, appearing to highlight the Westons’ tragic flaws, psychological angst, and to literally clean up their mess” (131). From an Indigenous studies perspective, then, Johnna might be interpreted and critiqued as merely a token Indigenous character whose primary purpose is to signal an outsider status and allude to Colonialism. The complexity of Indigenous experience in Osage and the violence of Colonialism are therefore not fully examined, and Johnna’s presence and activities in the space serve mostly as brief counterpoints to the Weston family’s dysfunction and violence. From an age studies perspective, Johnna’s characterization also presents problems. As she functions to highlight colonial folly, Johnna also draws attention away from narrative(s) of age connected to her character. Through Johnna, Letts creates the message that the right to regulate one’s own space diminishes with age, since Johnna changes Violet’s space without her consent, and the ethics of this action are never questioned. In addition, the character of Johnna is derivative of the “noble savage” archetype,xlix and as such she is depicted as being morally pure and without fault. Her virtue positions her as the moral authority when it comes to behavior. Aside from the issue of Indigenous stereotyping, this problematically contributes to a message   145 that the young know better than the old, and as such have the ethical right to make decisions on their elders’ behalf. Further, Violet rejects Johnna’s presence and makes numerous derogatory comments about her. For example, in Act 1, scene 1 Violet says to Ivy, “Goddamn your father for putting me through this. For leaving me to handle this. [. . .] He hired this Indian girl a week ago to look after the place for some goddamn reason and now I have a stranger in my house. I don’t know what to say to that girl. What’s her name?” (Letts 25). While the younger characters welcome and admire Johnna, Violet repeatedly insults and devalues her. For instance, in Act 2, when Barbara comments that Johnna cooked the whole meal by herself, Violet responds, “’Swhat she’s paid for. (A Silent moment.) You all did know she’s getting paid, right?” (86). Violet also insists on calling Johnna an “Indian”:   VIOLET: I don’t know what she’s doing here. She’s stranger in my house. There’s an Indian in my house. BILL (Laughing): You have some problem with Indians, Violet? VIOLET: I don’t know what to say to an Indian.  BARBARA: They’re called Native Americans now, Mom. VIOLET: Who calls them that? Who makes that decision? [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] VIOLET: Let’s just call the dinosaurs “Native Americans” while we’re at it. (37)  Letts, then, constructs Violet as the only character to voice explicitly racist attitudes and beliefs. An age studies perspective invites us to ask how the play’s framing of age would change if the character of Johnna were an elder rather than a young woman.   146 While Violet lacks agency over much of her space, the spaces that are her own, we do not see. This is another example of Sofer’s dark matter—that which is unrepresented on stage but phenomenologically un-ignorable (Dark Matter 4). In August Violet’s private spaces are not staged but hold critical meaning. These clandestine spaces are where she hides her pills and are linked to deception and a sense of shame. The central older female character, then, struggles but ultimately fails to control even illicit spaces. These personal spaces are violated at the end of Act 2 when Barbara declares a pill raid. We see her instruct Johnna, Bill, Ivy, and Jean to imagine and expose all of Violet’s private spaces: “[. . . ] Go through everything, every counter, every drawer, every shoe box. Nothing’s too personal [. . .]” (Letts 97). While Barbara’s actions could be conceived as caring for Violet, they also succeed in exposing her and stripping her of power. She is robbed of agency in complex ways because of her addiction. The younger generation exposes and attacks Violet’s private spaces and habits in an attempt to stop their negative impacts on the family. However, it is partly a function of her advanced age and gender that allows her family to disregard her wishes, using the excuse that she is a dysfunctional addict. We are reminded that no one staged an intervention over Beverly’s drinking, Bill and Steve’s pot smoking is barely questioned, and young Jean’s marijuana use is expressed as only a minor concern to Barbara and even encouraged by other adults. In the case of Violet, then, this older female character is constructed as being a hopeless addict, damaged beyond self-help by her secrecy and addiction. The younger generations seek to become the redeemers; Violet is the destructive force requiring rescue. Violet responds to the feeling that her space is not her own, by expressing intense desire both to change it and to discard many of its elements. In Act 1, scene 3 she claims she wants to downsize and cast off her possessions, saying: “All this shit’s going. [. . .] I don’t plan to spend   147 the rest of my days walking around and looking at what used to be” (Letts 65). Her attempt to gain agency over her space shows her struggle to overcome the narrative of decline that links aging to loss of power and control. However, she initiates this divestment with shocking self-involvement. In Act 2, the day of Beverly’s funeral, Violet announces that she plans to rid herself of all the family belongings; “All of it, I’m clearing all this stuff out of here. I want to have a brand-new everything” (86). She contemplates an auction, offering to sell the best items to her children; “[. . .] if you like I’ll sell it to you, cheaper’n I might get in an auction” (92). Through her lack of generosity and failure to consider her daughters’ feelings and wishes, Violet creates an effacement of mutual family history so extreme, it can only lead to generational rupture. To Violet the space has no value for joining or uniting the past with the future for her family. Rather the space holds worth for Violet only as a weapon to wield for her own gain in the family politic.   5.2.2 Space in 4000 Miles Quite in contrast to Letts’s foregrounding of generational rupture and aging as decline through the use of dramatic space, Herzog in 4000 Miles uses space to create a narrative of generational continuity and reciprocity. Herzog describes the play’s setting, Vera’s living space, as “a spacious rent-controlled apartment in [New York’s] Greenwich Village” (5).  In scene 6, when Leo brings home Amanda (a girl he has picked up), she is very excited upon first seeing the apartment, and exclaims that the view is “amaaaaaaaazing!” (45). She cannot believe that the rent is so affordable. In this play, Vera’s space has gained value over time, an accrual appreciated by the younger generation. Vera demonstrates mastery and generosity with the space, sharing her living quarters freely with Leo, providing him with his own bedroom (13), and   148 showing him how the space works. She uses the space to foster generational connection and is demonstrably successful as we see Leo appearing quite comfortable there. In scene 3 stage directions state that he starts the scene “lying down, eating something and reading a book” (25); he clearly feels at home.  Leo also stays with Vera three weeks longer than the “couple of days” (23) he originally intended.  In 4000 Miles Herzog’s setting description notes that the apartment “hasn’t been redecorated since 1968” (5). This is a strikingly similar time frame to last time the Westons’s house in August was upkept in 1972 (Letts 9). However, in contrast to the Westons’s home, Vera’s space in 4000 Miles is not in disrepair. In describing the apartment, Herzog states, “The key decorative element is books” (5). However, we do not get the sense, as we do in August, that the books are simply an extension of Vera’s husband, Joe (who was also Leo’s grandfather). Rather, Vera’s interest in ideas and knowledge suggests the books are symbolic of their shared life together and her continued interest in learning. Vera has left elements of the space unchanged to preserve Joe’s memory. However, throughout the play, we see Vera alter her living space in response to Leo’s influence, such as changing the name on the apartment buzzer to her own. Contrary to Violet in August, in 4000 Miles Vera maintains agency over her space. She makes changes out of personal desire, and her actions encourage generational continuity as she responds to Leo’s concerns, and also passes along memories of Joe anchored in their shared space. Vera’s neighbour and contemporary, Ginny, is also described as cultivating her space. In scene 10, Leo says “I saw, in her apartment, there was like a/ forest” (Herzog 71). He and Vera admire Ginny’s green thumb. Age, then, is not shown to be linked to a neglect of one’s surroundings. Rather older characters are shown to be proud of and respected for their homes. Vera also uses her space to shelter, nurture, teach and pass on memories to Leo. This contrasts   149 with Violet’s neglect and rejection of her surroundings, her willingness to erase family history, and her failed struggle for agency over her space, all of which disrupt generational continuity and create a disturbingly negative view of female aging.  The narratives of aging and old age created through Vera’s interactions with space are not only positive, however. The space also gives a sense of the loneliness and isolation that can accompany old age. Although she lives in New York City, one of the busiest cities in the world, Vera has limited contact with people other than Leo. Two members of her small social circle die during the play. Leo worries about Vera’s isolation during a phone call to his sister, Lily, “. . . I’ve been here three weeks now and I know there are some days if I wasn’t here she wouldn’t see anyone” (Herzog 61). Even Vera’s neighbour, Ginny, who lives in the next apartment, only speaks to her by phone. The large size of Vera’s apartment also serves to highlight her solitude. The space, while not unmanageable, provides physical challenges that frustrate Vera in terms of aging. She describes having difficulty turning the key in the top lock (25), and according to stage directions, we see her take two tries to get up from the sofa (24).  The play’s title, 4000 Miles, underscores the distance between Vera and her family. When Leo describes the expansive landscape he has traversed to arrive at Vera’s door, it emphasizes the far-reaching physical divide that separates Vera from her children and grandchildren, all of whom live on the other side of the country. However, it also foregrounds the connection or generational continuity that draws Leo to Vera. He has literally crossed mountains and plains to see her. Leo describes his motivation to visit in terms of wanting to help Vera: “Well, my grandma’s really old, and she doesn't really have anybody, so. I thought it would be cool to come spend some time with her” (Herzog 49). He also admits he was seeking shelter from his own tragedy: “My best friend died this summer. We were biking across the   150 country together and he died. That’s why I’m here. Because I don’t know where else to be” (50). The landscape, then, serves to emphasize generational connection across time and space. Its presence as a dangerous obstacle that is overcome symbolizes the characters’ (especially Leo’s) investment in pursuing and preserving generational continuity.  5.3 Stage Properties Within space exist objects. According to prominent sociologist and cultural gerontologist David Ekerdt, “objects actualize the lifecourse” (00:08:28). He describes the total of one’s possessions, collected and carried across time and place, as “the material convoy” (00:09:10). Ekerdt explains the significance of the material convoy in later life as follows:  Advancing age may deepen and even shift the meanings of things and their possession motives. [ . . .] In later life, possessions can at once be a comfort and a burden and determinative of action. Thus “things” and “possessions” create a fluid, complex but often neglected dimension through which the ageing process is materialized in time and space and where subjects and objects create meaningful relationships deserving of attentive research. (00:46:27)  The material convoy is represented on stage through the use of stage properties. These “performing objects and theatrical things” as Marlis Schweitzer and Joanne Zerdy call them in their book of this title (2), are key players in performance and have been studied in a variety of ways. Semiotic analyses have focused on the object as sign (or symbol) in theatre. Stanton B. Garner Jr. and Bert O. States both have approached stage objects using phenomenology,   151 maintaining that such an approach “awakens the reader’s memory of his own perceptual encounters with theater” (States 1). States famously proposed the use of binocular vision to consider the world both phenomenologically (in terms of our sensory engagement with objects) and semiotically (in terms of the object as sign) (8). Cultural materialists study stage props and costumes in terms of how they contribute to and reflect a particular, historical, material culture. New materialism moves away from binaries (human/nonhuman, nature/culture) and aims to de-centre human agency by placing emphasis on the dynamic collaborations that exist between human and non-human entities such as objects, animals, environments, forces etc. (Schweitzer and Zerdy 5).  Such approaches consider how objects “powerfully script, choreograph, direct, push, pull, and otherwise animate their human collaborators” (6).  In this chapter, I adopt an approach similar to that of Sofer in The Stage Life of Props, emphasizing the script, rather than analyzing a specific production, to decipher the range of meanings a prop could have in performance. Sofer’s analysis of stage props combines semiotics, phenomenology and cultural materialism (vii). He seeks to “make visible [. . .] the temporal and spatial dimensions of the material prop in performance” for both actor and audience (vii). I, too, am interested in the stage prop as it functions within the theatrical event. Sofer defines a stage prop as “a discrete, material, inanimate object that is visibly manipulated by an actor in the course of performance” (11). He further elaborates, “By definition, a prop is an object that goes on a journey; hence props trace spatial trajectories and create temporal narratives as they track through a given performance” (2). Props move forward in present time through the plot of the play; but also conjure up histories (viii). Of particular interest to me is Sofer’s insistence that props can be employed to establish new meanings:    152 Although the spectator is always free to take up a range of understandings of the prop’s meaning, the prop’s very fluidity as a theatrical sign encourages playwrights to use it as a concrete tool to subvert the symbolism previously embodied by the object it represents (ix-x).  I am attentive to the conscious, purposeful use of props on the part of the playwright, whether that is intended to be subversive or otherwise. I am also interested in the surreptitious meanings that props might carry when acting in live actor-object interactions. These may exist in spite of the playwright’s intentions. Sofer’s approach allows me to consider, based on the play’s script, how props might carry cultural meaning about age, aging, old age, and intergenerational relations throughout a range of productions.  5.3.1 Props in August: Osage County First, I consider how props influence the narratives of connection or disconnection across generations in August. Fifer argues that Violet and Beverly “show little pride in surroundings or possessions” (Letts 192). In the Prologue, when instructing Johnna, Beverly makes clear his ambivalence toward his and Violet’s possessions referring to them as “all this garbage we’ve acquired, our life’s work” (15). There are few instances in August in which an onstage prop is used across generations as a means of joining together. Sometimes props demonstrate generational difference. Jean listens to music on an iPod; Violet, on a record player. Violet and Jean never discuss or compare their different uses of technology or other props (which is distinct from Leo and Vera in 4000 Miles). Jean hides her marijuana pipe from both the middle and older generations, suspecting they will disapprove, and sneaks up to Johnna’s room to use it (41-42).   153 While Johnna seems notably older than Jean by virtue of being an adult, the two are only divided by twelve years in chronological age. As such, there is not the same breadth of generational divide between them as each has with the other characters (generations are typically defined as separated by 25 years).  In this play, props offered by one family member are also at times rejected by another across generations, and actively perforate a sense of attachment. For example, Violet and Mattie Fae ask Ivy to look at photos of Beverly, and to try on clothes, and Ivy refuses (Letts 63). Ivy admires a photo of Violet saying, “You’re beautiful, Mom” (65). Violet spurns her compliment:   VIOLET: No. One of those lies we tell to give us comfort, but  don’t you believe it. Women are beautiful when they’re young, and not after  [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . ]  You’re about as sexy as a wet cardboard box, Mattie  Fae, you and me both. Don’t kid yourself [. . . ] (65-66)  Interactions with objects also become struggles for power. Violet offers Barbara a sideboard which Barbara declines. Violet then offers it to Bill in a manipulative move to expose that the couple has separated (Letts 92-93). Barbara and Violet have a violent brawl over a bottle of Violet’s pills (96-97). Mattie Fae orders her son Little Charles to get her casserole from the car, and when he accidentally drops it, she is outraged and belittles him (83). Props, then, become catalysts for generational rupture. During Act 3, scene 5, the play’s climax, Violet, Barbara and Ivy all purposely smash the family china, as Violet viciously reveals to Ivy that she and Little Charles (who is her lover and, she thought, her cousin) are actually half-brother and   154 sister (132-34). The scene ends with Ivy leaving forever. The act of destroying these family artifacts symbolizes a blatant disregard for their mutual history and the demolition of kindred ties.  During the final moments of the play, as Violet searches for her family, she puts on an Eric Clapton record. Readers may recall her claim that she listens to Eric Clapton because she is “not old” (Letts 28). In a moment of realization that her family has left her and she is alone, stage directions indicate that Violet “[. . .] attacks the record player, rakes the needle across the album. She looks around, terrified, disoriented” (138). In destroying the record, Violet shatters her identity as “not old”, and destroys one of the few objects she valued and at one time attempted to share with her family. Her sense of self and her connection to her children are annihilated with the record. One final time, she proves, through interacting with a prop, the suitability of her name—Violet is one letter short of “violent.” Violet and the other mothers in August are constructed as monstrous in their interactions across generations as their interplay with props demonstrates. The one notable instance in which a prop is used to proffer connection among family members in August occurs when Karen shares her hand cream with Violet in Act 3, scene 1 which takes place in Beverly’s study. This moment stands out as a rare instance of tenderness between Violet and her daughters, but the potential for generational continuity is immediately undercut by awkwardness and discomfort when Violet tells a story about a cruel Christmas gift from her mother (Letts 107). Instead of the beautiful cowboy boots she wanted, her mother gave her holey, dirty men’s work boots (106-07). We learn through this story that the history of generational rupture as expressed through objects in this family is cyclical and repeated. Later in the scene Violet further disrupts filial tenderness by rejecting the support that Barbara offers:    155 BARBARA: [. . .] I just want you to know, you’re not alone in this.  (no response)  How can I help? VIOLET: I don’t need help. (109)  Any optimism for generational continuity inspired by the hand cream is dissolved through this interaction.  Many instances in which props connect characters in this play involve Johnna. In the Prologue, we see Beverly give Johnna a handkerchief and a book (Letts 12, 16). Her happy receipt of these objects contrasts sharply with his material absence from his own children. Johnna also connects with Jean through props, although, as I have previously discussed, there is not the same generational divide between Jean and Johnna as between either of these women and the other characters. In Act 1, scene 2 Johnna allows Jean to smoke a marijuana pipe in her room, providing Jean with refuge from the other adults (41-42). Johnna shows her deceased parents’ wedding photo to Jean, in which they wear traditional ceremonial costume (43). Johnna also allows Jean to hold a necklace. This intensely personal object was made by Johnna’s grandmother in Cheyenne custom, and contains Johnna’s umbilical cord; Cheyenne people, Johnna tells Jean, are meant to wear such necklaces for their entire lives (44-45). Johnna uses these props to teach Jean about her traditions and about the values of her ancestors. The umbilical cord as a lifelong material reminder of family ties provides a sharp contrast to the Westons’s many material ruptures and absences as noted above. Johnna’s interactions with props provide a stark contrast of generational continuity preserved through objects. They show positive relationships across generations and construct older characters as valued. However, since the   156 older characters are only briefly discussed and not staged, these positive intergenerational family relations represented through props act as only brief relief to the negative and sometimes violent ones staged between older and younger members of the Weston family in August.  Johnna also appears several times during the play cooking and serving food to the family (Letts 17, 57, 61, 75, 128-31) and characters comment on its excellent quality (37, 80, 95).  She thus uses props to demonstrate nurturing. Her one violent action involving a prop is purely protective in its motivation. Fifty-year-old Steve, Karen’s fiancé, shares a joint with the underage Jean, and then proceeds to “mess” with her, kissing and groping her in the darkened living room (114-17). Here he uses a prop (the joint) to take advantage of a much younger character. Johnna enters “brandishing a cast-iron skillet” and hits Steve with it; the injury necessitates his exposure to the others (117). It also conjures up and contrasts with Violet’s Act 2 story of being attacked by one of their mother’s “gentlemen friends” with a claw hammer (Letts 94). In this case, the adult (Johnna) uses violence to protect the child (Jean) rather than to inflict injury upon her. In August, then, Letts uses the character of Johnna, a character from outside the family, and again the youngest adult, to offer a different model of interactions across generations. Johnna uses props as a means of nurturing, teaching, and protecting characters both older and younger than herself. Her presence highlights the Weston family’s contrasting use of props to perform acts of rupture across generations. This effectively critiques the colonial values of independence and individualism. However, once again the fact that the youngest adult character models positive interactions that the older characters (especially the older female characters) are not able to achieve creates a problematic message about aging and old age, especially for women. Her characterization, which highlights and celebrates a surface understanding of Indigenous values, also serves to mask subtle ways that older age is negatively represented.   157  5.3.2 Props in 4000 Miles By contrast, in 4000 Miles stage props are most often used to encourage generational continuity. Both Leo and Vera use objects to offer mutual caregiving and to foster communication. Vera does Leo’s laundry (Herzog 15-16) and gives him keys to the apartment (22), food (17), money (24), and her husband’s old suit (65). Vera’s open-mindedness is demonstrated through props in scene 2. When Leo picks up a box of condoms that Vera has found amongst his things and left with his folded laundry, she remarks, “I was glad to see you carry those and surprised they weren’t opened” (15). Besides caring for Leo, Vera also serves tea to Bec (Leo’s ex-girlfriend) in scene four as an offer of hospitality and an attempt to bridge the awkwardness between them. Leo, too, uses props to connect with Vera. He sets up her computer and this elicits a discussion in which the two discover shared values of Marxism (21). Leo’s bicycle and paniers also inspire Vera’s curiosity about his bike trip and Leo enjoys educating her about cycling across the country (18). Props become conduits for learning across generations, and both older and younger characters are shown to be capable of and invested in acquiring knowledge. Throughout the play, Vera is often seen putting in her hearing aids. Although they clearly bother her, she is repeatedly depicted, through this prop, as being invested in hearing what Leo has to say.  Props, too, are used to show preservation of generational memories across time. In the final scene of the play, when Leo appears wearing Joe’s suit, it is an opportunity for the two characters to remember him (Herzog 65). Leo also reminisces about Joe with Vera in scene 3, when he reads a book that Joe wrote. Through this prop, Joe’s knowledge and values persist across generations as Leo declares he has learned “stuff” from the book he did not know before   158 (28). Props (including this book) are also used to resolve conflict. Following a fight in scene 4, during which Leo tells Vera to “shut up” for commenting on Bec’s weight (41), Leo and Vera smoke pot together in the immediately juxtaposed scene 5. The two discuss personal topics, including their sex lives, before it is revealed, surprisingly and humorously through props, that they are stoned. Stage directions state that part way through the scene “LEO picks up a bowl and lighter that we haven’t noticed” (43). Here, the sharing of props facilitates reconciliation and celebration. The two characters communicate on a deeper level than previously and are shown to have mutual respect and affection for one another. The prop also shows Vera’s measured and responsible use of substances. In 4000 Miles, destructive use of drugs is tied to younger characters. Leo has recently caused family discord by kissing his adopted sister after using peyote, and Leo describes his mother, Jane, as having valium hangovers (11). By divorcing aging from substance misuse in 4000 Miles, Herzog serves to break up the narrative of decline that is so strongly reinforced through patterns of addiction that increase with age in August.  In 4000 Miles props are, at times, implicated in relationship ruptures. Leo’s animosity towards Jane is clearly linked to her use of valium (Herzog 11). Family dysfunction, then, is not absent from this play. Leo’s relationship with his mother is characterized by ongoing, unresolved conflict, frustration, and emotional distance, similar to parent-child relationships in August. However, in the case of 4000 Miles this relationship is not staged. We never see Jane or hear her voice. As a result, the relationship between Vera and Leo has far more impact. In addition, while Leo describes Jane as anxious and over-protective, he never describes her as abusive. Vera also counters Leo’s one-sided view of Jane with a more nuanced description of her, offering the chance to see Jane from a different perspective. Vera describes aspects of Jane’s upbringing and personality that humanize her. This coupled with Vera’s caring, thoughtful nature, and her own   159 challenges at times in seeing eye-to-eye with Leo, offer, through Vera, the possibility to resist the construction of Jane as a monstrous mother. In 4000 Miles, when interactions with staged props are involved in, or expressive of, relationship breakdowns this occurs amongst peers not across generations. In scene 4 Bec breaks up with Leo. Twice during this scene she rejects a pumpkin Leo offers to her (Herzog 35, 40). Refusal of this object further fractures their relationship. Amanda, in scene 6, declines to let Leo see under her band aid, an act symbolizing the end of their short friendship (52). Vera uses the telephone to terminate her relationship with Ginny in scene 8 (56-57). This creates quite a different message about age. Props do not highlight discord in a way that shows it increasing with age as they do in August. It would be false to suggest that objects are never embroiled in disharmony between Vera and Leo. Twice objects trigger conflict between the two characters. In scene 3 Vera is upset because she believes Leo broke her faucet and did not tell her; in scene 10 she is angry because she believes Leo stole her check book. However, as opposed to the many props that appear on stage and function to advance generational continuity in 4000 Miles, these two objects are not staged and manipulated by the characters, only discussed. Because they lack physical presence, and because their number is few, they do not interrupt the play’s overwhelming pattern of using onstage props to highlight generational continuity.  5.4 Structures of Time  Just as dramaturgical choices about space and props have revealed patterns for representing aging, old age, and generational continuity and rupture, choices about time can be equally illuminating. Making sense of time’s functioning on stage and in dramatic texts has been a longstanding concern of theatre theorists since in theatre time functions in distinct,   160 idiosyncratic, and often multi-layered ways. It is important, therefore, to establish a shared vocabulary for analysis. To this end, I employ the model of Matthew D. Wagner in Shakespeare, Theatre, and Time. His approach focuses on the unique qualities of time as it exists and functions on stage.  Wagner identifies three temporal phenomena that emerge in a stage-oriented study of Shakespeare’s plays: temporal dissonance, temporal thickness, and temporal materiality (2). Temporal dissonance describes time that is “out of joint” (2), in other words, time schemes that are juxtaposed, clashing, or in disharmony. Temporal thickness is an “understanding of the present as being heavily weighted by the past and the future” (2). Temporal materiality describes the sense of “time being material, having a bodily presence in varying forms” (2). According to Wagner, “The human body allows the stage to be a place of material presence; the poetic voice then can manipulate that materiality [. . . .] as bodies populate the stage, poetic, imagistic depictions of time are given material force and grounding” (8). Both temporal thickness and temporal materiality resonate with Basting’s depth model of age previously discussed in Chapter 4, which describes how embodied performances of age can be viewed as a layering of past, present, and projected future performances (Basting The Stages of Age 140-46). Although Wagner focuses on Shakespeare’s plays, his method is applicable to a study of aging in theatre for the following reasons: first, his attention to the juxtaposition of different time structures helps explain how different ways of experiencing and understanding age can exist simultaneously and often in tension with one another; second, his emphasis on embodiment supports the fact that aging is necessarily a bodily experience; third and finally, his emphasis on theatricality allows for reflections on ways that time and age are uniquely intertwined and co-constructed on stage.   161 Wagner argues that in staged versions of Shakespeare “time is material, thick, and in continual and varying forms of disharmony” (2). He goes on to assert, “More specifically, theatre sharpens our awareness of different, often conflicting schemes of time, and of the ‘thickness’ of the present, past, and future” (4). In the plays that I study here, this has important implications for understandings of generational continuity or rupture, and as a result also for narratives of aging and old age. In a sense, I already have discussed time’s materiality within these two plays. Continuity and rupture are ways of experiencing generational time. I have argued that these concepts are materialized through the actors’ bodies and their interactions with dramatic space and props. While I will return to some discussion of temporal materiality within August and 4000 Miles, my greater focus here is on temporal dissonance and temporal thickness in each play. In terms of temporal dissonance, two of the most elemental dissonant time schemes are objective time and subjective time (Wagner 10). Objective time describes time that is measurable (by clocks, schedules, calendars) and shared across individual experiences (13). Wagner argues, “it is a version of time that is constant (at least within reason), social, and tangible by virtue of its measurability” (13-14, emphasis in original). Objective time is external to human experience (14). On the other hand, drawing on Husserl and Heidegger and the long tradition of phenomenology, Wagner argues that time is also often experienced subjectively. Subjective or phenomenological time is time that is not measurable, but experienced and sensed individually and internally (14-15). Theatre, Wagner argues, creates opportunities for these two time schemes to interact (13): “It seems more appropriate to propose that temporally speaking, the theatre places us between phenomenological and objective time. It provides us a sharpened awareness of both, by shuttling us back and forth between each, and, most significantly, by not reconciling the one with the other or explaining one in terms of the other” (18). The oscillating and often   162 synchronous experience of subjective and objective time in theatre produces a phenomenological temporal experience unique to each particular play and each performance of a play.  When we read August and 4000 Miles against each other, the parallels in terms of objective time are remarkable. Both are set in the same year, 2007, and the same season. August takes place explicitly in August. 4000 Miles takes place approximately 2 months after July 3rd and shortly after the American college calendar has commenced (so approximately late August or early September). Surprisingly, both plays unfold over an exactly three-and-a-half-week period of calendar time. August begins with daytime scenes and ends at night; 4000 Miles begins with a night scene and ends in the day. These parallels and similarities make all the more surprising the quite distinctive, phenomenological experience of time offered by each play.   5.4.1 Time in August: Osage County First, consider time structures and their impact on family relations in August. At the top of this play Violet and Beverly try to avoid objective time. They pursue a kind of temporal suspension, dampening their experience of time’s passage. The shades they have taped shut over their windows make it difficult to tell day from night (Letts 10). Their irregular hours and mealtimes disrupt a sense of daily routine. Their heavy drinking and Violet’s drug-taking further alienate them from regular temporal practices. The play’s rural setting, Mohler notes, may contribute to a sense of being “caught in time,” particularly for the play’s original urban audiences (133). Divorcing themselves from quotidian reminders of the passage of time helps Violet and Beverly ignore their failure to achieve the narrative of progress associated with the American Dream. In “Well-Being and Time,” J. David Velleman describes the essence of the progress narrative. He argues that most people strongly prefer the story of a life that constantly   163 improves or becomes increasingly successful with time, over a life of equal cumulative success that is not incremental, or a life that is more stable but less fulfilling. He also suggests that in such a narrative structure the possibilities for achieving “a good life” narrow significantly in middle age (156). By avoiding objective time, Beverly attempts to ease the pain of his failed career. Violet strives to escape the bodily experience of decline accelerated and emphasized by her cancer. Refusing objective time also helps them to disavow the number of years they have languished in their dysfunctional relationship and their family disappointments. Their drive toward atemporality is in tension with the inevitable passage of time, which they resist, and yet, at times, feel intensely. Beverly begins the play with the line “Life is very long . . .” (Letts 10), a reference to T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men (Eliot 87-90). Similar to the poem’s “hollow men” Beverly feels that there is no meaning or purpose to his existence. He is trapped in a life that both seems endless and in which too much time has passed to salvage a good ending. In terms of age, these juxtaposed time structures create a narrative accentuating fear and shame of aging, and the need to conceal decline, or escape it through death. Beverly hires Johnna in the Prologue essentially to help them observe objective time. Her jobs include getting Violet to appointments, cooking meals, cleaning, and keeping the house in order. Her role, then, through observing normal circadian rhythms, is to keep the Westons connected and in touch, as much as necessary, with the temporality of the society around them. However, Mohler asserts that Johnna is “not quite temporally suspended in pre-modern times” (136). According to Mohler, the character of Johnna derives from historical narratives that “romanticiz[e] America’s geographical vastness and bounty” and that homogenize and mythologize Native Americans as a simple, natural people. Mohler argues that such narratives have been used to validate both “civilization” of the frontier and Native American containment   164 (136). Despite the fact that the character of Johnna gestures toward these narratives, Mohler contends that she serves as a productive contrast to the Westons: “she is calm when they are turbulent, strong when they are psychologically and physically weak, and spiritually grounded as they curse and damn one another” (136). Through her difference and the process of ironized nostalgia, Mohler asserts, “Johnna’s presence construes an imagined time when the white American family unit was safe, when white identity was secure, and Others remained on the borderline, or in the attic, but visible long enough to reflect white cultural hegemony” (137). Johnna prompts audiences to recall the past, but to be reflective and critical of it, contends Mohler (140). Similar to Mohler I maintain that Johnna’s embodiment and preservation of cultural and familial traditions across time highlights the dysfunction and failures of the Weston family and consequently the American Dream. However, I argue that this is in part due to Johnna’s sense of temporal thickness—a sense of time often obstructed in the play’s other characters. Beverly contemplates deep connections with the past. By citing ‘the great poets’, he seems to seek affiliation with them. But in referring to the works of T. S. Eliot, John Berryman, and Hart Crane, Beverly emphasizes their immortality (through their writing), and in doing so highlights his own artistic failure—he never wrote anything substantial after his first successful book of poetry (Letts 46). The content of the poems he recites (Eliot’s The Hollow Men and Berryman’s The Curse) also foregrounds negative attitudes about time and age including life as continual decline, age as loss, and the despair of a lengthy existence (Berryman 275-276; Eliot 87-90). Beverly, in focusing on diachronic connection with the great poets, and in altering his experience of time through drinking, neglects his own family and fails to make synchronic connections through which he otherwise might have achieved continued duration through   165 generational continuity. His inability to achieve deep time or immortality seems to be a factor in his choice to commit suicide (end time).  Johnna, by contrast, carries with her a sense of generational perseverance and ancestral time through interactions with the material objects she possesses (e.g. her birth necklace, the wedding photo of her parents), through her personal embodiment, and through her recounted memories. While she is a positive example of generational continuity in this regard, critically in terms of age, the youngest adult character is shown to display temporal thickness and generational continuity, while the older characters (who actually have a far longer personal history) are unable to do so. Aging and older age, then, are associated with dysfunction and an ageist perspective through the time structures embedded in the older characters. Violet and Beverly’s suspended time and backwards focus prevent them from nurturing generational continuity, while Johnna through her temporal orientation is allowed to be successful.  Although Beverly and Violet try to evade objective temporality and exist in a near atemporal sphere, their experience is also one in which time exerts a strong pull to the past. Indeed, Fifer claims that in August “The parents’ backward gaze reveals a past neither fully accepted nor resolved. The isolated figures of Beverly and Violet recapitulate the insular nature of the lives of Mary and Tyrone [of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night], cut off from the next generation and from other families who might give comfort” (184). We see few instances of characters offering care, passing on meaningful family memories by sharing activities, objects, or space, or teaching each other new skills in the present. Fifer also argues that family members “rely on memory to fill the emptiness of present time” (185). Memories recounted by the older characters in August are mostly negative and painful. They are not retold to pass along positive examples, or even to act as useful cautionary advice. Most are stories of   166 injustice and abuse. For example, in Act 2, Violet recounts a story of being assaulted as a child: “(Points to Mattie Fae) This woman came to my rescue when one of my dear mother’s many gentlemen friends was attacking me, with a claw hammer! This woman has dents in her skull from hammer blows [. . .]” (Letts 94). The purpose of the tale is to invalidate her younger family members’ feelings and problems. Mattie Fae, too, focuses on past wrongs and failures, especially those of Little Charles. When these two mothers consider the future, their outlook is often clouded by past events, which prevents them from nurturing any positive connection or continuity across generations in the present. For example, in Act 3, scene 1, Mattie Fae, reveals to Barbara that Beverly was Little Charles’s father, saying “I made a mistake, a long time ago [. . . . ] I’ve paid for it. But the mistake ends here” (114). Mattie Fae’s belief that she has been punished over time, leads her to offload responsibility for divulging the truth onto Barbara, an act that neglects Mattie Fae’s own relationship with Little Charles, and ultimately, irreparably fractures Barbara’s kinship with Ivy. Violet’s future outlook, too, is clouded by her past. As previously mentioned, in Act 3, scene 1 when Barbara asks how she can help, Violet rejects her offer:   VIOLET: I don’t need your help. I’ve gotten myself through  some . . . (Stops, collects herself) I know how this goes: once  all the talking’s through, people go back to their own non- sense. I know that. So don’t worry about me. I’ll man- age. I get by. (109)    167 Violet sees little possibility that the future will diverge from the past. Beverly sees no viable future and kills himself. Charlie is the one member of the older generation in August whose temporal orientation is not mired in the past. However, we also learn little about his history or his future plans. Because he lacks temporal thickness and relative character depth, his potential as a role model is limited. The younger generations in August are more aware of objective time than their elders, as well as more oriented to the present and future which puts the generations out of synch. As a result, characters often miss opportunities to create new experiences across generations in the present. For example, despite complaining to Barbara in Act 1, scene 1 that she never gets to see Jean (Letts 38), Violet only speaks one vicious line to Jean for the rest of the play, humiliating her in front of the family for jokingly calling Barbara a liar: “Y’know . . . if I ever called my mom a liar? She would’ve knocked my goddamn head off my shoulders” (91). Jean, for her part, is more interested in orchestrating future plans to watch movies and smoke pot, than in interacting with Violet, or listening to stories about the past. Although the younger characters, especially Violet’s daughters, attempt to plan a better future, they are mostly trapped in learned behaviors and cycles of abuse that thwart their efforts to change. As they are drawn into their parents’ retrograde focus and unstable sense of time, history repeats itself. Karen expresses this poignantly: “[. . . ] before you know it you can’t move forward, you’re just suspended there, you can’t move forward because you can’t stop thinking backward, I mean you know . . . years!” (59-60). Despite Karen’s conscious efforts to discontinue her subservience in romantic relationships, she ends up choosing to persevere in her relationship with the cheating, pedophilic, arms dealer Steve, just as Violet chose to stay with Beverly despite his years of cheating, drinking and verbal abuse. Likewise, Ivy and Little Charles’s hope for a lasting relationship is forestalled by the   168 revelation that they are half brother and sister. The past actions of the older generation return to ruin their children’s happiness through implicating them in deep cultural taboos. In terms of the middle generation of children, then, we are shown the possibility of a better future that is then revoked. The backwards pull of their parents proves near futile for the children to resist. However, this middle generation does not simply acquiesce to being dragged into the past and adopting their parents’ sense of time. Violet’s daughters resist and flee from her temporality. Ivy and Karen grasp for objective time in their efforts to escape. Ivy proclaims she plans to leave for New York with Little Charles “in weeks if not days” (Letts 105). Karen also affirms her future schedule, as she bolts from the family; “Come January . . . I’ll be in Belize” (121). Barbara, perhaps, finds the temporal dissonance most troubling and has the most difficulty dislodging from Violet’s temporality. Awakened to time’s corporeal nature by the task of identifying Beverly’s deceased body, she attempts to force a material sense of time onto Violet by making her sober up. Barbara commands a drug raid, hoping to align Violet’s temporality with her own, in an effort to gain continuity. She achieves only temporary and partial success. Violet’s preference for a-temporality and a backwards focus, rooted in her desire to escape the pain of both Beverly’s death and her own illness, mean that she is only “moderately clean” of drugs by the end of the play (128). Barbara’s focus on gaining temporal alignment with Violet also disrupts her own continuity with Jean. As Bill leaves with Jean to take her home to Colorado after Barbara has slapped her, he reminds Barbara of the future “You and Jean have about forty years left to fight and make up” (122). Still Barbara is further drawn into Violet’s temporal suspension. In Act 3, scene 4 she cannot remember how long ago Bill departed, saying: “No, he left a few days ago. A week ago? Two weeks ago. Two weeks ago? [. . .]” (126). In the next   169 scene, Barbara appears at dinner time in her pajamas, as does Violet. Circadian rhythms for Barbara are beginning to dissolve. In the end, however, the temporal dissonance between Violet and Barbara is too profound for any sense of generational continuity to last. Fifer contends that in August “the past’s hold on the present dictates the parents’ fierce grasping for money and security, which erodes their emotional ties to their children” (193). Violet’s only plans for the future include rescuing the safety deposit box before reporting Beverly’s disappearance, ensuring that her children agree that everything be left to her despite the official will stating otherwise, and planning to divest herself of all her belongings including selling (rather than giving) some of them to her children. She shows an intense self-focus that obstructs her ability to foster connection and create and preserve meaningful memories through time with her children and grandchild. Ironically, Violet’s revelation of the chronology of Beverly’s disappearance and death, an act in which she shows a surprising awareness of objective time, snaps Barbara out of temporal suspension. It causes Barbara to refocus her own sense of temporality toward the future, and presumably toward the welfare of her child. As Barbara leaves we see no hope for her relationship with Violet.  The final moments of the play, when contrasted with the ending of Act 2, bring into sharp focus the play’s disruption of generational time and its associated sense of loss. Following Sherriff Gilbeau’s news that he believes Beverly’s drowned body has been found, Act 1 closes with Violet delivering the following speech as she “separates invisible threads in the air”:  And then you’re here. And Barbara, and then you’re here,  and Beverly, and then you’re here, and then you’re here, [. . . ]”  [“and then you’re here” repeated many times] (Letts 55-56).   170 This seems a plea for the presence and closeness of husband and daughter. By contrast, after the confirmation of Beverly’s death, and the subsequent antagonisms, conflicts, and relationship disintegrations of Acts 2 and 3, the play ends after Violet’s daughters have all departed in strife. Alone, Violet crawls to the attic room where Johnna remains. Violet repeats her last line “and then you’re gone” until the curtain closes, as Johnna holds her and continuously recites “This is the way the world ends” (138). Violet, finally oriented to the present, realizes what she has lost. The contrast of “here” and “gone” emphasizes the temporal and generational rupture. There will be no continuity between Violet and her daughters; this is the play’s tragic end and Violet is blamed. Despite the complexities of the relationships over generations that contributed to this outcome, it is Violet, the play’s oldest remaining character, who is given the actions which bring about the family’s final destruction. Johnna, with her greater temporal thickness and sense of ancestral time, perhaps points toward a different, more positive model for intergenerational relationships and family continuity as we see her comfort Violet. But again, with respect to age, the youngest adult character serves the function of rescuing the oldest. Aging is linked to self-destruction, while youth is positioned as heroic. Here, as earlier in the play, the message about culture obfuscates the message about age. In addition, Johnna’s final line once again quotes Eliot’s The Hollow Men, conjuring up of a world of despair in which the souls of the poem, unable to choose between good and evil, “exist in a state in-between, a state in which their failure to make a decision causes an utter lack of hope and joy or pain” (Van Aelst n.p.). Violet’s known world is ending, and she is left alone, imprisoned in her suspended temporality, with no family to share memories of the past, preserve her heritage, or care for her across time. The unspoken completion of the line, “not with a bang but a whimper” (Eliot 90) further emphasizes that without stewardship Violet’s life will end without notice or meaning, linking older age to   171 insignificance. The citation also reminds us of patriarchal values (symbolized by the canonicity of white male poets like Eliot) that dominate and dictate our social imaginaries around age in ways that often denigrate aging, and especially diminish older women and blame them for familial dysfunction.   5.4.2 Time in 4000 Miles While Letts interweaves structures of time in August that do not favour generational continuity and create abject older characters, especially older mothers, in 4000 Miles Herzog uses time schemes to establish quite contrasting messages about relationships across generations and older age. Like Violet in August, Vera in 4000 Miles is also out of synch. She exists in temporal slowness, at a different speed from the fast-paced objective, chronological time of society’s calendars and schedules. While for Violet being out of sync is the result of drug use, for Vera it is primarily due to her advanced age. The play’s script makes reference to Vera’s slow movement (Herzog 25, 31), the amount of time she goes without seeing other people (61), and the fact that she experiences one day to the next as longer than the play’s younger characters (26). In performance, this slowness would be emphasized by the stage time it takes Vera to carry out certain stage directions such as opening the door (25) or entering the room (31). Western audiences’ habituation to more rapidly paced stage movement would foreground her slowness, as would her contrast with the movement styles and pace of other three younger characters. In Learning to be Old: Gender, Culture, and Aging Cruikshank argues that slowness can be a sign of positive adjustment:    172 To be old and psychologically healthy in a society marked by destructive impulses requires great equilibrium and balance. In supportive groups, older women could perhaps come to regard moving slowly not as humiliation but as a chance to tap into the life force that is unnaturally suppressed by speed and fragmentation. As for life stories, elders who take time to reflect on their own stories and share them with others participate in an ancient ritual of most other cultures across time. (7)   Herzog constructs Vera as an example of a woman whose life force is enhanced by slowness in the way that Cruikshank describes. Vera’s slowness allows her to pay attention to detail, show sensitivity to her surroundings, and have time for connection with others. It allows for her to have a sense of deep presence. This is particularly evident in scene 7 in which she listens at length, in stillness, without interrupting, as Leo reveals the tragedy of his friend’s death (Herzog 53-55). For Leo, Vera’s temporal slowness creates a place of refuge from habitual, objective time. Leo’s own sense of time is one cued into seasons and natural cycles. During his bike journey across the country with his friend Micah, they embraced a sense of natural, geological time. In scene 7, Leo recounts this bike journey in a monologue, describing the landscape, the season, the weather, and the daily cycle of the sun (Herzog 53-54). When Micah was suddenly killed on this trip, Leo experienced extreme temporal dissonance. Not only was time out of joint because Micah died unexpectedly and before his time, but also the event interrupted Leo’s experience of natural time and thrust him instantaneously into objective time. In recalling Micah’s death, Leo knows the exact date, July 3rd (53). He knows it took “forty-five minutes” to attempt to rescue Micah (55). Leo describes how he was required to fill out reports and call   173 relatives, all details related to objective time. His response was to resist time’s passage and avoid the future. He got back on his bike and continued his journey without communicating further with anyone. Leo did not attend Micah’s funeral, he avoided family and friends, and he did not complete the bike trip by dipping his tire in the Atlantic. Leo’s flight from objective time also led him to Vera.  Vera provides a refuge for Leo. Her slowness supports his need for temporal suspension. During the course of the play’s action, we see Leo, through his experience and relationship with Vera, transform from a character avoiding his future to a young man with forward-looking plans and dreams. He gets a job and organizes his trip back across the country (Herzog 66-67). He also shows concern for Vera’s future. In scene 9, Leo suggests to his sister, Lily, that she come and live with Vera and take singing lessons in New York (62). Recognizing Lily and Vera’s mutual need for support, Leo encourages generational continuity beyond his own circumstance. With Leo’s influence, Vera also shifts from holding onto aspects of her past life with her husband, to increasingly valuing her own independent identity in the present.  Vera’s time is also one of extensive temporal thickness. In fact, even the younger characters in this play all display considerable temporal thickness; it is an important aspect of the dramaturgy. We learn much about Vera’s past and see readily how it weights her present experience. For example, the play describes how Vera’s embrace of Marxism bonded her with her husband (Herzog 28), challenged her relationship with Jane (22), and rooted her friendship with Ginny (17). Now, Vera’s Marxist beliefs are shown to connect her ideologically with Leo (21, 28). Vera’s politics and history influence her material possessions (her political books), and interactions (e.g. sharing her money and properties with Leo). Not only does Vera carry a sense of the past, but she looks to the future too. This is embedded in her daily activities. While her   174 plans are not elaborate, we see her planning ahead in actions such as freezing pastries to eat later (18), not locking the top lock because she has trouble opening it (25) and saving the arts section of the newspaper to share with her friend, Ginny, everyday (16). In terms of aging, this future orientation and temporal thickness provide a resistance to the decline narrative, a narrative that is reinforced in August by Violet and Beverly’s preference for looking backwards and avoiding objective time.  However, at the same time Vera looks to the future in 4000 Miles, she is aware of the limited time she has left to live (she is 91 years old). In scene 10 she reveals her sadness and disappointment with Leo’s plans to leave saying, “You’d think at my age I’d know better than to get used to anything” (Herzog 68). Vera’s sense of limited time makes us aware of the urgency, and also the challenge, of establishing generational continuity near the end of the life course. Her awareness of time’s limits is rooted in her frequent experience of time as measured by the body, not by the clock. When Vera refers to objective time, she almost always connects it to a corporeal experience, emphasizing her orientation towards time’s materiality. For example, the following exchange occurs with Leo when he arrives at her door in the middle of the night:  VERA. [. . . ] Are you high? LEO. What? No. VERA. Well, it’s three o’clock in the morning so I’m just  asking. Have you eaten anything in a while? (10)  Vera also foregrounds bodily time in describing her checking-in ritual with her neighbour, Ginny: “But we have an arrangement where she calls me one night and I call her the next, and   175 that way if one of us turns up our toes it won’t take until we start smelling to figure it out” (16). For Vera, the bodily experience of time encompasses gradual physical degeneration, but this exists in tension with her future orientation and temporal thickness, both of which support generational continuity and resist the decline narrative of aging.  In contrast to Vera, the character of Bec is oriented primarily toward external, objective time. She frequently refers to schedules, calendar events, and clocks. In both scene 4 and scene 10 in which she appears, she is anxious about getting to class on time (Herzog 34, 67). The temporal disharmony between Vera and Bec is partly responsible for their difficulty relating to one another. Bec’s focus on objective time also puts her at odds with Leo. Conversely, Vera’s awareness of bodily time, and its limits, creates a crossroads where she and Leo meet in terms of their temporal experience. Leo understands bodily time as a result of the physical demands of his bike journey across the country. Vera feels the physical challenges of aging and is aware of the nearness of her end-of-life. Both characters have recently experienced the death of friends, and thus have heightened awareness of the present moment and their physical experience within it. Together, their understanding of time as a bodily experience means that they value the present and resist being entrenched in the past. This allows room for them to mutually nurture generational continuity, often through interactions with space and objects as I have previously described. Vera and Leo, then, meet at the intersection of time’s slowness, thickness and materiality. This is evident nowhere more than in the final scene of the play. In scene 10, the two prepare to go to Ginny’s funeral, an event which itself foregrounds time’s materiality (Herzog 65-71). As Leo appears wearing Joe’s suit, we feel the depth of the two characters’ shared family history. Leo’s willingness to wear the suit, as well as his preparation of a speech for Ginny’s funeral, are   176 evidence that he honours the past and wants to remember it, in order to carry it forward into the future. Although Leo did not know Ginny, he chooses to attend her funeral with Vera instead of finishing his bike trip with Bec; he prioritizes generational continuity. During the scene, we feel objective time encroaching—the funeral start time, Leo’s departure the next day, Bec’s appearance and her usual tight schedule. However, Leo and Vera resist objective time’s pull in order to fully experience the present moment, in slowness, as Vera insists they rehearse Leo’s funeral speech. Leo’s address highlights temporal thickness, by remembering Ginny and spotlighting the value of her long life. As Leo and Vera together decide on an ending for the speech, Leo remarks that Ginny’s apartment was “like a forest” (71). Vera then speaks the final line of the play: “[. . . ] That woman could make anything grow” (71). Together these lines link old age to the growth of trees in a forest, giving value to slowness, taking time, investing in activities that are long-term, and the importance of cycles of growth and regrowth. Through their converging temporal experiences of slowness, thickness, and materiality Leo and Vera cultivate continuity across generations. Both take time to attend to each other, listen to each other, learn from each other, and provide support for each other. Their willingness to recall and learn from the past, but also to imagine the future, allows them to share connections across time and space. The play’s duration represents an overlap in their lifelines in which they mutually perform age across generations – together, as a dyad, they represent generations ahead and behind.  5.5 Conclusion  This analysis of August and 4000 Miles highlights how narratives of age, aging, old age, and intergenerational continuity or rupture can be constructed on stage through character interactions with dramatic space, stage properties, and structures of time. In August, engagements   177 with space show Violet to be self-involved, injurious, deceptive, and oppressive in her fight for agency. Likewise, interactions with props overwhelmingly create a narrative of generational rupture in which the older mothers, especially Violet, are constructed as responsible for family dysfunction by possessing destructive objects, selfishly dealing with objects, belittling younger family members for not accepting or for breaking objects, and for instigating violence involving objects. Suspension of objective time and a backward focus prevent Violet from making family connections in the present or planning positively for the future. Her children are unable to escape the cycles of abuse that prevent forward motion in their lives. In addition, temporal dissonance between younger and older characters interrupts generational continuity. The play’s youngest adult character, Native American Johnna, models more positive, functional interactions across generations through her engagement with space, props, and time and through acting according to a worldview that stands apart from and is more hopeful than the play’s other characters. However, this positive representation of her culture also serves to veil some of the play’s negative narratives about aging and old age, particularly with respect to older mothers.  While authors such as Blatanis, Kochman, and Mohler all independently make compelling arguments about how the play challenges master narratives within American culture, such as the valorization of the American Dream and the nuclear family, I maintain that master narratives of aging and old age are not fully exposed or contested in August. They are reinforced, often in subtle ways, through interactions with dramatic space and stage properties, and embedded in structures of time. These interactions construct narratives of generational rupture that position the older characters at fault, particularly the older mothers. They also function to yoke aging to a narrative of decline, loss, and lack of agency. The play fails to convincingly expose the American Dream itself as hostile to the process of aging through its insistence on   178 continual progress as a mark of success, and as inhospitable to generational continuity through its emphasis on individualism. In moments when age narratives are foregrounded, Letts rarely offers us a useful way forward. The message of the play becomes that old people (especially older women) are destructive and should be avoided. The play’s title references a poem of the same name by Letts’s mentor Howard Starks, which presents a deeply contrasting and much more favourable view of aging, old age, intergenerational relations, and death.l However, I contend that this gesture is far too subtle for most audiences to grasp. The force of the narratives presented on stage overwhelms this understated motion toward a different social imaginary of generational continuity and old age.  By contrast, 4000 Miles uses space, objects, and time to create strikingly divergent narratives about age, aging, old age, and generations. It depicts characters across generations sharing, learning from each other, and mutually caregiving. While Vera’s space in part represents her isolation in old age, it is also a source of pride and agency. She uses it to nurture, shelter, and teach. Leo too invests in generational continuity through his interactions with space and landscape. Both Vera and Leo use objects to preserve knowledge and memories across generations, and to resolve conflict. Through their overlapping temporal schemes of slowness, thickness, and materiality Leo and Vera cultivate continuity across generations. Both characters value the past for its history, experiences, and learning opportunities, but also appreciate the present and imagine the future.  The comparison of these two plays highlights how narratives about age, aging, old age and generations can exist beyond explicit dialogue and broad textual themes. Letts’s depiction of aging across generations through interactions with space, props, and time in August is dominated by the long-familiar cultural tropes linking old age with decline and culpability for generational   179 rupture. By contrast, the way that Herzog mobilizes dramatic space, stage properties, and dramaturgical time structures in 4000 Miles resists the decline narrative, especially the tendency to blame older female characters for family discord and dysfunction. It offers a narrative of generational continuity that links female old age to reciprocal learning, caregiving, and open-mindedness. Critically, the playwright accomplishes this through manipulation of space, props, and time. Reading these plays together affords an opportunity to consider how staged spaces, properties, and time structures can reinforce age stereotypes or transform social imaginaries of aging.     180 Chapter 6: Utopian Performativity and Autobiographical Performance: Sonic Elder Offers Hope for Reconfiguring Age Expectations   While the previous chapter examines how playwrights mobilize aspects of a play’s dramaturgy (specifically stage properties, dramatic space, and time structures) to shape narratives of aging, old age and intergenerational relations, this chapter centres on a particular live performance event. While dramaturgical choices remain important, my arguments here focus on the intersubjective experience between audience and performers, and how this interaction can contribute to sculpting age narratives and expectations. I take for my case study the production Sonic Elder, a collaborative creation developed and produced by Vancouver’s The Chop Theatre. Billed as live autobiographical “onstage documentary,” this production featured six lifelong musicians over the age of sixty, all with professional experience playing music. During the show they performed as a rock band and reflected on the role of music in their lives over time. Immediately after the final performance of this show I wrote the following reflection:   At Vancouver’s storied 70-year-old Penthouse Nightclub singer Joni Moore, also in her 70’s, proclaims “We sure had a good time didn’t we? And we’re still having a good time!” Today, during the final moments of Sonic Elder’s closing performance, the audience bursts into enthusiastic applause, the band starts to play, and members of the crowd rocket to their feet to dance. Soon the room is pulsing to the beat. A pair of women, who look like mother and daughter, laugh and rollick near the stage. The show’s director, his wife and two infant children spin joyfully on the far side of the dancing crowd. The music is tight, and the band members seem particularly present. Many of   181 those who remain seated groove to the rhythm in their chairs. I a