“‘Older People Can Have Ideas, Dreams and Can Move Gracefully’: Challenging Constructions of Ageing in and Through Performance”

  • Bridie Moore (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


NYU Educational Theatre Forum: Performance as Activism, April 19 - 21, 2018.

Passages Theatre Company grew out of Bridie Moore’s PhD research project which explored the possibility of challenging widely held notions of old age through the act of performance. It was established in October 2012 and, through a series of experimental workshops and performances the group has explored the meaning and lived experience of growing older, grappled with the philosophical questions posed by the processes of ageing and cultural notions of old age, addressed the language and metaphors which construct attitudes to ageing, while also challenging stylistic expectations of elder theatre by engaging in experimental and non-naturalistic theatre practices. Currently members of Passages are aged between sixty-three and ninety and their interactive work has engaged with members of sheltered housing communities, witnesses to their street performances, refugees and asylum seekers, conference attendees, friends and family and drop-in community café users. Their work has sparked dialogue about the experience of age and ageing with different communities and across different cultural groups and has challenged the meanings that attach to the figure of the old person and expectations of what an old body can do.

The work is not strident and ‘in yer face’ but gently interactive and aesthetically experimental and yet it has had a powerful and demonstrable influence on the ways in which its audiences conceive of their own and others' age and ageing. The paper includes testimony from performers and audience members who have been challenged to reconceptualise the phenomena of ageing and what the old body can mean. Vern Bengston, Glen Elder and Norella Putney argue that ‘within pluralistic contemporary societies, lifecourse trajectories and transitions display considerable variability’ (2012: 9). Such varied life trajectories are now affected by, for instance, the rise of opportunities for women and other groups, the deinstitutionalisation of many life experiences, for example, radical shifts in Church attendance and employment structures, and also by the proliferation of new technologies. However as Bengston et al. also explain, the institutional structuring of lives still, to a large extent, ‘define[s] both the normative pathways of social roles […] and the psychological behavioural and health related trajectories of persons as they move through them’ (ibid). Given this societal tension and the well documented ageing of the population in the Global North, Passages’ work is activist in that it directly acknowledges and challenges the normative construction of old age and proposes changes in the ways audiences might understand the figure of the ‘old person’.
Period19 Apr 201821 Apr 2018
Event titleNYU Educational Theatre Forum: Performance as Activism
Event typeExhibition
LocationNew York City, United States, New YorkShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational