Too old?

DC playwrights are watching their “in” boxes this week, awaiting word about whether they’ve been accepted into Arena Stage’s playwrights’ group. Six locals will be invited to join this elite bunch.

I’m not one of them.

And that’s fine. I have a weekly skype writing appointment with a fellow playwright in Omaha, a wonderful writer named Ellen Struve, who gives me feedback and keeps me honest – ie: keeps me writing. I’m also lucky to have found a great group of writers here in DC that meet monthly. They call themselves the Playwrights’ Gymnasium. And I still am a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre Los Angeles’ Playwrights Lab – though my attendance has been spotty of late due to that five hour plane ride. So I’m not lacking for writing groups.

But Arena’s cache would mean avoiding the slush pile when sending out plays. It would – to paraphrase Jane Austen – put me in the way of meeting other eligible theatres and literary managers. It could jumpstart a career. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Lately, we female playwrights have been counting noses – how many plays being produced are written by those of our gender. Theatres are more aware of that these days. Some progress has been made.

But the fear among other writers here in DC who were also not chosen to join the Arena group is that frankly, we’re too old. Too old to be considered an “emerging” playwright. Too old to be the hottest young thing out of an MFA program. Too old period.

Somehow, this hurts more than being told one’s writing is just not good enough. We can certainly work on our craft. Not much we can do about turning back the hands of the clock, no matter how much we spend on facial products.

I aged out of acting when the commercials slowed way down; I know I’m too old to write for television anymore. But I never thought I’d become too senior for the theatre. Particularly since when I attend most plays, I’m the youngest one in the audience!

I hope this isn’t sour grapes. I hope the writers Arena chose are truly wonderful, no matter what their birth certificate says. I hope they choose at least one person old enough to remember where they were when John Glenn flew in space.

After all, isn’t it the theatre that keeps us all forever young?

About Kitty Felde

Award-winning public radio journalist, writer, and TEDx speaker Kitty Felde hosts the Book Club for Kids podcast, named by The Times of London as one of the top 10 kidcasts in the world. The Los Angeles native created the Washington bureau for Southern California Public Radio and covered Capitol Hill for nearly a decade, explaining how government works to grownups. Now she explains it to kids in a series of mystery novels and podcasts called The Fina Mendoza Mysteries. Kitty was named LA Radio Journalist of the Year three times by the LA Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.

4 thoughts on “Too old?

  1. How old is too old? This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I’m not in my early twenties anymore, which is the age most opportunities are geared to. I have a full time job and a family. I’ve tried to find internships in NYC that could accommodate a full time job – after two years of searching, I’m still out of luck. I know people in their forties who are still considered “emerging” playwrights so I guess I can still fall under that umbrella (whatever that means anyway). I’ve also heard plenty of people say that if you don’t make a career in the arts happen by the time you turn 30, you should just give up and stick to your day job.

    I made a decision to reject that idea, and I’m really glad I did. Now, in my thirties, I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere. I may never be the “hot young thing” but I can still be the “hot new thing”. Even if I’m not, I’m doing what I love and that’s worth it. Idealistic, yeah. But I’m okay with that.

  2. Kitty, I completely share your concerns and I feel rather helpless to do anything about it. Truly being a woman and not being considered “emerging” is a double whammy. I’m very glad however to have joined this group that will hopefully draw attention again and again to the huge disparity in the marketplace. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, and we need plenty of oil.

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