When Playwrights Get Old


The great Kitty Felde recently worried in a blog posting about her age. How old is too old to be an emerging playwright (I’ve grown to loathe that phrase by the way)? When does one stop being the hot young thing?

Because I live in Los Angeles, I too have faced the age thing, but I can’t let it bother me. By the way, at forty-one, I am a young member of the Actors Studio West Playwrights and Directors Lab. I also have a few lines and wrinkles, but I earned those and never plan to give them up.

Besides, great plays can be written at any age. This statement led me to wonder how old the playwrights were when some of these great plays were written. To wikipedia I went!

So Kitty, before you put yourself out to pasture at the ripe old age of cough-cough-cough, please indulge in a few facts about some classics.

It is believed that William Shakespeare was forty-six when he wrote The Tempest. Now, sure, he had written a lot of plays before that one, and he had his own theatre, and he had the patronage of the Queen, but still he lived in a time before indoor plumbing.

Henrik Ibsen was sixty-two when Hedda Gabler was produced. Then, two years later, came The Master Builder.

Anton Chekhov died at age forty-four, so, well, moving on.

Samuel Beckett was forty-two when he was writing Waiting for Godot.

Moving over to America (where nobody gets old). . .

Eugene O’Neill wrote A Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the age of fifty-three.

Arthur Miller was thirty-three when he started Death of A Salesman. He was writing plays well into this eighties.

Finally, let’s end it with a woman, Maria Irene Fornes’s play, Letters from Cuba, which is the only play that ever made me cry with joy, was produced when the playwright was seventy. Fornes is still alive on this planet, and that’s good.

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