Add to Technorati Favorites Theatre and Aging at Ohio State Universtiy: First (and only!) Graduate Program in Theatre and Aging in North America is at Ohio State

Thursday, March 29, 2007

First (and only!) Graduate Program in Theatre and Aging in North America is at Ohio State

The nation's first graduate courses in Theatre and Aging will be offered again in July 2007 at The Ohio State University's Department of Theatre. The courses are also part of the core curriculum for Ohio State's Certificate in Gerontology. Here's some information about the courses:

Audience members at a performance drawn from oral histories

As America’s baby boomer generation approaches retirement, demands for new recreational and educational programs are increasing. Ohio State’s Department of Theatre offers two intensive seminars in July, 2007, to help meet that need. Theatre and Aging seminars, taught by two internationally-recognized experts in the field, Dr. Joy H. Reilly and Dr. Alan Woods, provide both practical, hands-on experience, as well as exploring critical, historical, and textual information about this new area, in the nation’s first graduate program in Theatre and Aging, now in its second year.

Carol Shelton, Ann Mirels, and Sarah Worthington read a script

Senior Theatre -- performance by and for those over 55 years old -- is the most rapidly growing sector of recreational and vocational theatre in North America and Europe, according to Dr. Woods. Senior theatres range from amateur and therapeutic groups in retirement centers, recreational centers and churches, to interdisciplinary companies, community theatre, college and university theatre, and fully professional performance groups. There is, accordingly, a growing demand for trained specialists, and Ohio State’s seminars help meet that demand.

volenteer performers scrutinize a script at a cold reading

Ohio State’s seminars in Theatre and Aging can be taken for Continuing Education credit by non-degree students, and are also available for graduate credit. The seminars are the first graduate courses in the United States, and were developed in consultation with the Committee for the Interdisciplinary Graduate Specialization in Aging. Students may earn a certificate in Aging at Ohio State while also earning the Master of Arts or Ph.D in Theatre.

audience members react to a senior performance

Dr. Reilly's work in senior theatre began in the early 1980s with the development of Grandparents Living Theatre in the Columbus community and subsequent collaborations with OSU's Departments of Theatre, and Geriatrics and Gerontology. This culminated with the International Senior Theatre Festival and Conference hosted by the Department of Theatre in August 2002. Reilly also creates experimental Live Art readings by a collaborative performance group, Howling at the Moon.

Howling at the Moon performs

Her course, The Practice of Theatre and Aging meets from 1.30 pm.-5.30 p.m. July 9-20, in the Drake Performance and Event Center. Reilly's focus will be on learning a variety of practical methods for working with seniors. Students will work with older guest actors on employing reminiscences, as well as conducting oral histories and turning them into original theatrical presentations. They will learn how to teach a group life review class, how to create and present Reader's Theatre programs by and for the elderly, and will have the opportunity to write and engage in Live Art performances of Lifewriting, as pioneered by Howling at the Moon.

Woods, the Director of the Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee Theatre Research Institute at OSU, launched a highly successful senior theatre playwriting contest named for the late Eileen Heckart in 2003. Nearly 500 scripts were submitted in the most recent contest. His seminar, which meets Monday through Friday 8.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. July 9-20, is entitled Crones, Curmudgeons, and Living Treasures --- Theatre and Aging.

Pat Barnett, Sarah Worthington, and Carol Shelton after reading a new script, 2006.

The class will explore the history of the emerging international Senior Theatre Movement from its beginnings in the post World War II era to the present. It includes the application of studies in gerontology to the developing theory of Senior Theatre, and the growing literature of dramatic texts created for senior theatre from oral history, life narratives, and traditionally scripted drama.

Pat Barnett and Sarah Worthington discuss scripts in 2006 seminar

Information is available at along with a brochure than can be downloaded. For more information contact, or, or call the Department of Theatre at 614/292-5821.

Theatre 675.01
Summer 2007 M-F 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
July 9-20 2038 Drake Performance and Event Center
Instructor: Dr. Alan Woods
1433 Lincoln Tower 292-6614
office hours: MW 3-5 p.m. and by appointment

Title: Crones, Curmudgeons, and Living Treasures--Theatre and Aging.

Description: The History, Theory, and Literature of the Senior Theatre Movement.

Senior Theatre--performance by and for those over 55 years old--is the most rapidly growing sector of recreational and avocational theatre in North America and Europe, with fully professional performance groups now emerging. This course explores the history of the emerging international Senior Theatre Movement from its beginnings in the post World War II era to the present, the application of studies in gerontology to the developing theory of Senior Theatre, and the growing literature of dramatic texts created for Senior Theatre from oral history, life narratives, and traditionally scripted drama.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the course, the student will have gained a detailed knowledge of the growth, development, and current status of Senior Theatre, awareness of performance as both artistic and recreational activity, and familiarity with the Senior Theatre=s dramatic texts, both original and adapted for the particular needs of Senior Theatre practitioners. With Theatre 675b, The Practice of Theatre and Age, this course constitutes a concentration in senior theatre as part of the area of specialization in aging.

Teaching Method: lecture/discussion.


Each student will complete two short research reports, with the results presented orally in class. The oral reports will focus on (1) an analysis of three plays (ten minute, one act, full length) written for Senior Theatre groups, and (2) an existing professional, avocational or recreational Senior Theatre company. Each report should last about 15 minutes, and must include appropriate handouts.


Grades will be determined by the quality of work completed, with individual assignments contributing as listed below
Research Report 40%
Research Report 40%
Participation 10%
total 100%


This syllabus is available in alternative formats upon request. Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss specific needs. Please contact the Office of Disability Services at 292-3307 in room 150 Pomerene Hall to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities.

Class outline

M 7/9: introduction and theoretical background; gerontology and the realities of aging in America in the second half of the twentieth century; representation of older characters in plays; plays assigned
T 7/10: Stumbling/road blocks: strengths and limitations of performance by and for the aging ; have read Strimling, Introduction; Basting, chapter 1.
W 7/11: history: avocational/recreational beginnings; drama as therapy; have read Greenblatt, chapter 1, Vorenberg, introduction; survey of companies; companies assigned
R 7/12: history: Senior pride and the gray panthers; theatre as empowerment; consciousness raising; have read Basting, chapter 3; excerpts from I Was Young, Now I=m Wonderful
F 7/13: history: Senior drama recognized; American Theatre Association focus group; have read Cornish and Kase, Introduction. Play reports.

M 7/16: history and literature: development of first strains of professionalism, development of oral history and self generated texts; have read Kaminsky, Introduction, in Myerhoff
T 7/17: history and literature: professional senior companies growth and maturity; efforts to expand repertory; have read Basting, Chapter 4; have read Lonergan
W 7/18: history and literature: senior centers and entertainment; the >dancing grannies=; international connections and contexts; Basting, chapters 2 and 8.
R 7/19: history and literature: specialization and niche groups; cross cultural and diversity issues; the market emerges; conferences, festivals, emergence of a professional association
F 7/20: history, theory and literature: have read Basting, conclusion; company reports.

Basting, Anne Davis. The Stages of Age: Performing Age in Contemporary American Culture. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1998.
Cornish, Roger, and C. Robert Kase, eds., Senior Adult Theatre: The American Theatre Association Handbook. University Park and London: Pennsylvania State U P, 1981.
Greenblatt, Fred S. Drama With the Elderly: Acting at Eighty. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1985.
Lonergan, Kenneth. The Waverly Gallery. New York: Grove Press, 2000.
Myerhoff, Barbara. Remembered Lives: The Work of Ritual, Storytelling, and Growing Older. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1992.
Strimling, Arthur. Roots & Branches: Creating Intergenerational Theatre. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2004.
Vorenberg, Bonnie L. Senior Theatre Connections. Portland: ArtAge Publications, 1999.


Ten minute:

Sandra Dempsey: Rosa’s Lament
Jim Gordon: A Good Deed
Kathy Coudle King: Brittle Bones
Douglas Stewart: Final Exam
Nicholas Tasi: Boxer
Justin Warner: Lunch Boat

One Act:

Martha Boesing: Song of the Magpie
Jay D. Hanagan: Welcome Home
Maureen Brady Johnson: Limbo
Robert L. Kinast: Salt in the Pepper Shaker
John Lordan: Friendly Skies
Mary Steelsmith: List of Honor

Full length:

Donald Drake: The Passage
Joe Feinstein: The Last of the Aztecs
Judy Juanita: Theodicy
TheodicyJulia Perlstein: PLINKO!; or, the Goddess of Static Cling
Lynn Snyder: Older Than Dead
Nancy Zaman: To Heir is Human