Equity’s summer magazine has arrived. Photograph of Juliet Stevenson on front cover and inside - ‘Juliet Stevenson on the lack of roles for older women.’ In the same magazine Jean Rogers bewails the fate of the older actress, the attitude in the industry towards women, she writes, having not improved since the 1970s. I seem to recall this cry was in an earlier magazine and I answered it with a letter to the mag but it wasn’t published. Might have been published on the webpage but I didn’t think of looking there.
Do I write a letter to the magazine again? Maybe not, but I’ll put down my thoughts here. I could send Miss Stevenson a dozen plays with parts for the older woman and I am only one of a thousand playwrights and there must be many good plays looking for a home but, if managements don’t want to know, there is nothing I, or any other writer, can do about it. It isn’t a new story. Not every film, television or stage play can star Judy Dench and Maggie Smith, national treasures though they both are. But let’s see how many parts I have written for women of all ages in just a selection of plays…
THRILLER OF THE YEAR - all women cast, 3 parts for the older actress.
BEAUTIFUL FOR EVER – all women cast, two actresses 40+
GENERATIONS – all women cast – 2 in their 20s, one 30+, one 60+
ROSEMARY – 3 women, 1 young, 1 middle aged, one 70+
RED IN THE MORNING – 3 women, 1 late 20’s, 1 middle aged, one 80+
WOMEN AROUND – 4 women, 2 young, 2 forties+
LA BELLE OTERO- Musical. 2 major roles for women, 1 in her early forties, the other 80+
In just that selection there are 14 parts for the older woman. Interesting what happens to submissions; usually nothing and managements don’t even have to pay postage any more when they reject a work; an e-mail would be polite but instead all you get is silence. Three of the abovementioned plays have been turned down by actresses of note. Amongst other submissions GENERATIONS was sent to Women in Film in the US. Did I get a response? You have to be joking. Too often it is a waste of postage but one keeps on trying.
Let’s take the case of ROSEMARY and the two main parts. First of all the male juv, aged around 22, a part tailor-made for the young Daniel Radcliffe. When I read that a management in London was looking for a new play for Daniel I sent them ROSEMARY. Did I ever get a response? You have to be joking. The part of Rosemary is for an elderly actress and, when I saw Vanessa Redgrave in ‘Atonement’ I immediately thought she was absolutely perfect for it. Did I get a response from her agents? You have to be joking. Dead silence was the response, not even a thank you but no thank you. The script and my letter to Vanessa were probably trashed on receipt. But, if you come to think of it, what better combination could there be to put bums on seats? Redgrave for the older generation, Radcliffe for the younger.
Ah well, Miss Stevenson, Miss Rogers, I am truly sorry for your predicament but I will keep on trying and if you care to look at my website and you find a play you think may be of interest and one that you can get a management interested in let me know.