Age and Performance: Expanding Intersectionality / Au croisement de l’âge et de la performance

Organizers / Responsables : Benjamin Gillespie (CUNY) & Julia Henderson (Concordia)

With / Avec : Ash McAskill, Dayna McLeod, Heather Fitzsimmons Frey, Tania Gigliotti, Heun Jung Lee, Kirsty Johnston, Nevena Martinovic, Sandra Chamberlain-Snider, Trudy Pauluth-Penner, Julia Gray


As aging populations expand, increasing attention is paid to the fact that systemic cultural inequities restrict and repress older people. However, normative cultural expectations about how to “act one’s age” limit not just the elderly, but all ages across the life course. In comparison to other aspects of identity such as gender and race, age often remains ignored, “entrenched in implicit systems of discrimination without adequate movements of resistance to oppose them.” While the growing field of critical age studies has begun to address age as a point of intersectionality across many disciplines, “theatre has lagged behind, focusing more on theatre projects with older people than on theorizing age.”

For this year’s virtual conference, we will continue to explore cultural aging as implicated in theatre and performance practices across Canada and beyond. However, instead of offering formal papers as originally planned, working group members will engage in a more general, open-ended discussion on the state of the field in light of the Covid-19 pandemic as it pertains to systemic ageism and the treatment of aging populations. Members will also informally discuss ongoing projects as we look toward our final meeting at CATR 2021.

We have scheduled our synchronous Working Group zoom session for Wednesday 7/29 at 1pm EST. If you wish to attend, please contact Benjamin Gillespie (bgillespie@gradcenter.cuny.edu). 


Avec le vieillissement de la population, nous assistons à une prise de conscience des inégalités culturelles systémiques que subissent les personnes plus âgées. Or, les normes culturelles qui dictent la manière d’agir selon son âge n’affectent pas que les personnes vieillissantes, elles ont des répercussions sur tous les groupes d’âge, et ce, tout au long du parcours de vie. Contrairement à d’autres facteurs identitaires tels que le genre ou la race, l’âge est « ancré dans des systèmes implicites de discrimination pour lesquels il n’existe pas de mouvement de résistance adéquat ». Bien que les chercheurs en étude du vieillissement commencent à se servir de l’âge comme point de rencontre entre plusieurs disciplines, « le théâtre accuse du retard à ce chapitre, s’intéressant davantage aux projets de théâtre auxquels participent des personnes âgées qu’à la théorisation du vieillissement ».

Cette année encore, notre groupe de travail explorera les enjeux culturels du vieillissement tels qu’ils se manifestent dans les différentes pratiques du théâtre et de la performance au Canada et ailleurs dans le monde. Nous avons toutefois adapté notre formule au format virtuel du colloque. Plutôt que de présenter une communication, les participants et participantes prendront part à une discussion plus générale du sujet en tenant compte de la pandémie de Covid-19 et de ce qu’elle soulève sur l’âgisme systémique et le traitement des populations vieillissantes. Les membres du groupe seront aussi invités à discuter, de manière informelle, de leurs projets de recherche en cours en vue de la dernière rencontre du groupe en 2021.

La séance Zoom aura lieu le 29 juillet à 13 h, heure de l’Est. Si vous souhaitez y assister, veuillez communiquer avec Benjamin Gillespie (bgillespie@gradcenter.cuny.edu). 


Benjamin Gillespie is a Ph.D candidate nearing the completion of his degree in theatre and performance at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His dissertation analyzes intersections of aging and queer temporality in the work of the renowned New York-based downtown theatre company, Split Britches. Benjamin is Assistant Editor of PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art and teaches theatre and performance studies at The New School University, Marymount Manhattan College, and Macaulay Honors College in New York City. He co-facilitates the CATR-sponsored working group on Age and Performance with Julia Henderson and is the past recipient of the Robert Lawrence Prize. His articles and reviews have been published in Canadian Theatre Review, Theatre Research in Canada, Theatre Journal, PAJ, Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, and Performance Research, along with a number of edited anthologies.

Julia Henderson is a SSHRC-funded Postdoctoral Fellow with Concordia University’s Department of Communication Studies and Ageing+Communications+Technologies Project (https://actproject.ca/). Julia completed her doctorate in Theatre at the University of British Columbia in 2018. Her dissertation examined representations of aging and old age in contemporary theatre with a focus on ways that plays resist ageist stereotypes and negative age-related narrative tropes. Julia’s Postdoctoral research involves collaborative performance creation with people experiencing dementia or other types of age-related memory loss. She has a background as both a professional actor and an occupational therapist. Her work has been published in The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Theatre Research in Canada, Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Canadian Theatre Review, and is upcoming in the inaugural issue of the Thornton Wilder Journal. Julia has three times won honourable mention for CATR’s Lawrence Prize. Her paper at the Trent Aging 2019 conference won the joint European Network in Aging Studies & the North American Network in Aging Studies emerging scholar award.

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