The Stages of Age

Performing Age in Contemporary American Culture
Anne Davis Basting
A first-of-its-kind study explores the intersections of performance and aging


In a time when aging and old age are often equated with rigidity, decline, and invisibility, the very act of acting, of taking on a new role, can help shift cultural understandings of later life. In this book, playwright and scholar Anne Davis Basting explores both aging actors and aging as acting in a cross-section of American theatrical representations that hope to catalyze shifts in our understanding of age. The first study of its kind, The Stages of Age argues that aging is a vital element of identity and difference.

The author explores in rigorously self-conscious fashion eight performances that interrupt, transform, and underscore stereotypes of later age. Whether invoking the Geritol Frolics of Brainerd, Minnesota, The Grandparents Living Theatre of Columbus, Ohio, Carol Channing's smash revival of Hello, Dolly!, or her own work with Alzheimer's patients, Basting describes the dynamic processes and interchanges that constitute the aging process as well as the theatrical representations that capture that process. Fluently exploring the intersections of performance theory and sociological method while maintaining a clear focus on the actors and producers of senior theater, The Stages of Age introduces a long overlooked aspect of cultural identity and performance method.

Anne Davis Basting is Assistant Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Praise / Awards

  • "A valuable addition to the literature on performance; I know of no other text that deals with aging as a category of identity and difference in the context of performance. Basting does an excellent job of positioning the performances she discusses relative to cultural configurations of aging and theories of performativity."
    —Philip Auslander, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • "This truly interdisciplinary book could be used by theater practitioners forming companies of senior citizens, health care professionals providing activities for seniors, and students and faculty interested in a more complete approach to issues of aging than exists in any one discipline. No comparable studies of the performance of age exist."
  • ". . . an informative primer on the vibrant Senior Theatre movement in America. . . . This is only the first layer, however, as Anne Davis Basting engages in a project at once wide-ranging and tightly focused. Her impressive scholarship spins off into many aspects of her subject area, from, for example, an overview of the changing meanings of age and time through recent history, to the media's construction of demographic categories and predictions of intergenerational conflict."
    —Shelley Scott, University of Lethbridge, Modern Drama, Fall 1999

News, Reviews, Interviews

News: Anne Basting wins 2016 Macarthur Foundation Genius Grant (Link) | 9/22/2016

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 232pp.
  • 13 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1998
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10939-5

Add to Cart
  • $79.95 U.S.