The term ‘generation gap’ is usually used in reference to the change in attitude and understanding towards something normally brought about by miscommunication. We have this is theatre often, but that is not what this post is about. But I am going to use the term for a different context in which I refer to gap where work becomes easy and difficult to find in our industry.
The Arts continues to suffer with limitations on jobs, even with campaigns on diversity there still seems to be two age groups that suffer more, the ‘early years’ or beginners and youngsters of the industry and the older actor and this can often lean heavily towards females.
At the beginning of the year I wrote a piece on this blog about diversity, and I think as new work emerges we will see productions giving a better representation of both ethical and age range in our society. But it’s hard and as there is a lot of sigma and ‘old school’ legacy to be turned around and questions to be answered. Then there’s the question of ‘What is an acceptable ratio of age group and BAME to have on stage before a production is condemned not diverse enough? Without this measure there will always be issues of diversity.
But the bigger question is this, do we have enough experienced actors in the underrepresented areas of society to be on stage?
It is always natural for those just beginning, especially young people, to find it hard to get work but at the same time have expectations to achieve high. Whilst it is important that the standard is kept high, training is often expensive and unfordable to many that talent that remains in shadows of our society and so often miss out. Should it not be offered to all not just those with money or those who have parents that are famous enough to know the right people and sometimes these people don’t receive formal training and get jobs simply because of who they know, is this right?
Retirement from the arts is a rare thing. So the number of older actors out there are plentiful. If you look at some of the UK’s best loved actors who are no longer with us, most of them came from harsh backgrounds but they all worked hard and kept going for as long as they could. But today there seems to be less work for older actors, especially females, they seem to end up having to take a back seat from acting and become directors as a way of staying in the industry and that is not always a comfortable or easy role for many.
So it seems that unless you are associated to someone famous you’re not qualified enough, the same is true if you’re young and starting out, and if you’re over a certain age you are over qualified. So unless you are between 25 and 50 then work is not easy. Though this is not to say that actors don’t get work that come from harsh backgrounds or who are outside of this age group, there are plenty of actors that are doing so well, working so hard. But if it was so good the diversity campaigns wouldn’t have job.
Somehow we need to expand the gap to include all ages and all sexes, after all that is what this industry is surely about.