This last year has been a time of reflection for many. The isolation imposed on us by the pandemic, the death of George Floyd, the rise of AAIP hate and political unrest have created the time and means to look inward. As the cofounders of PRIME, we have seen the urgency to examine our privilege and the need for inclusion while taking a long look at our mission.
During a recent conversation, we were asked, “What roles have you played or seen that actually changed your life?” And that’s when we realized that the roles that impacted us most were rarely women…of any age. Alison remembers seeing Ian McKellan in Amadeus on Broadway. Salieri ends the play by forgiving the audience for their mediocrity. “I vividly remember being unable to leave my seat, thinking, ‘How dare you forgive me for my mediocrity after you have just given such an astonishingly complex performance!’” Shelli recalls seeing M Butterfly with John Lithgow and B.D. Wong and thinking, “Why can’t there be transformative roles like this for women? Why can’t plays like this be created for and directed by women?”
Storytelling, especially in live theater has a powerful impact. Dr. Kimerer L. LaMothe writing in Psychology Today says “Live theater, in the end, provides an occasion for people – on stage and off – to come together, to work together, to create another reality – a community – in which all the parts move in the service of a shared vision.... the determination that we each need in order to keep creating the worlds in which we want to live -- on stage and off.”
We started PRIME because of the dearth of roles on stage for mature women. But we know now we can make an impact on our culture. Another quote from Psychology Today, by Steve Rahje stresses: “Studies point to the power of the storytelling to change minds. Stories are a non-threatening way for us to explore perspectives we might not encounter in our lives and to see positive representations of outgroup members.”
We’ve all seen the arts and science move the needle on our culture. When people SEE mature women from diverse backgrounds in substantial roles on stage, their perceptions of them offstage changes! Would Obama have been elected president without the public first experiencing Morgan Freeman playing the President of the United States in films or seeing Dennis Haysbert in the role of the President weekly in the hit series “24”? Kamala Harris without Veep? Gay marriage without TV’s Modern Family? The list goes on. And we want to add to it in significant ways.
All this introspection made us realize that what we saw as our biggest hurdle—finding plays with at least two substantial roles for women over 50—should be our calling card. While waiting for the return of live theater, we are beginning the journey to find playwrights we can commission to create inspirational roles in transformative plays that can change the culture.
And we want you to join us on this journey!
Here’s the breakdown of the cost of commissioning a new play:
It all takes time…but with your help we can get there! And there’s a role in all of this for you personally as well.
Your donation of any size will help us on our journey! We are currently in the process of coming up with some fun incentives for donors once we begin the commissioning process. So stay tuned!
But please note that the money you donate today will go toward keeping our mission front and center. While we are earmarking some of the money raised for this project, funds will also be used to support the ongoing work of PRIME, including our PRIME Voices; An Interview Series available on our new YouTube channel (click here).
We know that there are any given number of opportunities to support the arts right now, and we are extremely appreciative of your generosity to the cause of hearing and seeing the stories of mature women. We know that we are making a difference, we know that women have wisdom, humor, and sage advice to share from the stage. No one should be marginalized into a stereotype, and that’s why we’re anxious to change the narrative for women in their second act in a substantial way.
If you can see it— if we can stage it—change will come.
Thanks so much for your support and we hope to see you in the theater soon!
Shelli and Alison
Stay up to date with PRIME at primeprods.org