Duo! The Best Scenes for Mature Actors is available now!
Available now for reviewers is the book Duo! The Best Scenes for Mature Actors! Edited by Stephen Fife, this book talks about the brilliant work that actors over 40 do and how it is sometimes overlooked because all eyes happen to be on the next young celebrity. Stephen Fife perfectly explains his goal with this book in his introduction. Take a look at it below!
Not long ago, I mentioned to an actor friend of mine that I was editing both this book and a monologue book for mature actors for Applause.
“Oh yeah, right, because we over-forty-year-olds are such an underserved community,” he wise-cracked, expecting me to share in his bemusement.
I knew what he meant. Most of the great roles in dramatic literature are for actors over forty—and those that aren’t, like Hamlet, are often played by actors over forty. Most of the artistic directors, producers, and other decision makers are also over forty. And, frankly, if an actor makes it to forty and is still in the profession, then he or she has probably gone to so many acting classes, interviews, and auditions— and is still doing so—that it must engender a feeling of having seen and done it all, so what more is there to add?
On the other hand, most of the attention in the profession is paid to young actors, new faces, the next big thing. We’re all familiar with the media clamor over the next young celebrity whose face is suddenly plastered on every magazine cover and whose work is hailed as “raw” or “stunning” or “groundbreaking” (my personal favorite). The fact that this young performer is really just starting out, just learning the craft (and yes, it is a craft as well as a form of artistic expression) is suddenly lost in the deluge of accolades. The brilliant work of over-forty-year-old actors is often lost in this hype-driven welter, overlooked or taken for granted, unless that actor happens to be named Clooney or Pitt or Streep.
This same attitude has carried over to monologue books, scene books, and books about the craft of acting, which are mostly aimed at young performers, who, as aspirers to excellence or fame (or both), want to learn the secrets to success in their chosen profession, as well as what material they should choose to practice and hone their technique. But what about the mature actor—a veteran of life, art, and the vicissitudes of the entertainment industry—who wants to keep honing his or her craft as well? Contrary to what my wisecracking friend said, there are not a lot of books out there that cater to this group’s needs, a circumstance that Applause is hoping to rectify with this volume and the companion monologue book.
My goal in both of these books has been to compile challenging material that would appeal to the actors’ imaginations. (I started out as an actor myself—not a particularly good one perhaps, but it did give me an understanding of action and character and the actor’s point of view that I would not have gained otherwise.) I have tried also to seek out monologues and scenes from published plays that are (for the most part) not all that well known. My hope is that actors and drama aficionados will be inspired to seek out these plays for further examination, along with other works by the same playwrights.
While the Applause The Best Monologues for Mature Actors mixes classical pieces in with monologues from nineteenth- and twentiethcentury plays and more modern fare, these scenes are mostly drawn from contemporary plays. Funny thing about that—it’s not so easy to find two mature actors speaking to one another in today’s plays. This is especially true, for some reason, in the plays of contemporary women writers, at least when the playwrights themselves are under forty. I would like to have included more work from playwrights such as Sarah Ruhl, Annie Baker, Anne Washburn, and Amy Herzog, whose plays truly have been groundbreaking (no ironic quotations needed). I simply wasn’t able to find many noteworthy scenes from
their published plays that featured two actors over forty years old speaking with each other.
The fact is, though, that the contemporary Western world offers people over forty—especially women—a greater variety of
employment and social roles than at any other time. This is the result of the many social movements and upheavals of the twentieth century spilling over into our own time. And these changes were reflected as well in the theater’s changing priorities. Where American drama was once dominated by the triumvirate of great white male playwrights—Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller (each of whom challenged the status quo)—the identity politics of the 1990s (gay, Irish, Puerto Rican, etc.) broke down any sense of social absolutes and decentralized any sense of a societal purpose. The rise of technology—specifically cell phones and a free Internet—has further placed power in people’s hands to take control of their lives. At the same time, financial inequality has never been more harrowing and severe, with a few moguls exerting an undue
influence over the world’s economies.
What this has done is to create a dramatic climate in which the individual has never been more powerful and more powerless in determining his or her own destiny. The scenes in this book reflect that state of affairs: near-infinite possibilities in a world in which nothing may matter. So the Midwestern businessman in Tracy Letts’s The Man from Nebraska wakes up one night to discover that he no longer believes in God—but what can he find to replace Him with? Or, conversely, in my own play Break of Day, the parents of Vincent van Gogh (a small-town minister and his wife) try to protect their well-ordered world from the disturbing force of their artist son, who has come home to live with them. But as they will find—as so many other characters do in these scenes—there are few safe places anymore in which to hide out from the disorienting effects of a turbulent,
uncertain, ever-changing, and contradictory world.