Dr. Valerie Lipscomb's new book examines how age is represented in contemporary plays.

USFSM professor’s book includes look at local theater groups

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: September 21, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 15, 2016) Dr. Valerie Barnes Lipscomb, associate professor of English at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, has authored a new book released by major international publisher Palgrave Macmillan.

USFSM professor’s book includes look at local theater groups

Lipscomb’s 80,000-word book interprets the performance of age and aging on both the page and the stage.

Performing Age in Modern Drama is the first book devoted to examining the representation of age in contemporary plays, from classics such as Death of a Salesman and Our Town to recent Pulitzer Prize winners.

Moreover, the book includes a local angle. One chapter analyzes the contributions of area senior performances and theater groups, such as the Manatee Performing Arts Center’s DraMature and The Friendship Center in Sarasota.

“We are fortunate to have some amazing senior performances right here in our back yard, and senior theater has not received the academic research attention it deserves,” Dr. Lipscomb said.

Publishing a peer-reviewed monograph with an academic press is considered the ultimate scholarly achievement in Lipscomb’s field. The result of years of study, her 80,000-word book interprets the performance of age and aging on both the page and the stage.

“We’ve all heard the common admonition to act your age,” Lipscomb explains. “My premise is that age really is a performance, and that the issues of aging are nowhere more evident than in the theater.”

It is a dramatic convention, she notes, that characters on stage can change ages from one moment to the next. Directors regularly cast actors in these plays against their chronological ages. However, discussions of theater have tended to ignore representations of age and aging.

Lipscomb contends that while the dozen plays covered in the book reflect a variety of attitudes toward performing age, as a whole they reveal a longing for an ageless self. As such, the plays mirror social perceptions of aging, the desire to present a consistent, unified identity across time.

A professor of modern literature, Lipscomb focuses her research on age studies and drama. Recognized on an international level, she serves as vice chair of the North American Network in Aging Studies and on the executive committee of the Modern Language Association Age Studies Forum. Lipscomb co-edited a previous academic book, Staging Age (2010), and has published in numerous academic journals. She has been on the faculty at USFSM for 10 years and resides in Bradenton.

Performing Age in Modern Drama is available in hard cover and ebook formats. It can be found on sites such as Amazon.com and on the Palgrave Macmillan website:  http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137512512#aboutBook.

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