We’re in the throes of applying for funding to produce a powerful new play that combats ageism. Measuring creative outcomes is easy. Community outcomes, not so much.
Donors frequently ask questions like this:
- What strategic outcomes do you aim to achieve?
- How will your project achieve them?
- (implied) How will you measure these outcomes?
We have both a creative outcome and a community outcome in mind.
Creative outcome: easy to measure
The creative outcome of my play The Secret Lives of Extremely Old People is easy to explain.
- Strategic outcome? We will create an extraordinary theatrical work.
- How to achieve it? We’ll develop a great script through readings and workshops, with the help of Playmarket funding and dramaturg. We’ll transform the script into an exciting, entertaining and challenging theatrical experience, with outstanding actors, designers, director, and other theatre practitioners. We will present the work to the public for three weeks at the end of 2023.
- How to measure it? Through ticket sales, reviews, and requests for repeat productions.
Community outcome: hard to measure
Let me describe the community outcome that I’m hoping for.
- Strategic outcome? Big picture: to raise the resilience, well-being and health of New Zealanders in old age. We want audience members to experience an aha! moment, to understand that old age is not automatically something to fear or submit to passively, but a stage of life over which you have some control, a time that has its own unexpected joys. And in future, act accordingly.
- How to achieve that? By showing characters based on real nonagenarians whose lives are unexpectedly satisfying. Yes, they all experience pain and illness and tragedy: yet they are thriving and glad to be alive.
- How to measure the outcome? Impossible, apart from personal feedback and articles such as this one: Learning How To Be Old.
How theatre against ageism can hit the spot
In her fascinating article, Melody Thomas spells out exactly how older role models on stage can turn ageist attitudes upside down. Of course she’s not writing about my new play, The Secret Lives of Extremely Old People, because that’s still in development. But she is writing about a theatre piece against ageism, one with my words from the poetry collection, How To Be Old. It’s written and presented by me, and the fundamental idea is the same in both works: old age is not a punishment but a reward for living a long time.
When a brilliant journalist writes about a personal experience, you always know that they are not the only ones who have had that same experience. That’s the strength of a personal opinion column like Unchained Melody.
If anyone can think of a scientifically and statistically sound way to measure the desired community outcome of theatre against ageism, please tell me! It might make our fund-raising efforts a little easier. And give theatre against ageism a boost.
Do read Melody Thomas’s article about me and my white-haired dancers: it’s terrific. (And it’s a beautiful example of journalism against ageism.)Follow Write Into Life