“The Secret Lives of Extremely Old People” — a new stage play

Drawing of 6 extremely old people doing different things: typing, reading, singing, loving, resting. Looking pretty happy, too!
Six extremely old people glad to be alive

Let me tell you about a new play that is causing quite a lot of excitement even before the final script is written. Title: The Secret Lives of Extremely Old People. By me, Rachel McAlpine, with tremendous inspiration and support from at least 30 people so far.

It’s still in development, so I can’t say too much yet. (I’ll keep you posted as the script develops.) The heart and soul of the play is solid and firm, but structure and details will keep changing. Here’s a description of the play — for now.

Bare bones outline of “Secret Lives of Extremely Old People”

Have you ever said (or thought), “I’d rather die than be that old” ? Enter the world of some contemporary nonagenarians and find out how glad they are to be alive. That’s what The Secret Lives of Extremely Old People is about.

Writer Rachel McAlpine was shocked to the core when her GP predicted she would live to 99. Like most people, she had opinions about very old age but no experience. So she interviewed a bunch of local nonagenarians. Their revelations broke all the stereotypes.

The Secret Lives of Extremely Old People erupted from those conversations. All these elders have their own agenda. They riff, they rant, they rebel, they remember. Tragedy hovers in the background and death is drawing close. So why do they keep saying they are lucky? Deeper than data about old age, their stories are startling, exhilarating, and moving.

Highly entertaining, Secret Lives tells some amazing stories about real New Zealanders who have survived the Great Depression, two world wars, poverty, the shaming of LGBTQ+ and solo mothers, and Aotearoa before the Māori renaissance. They don’t pretend that thriving in old age is universal but show that for many of us, it’s possible. One of their secrets is that advanced old age holds as many joys for them as troubles. Who knew?

In the audience, you’ll have an experience that is fun — and far from superficial. Because very old age is not just for other people: ultimately, one day, with luck, this could be you. You’ll leave the theatre with a handful of role models who are uniquely themselves, even eccentric, but all alike in feeling lucky.

A few facts about “Secret Lives”

  • Based on interviews with 12 local people in their 90s and a 100-year-old blogger
  • Challenges our fear of old age and internalised ageism
  • Written by an 83-year-old with a vested interest in positive aging
  • A stellar production team and script
  • Endorsed by Circa, Playmarket, Age Concern NZ and Dementia NZ
  • Chimes with New Zealand’s Healthy Ageing Strategy.

The Secret Lives of Extremely Old People will premiere at Wellington’s Circa Theatre on 24 November 2023, presented by the 90 Plus Group: Theatre against ageism. (One performance is already booked out, long before tickets go on sale.)

13 thoughts on ““The Secret Lives of Extremely Old People” — a new stage play

  1. This is inspirational (I’ll be 81 in July)

  2. josaiawrites says:

    Sounds wonderful! Will it be recorded so that those us us in other areas of the world might be able to have access to it? I’d love to see it!

  3. What a great idea! Sounds very intriguing.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Super-interesting for me!

  4. Rebecca Budd says:

    I am VERY exciting about your stage play, Rachel!!! All the very very best in this endeavour. Looking forward to hearing more!

  5. JT Twissel says:

    Congrats! I look forward to hearing how it goes!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you! Good to hear from you.

  6. Sadje says:

    This is so exciting Rachel. All the best my friend

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yay! Your support boosts me 🙂

      1. Sadje says:

        My pleasure

  7. Elizabeth says:

    That is wonderful. My daughter(an actress) is working on staging the two person play about the Delany sisters based on their book about their first 100 years. If you haven’t read the book or the script, I think you would enjoy them.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      How fascinating! I will seek it out.

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