From Hollywood all the way to Connecticut, it's the age old story, if you'll forgive the pun. For women actors, finding work becomes harder and harder as they, ahem, mature.
But here in Naugatuck, more seasoned ladies of the stage have recently found a home for their craft at the Phoenix Stage Company on Rubber Avenue. It's not that the barely year old community theatre is catering to older women. In fact, far from it. But they are putting on productions that utilize older women (case in point from last season, the critically acclaimed "Hallelujah Girls") and in the case of "Beyond Therapy," which opens this weekend, even using women to direct.
Donna Storms, who boasts an impressive resume both as an actress and a director, guides this farce of a comedy. And she knows from experience that finding roles for older women, either in the cast or directing, is something of a rarity in this business.
"With most community theatre companies, you're lucky if they have one show you can do in a season, if that," Storms said. "It's never easy for women our age. I can't tell you how many times I've played people on stage who don't survive to the end of the show," she laughed.
Appearing on the Phoenix Stage for her fourth production is local theatrical veteran Val Vitalo of Torrington. Vitalo, in this production, plays one of the two therapists hilariously guiding patients through the relationship traps in their lives.
"What I like about the Phoenix is that they choose shows in which the age of the character doesn't matter. And they pick comedies," she said. "So I'm lucky there. Finding musicals to do these days are harder and harder for older women, except for the old war horses." Shows, she said, like "Gypsy" or "Mame."
Agnes Dann, one of the three co-managers of the Phoenix said that although they have picked shows that include older female characters, that's not the sole purpose of those choices.
"We try to find something for everyone in our season," Dann said. "We try to encompass everyone. It keeps things interesting for not only the actors, but for, we hope, the audiences."
"People like to see people our age having fun on stage," Storms continued. "The audience relates to it. Plus, choosing plays like this one ("Beyond Therapy") is just good marketing. Also this theatre has been so supportive."
Vitalo, who also appeared in "Hallelujah Girls", "I Hate Hamlet", and "Love, Sex, & The IRS" echoed Storms' sentiments.
"They are very supportive and they like to have a wide mix of people on stage, age-wise."
With the Phoenix getting ready to announce their second full season in less than two months, it's a safe bet to assume that there will be something for everyone of every age in 2012.
Meanwhile, "Beyond Therapy," a bawdy comedy by Christopher Durang, opens July 22 and runs through August 7 at the Phoenix Stage Company on 686 Rubber Avenue. Joining Vitalo on stage for this show are Mike Ritz ("Bleacher Bums", "Twelve Angry Men"), Jim Buffone ("The Glass Menagerie", "Twelve Angry Men"), Chris Evans ("The Glass Menagerie", "Twelve Angry Men"), Marsha Howard-Karp, and Ed Bassett ("Hallelujah Girls"). Tickets are available by calling (203) 632-8546 or visiting www.brownpapertickets.com.
(Please note that this show contains adult language and situations. Parental discretion is advised and the show may not be suitable for audiences under 17).