VintAge in Back Stage 2001

Professional Women Dedicate Confab to Arts/Media Ageism

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Earlier this year, Elsa Rael, president of the New York Coalition of Professional Women in the Arts & Media, conceived an idea for the group's first all-day conference: a realistic look at how today's older women can continue to flourish professionally in a society that places so much value in being young.

To produce the conference, Rael turned to one of the coalition's board members, Shari Upbin, an experienced theatre producer, who has helped the organization realize VINT-Age 2001. As Upbin tells it, the gathering--scheduled for Sat., Oct. 13, at John Jay College Theater--will actually be more than a conference. It will be a mission.

When Rael, who Upbin calls "my mentor," asked her to take the confab's production reins, "I started to do some research on the subject of ageism in arts and media," recalls Upbin. "I was shocked to find that so many of our older actors, directors, writers weren't getting work. Having been a dancer and choreographer, I knew about how we dancers had to reinvent ourselves as we got older, because the body does tricks on us. But I found that so many actresses were not getting parts; then there got to be not enough roles, and prejudices on the parts of TV producers and the people who make decisions. I found that people were shockingly defined by age rather than experience and ability."

Her research also showed that by 2014, "for the first time in the world there will be more older people than younger," and, Upbin feels, a change in attitude has already started to rise. "The older baby boomers are feeling the effects and saying, 'Hey, we're not going to take this any more. We're not going to the movies and see Sean Connery with a teenybopper. We're tired of that.' And I think the younger people are getting tired of it as well. A reality check is what this is all about."

VINTAge 2001 will assure that reality check as professionals, ranging from stars to executives, gather for programs covering topics such as positive solutions to ageism; career changes; significance of image; health concerns; and attaining financial stability.

The day-long gathering will feature a gallery of entertainment's elite veterans. Valerie Harper will be the day's guest speaker; Pia Lind-strom will moderate. The plethora of panelists will include Phyllis Newman, Jane Powell, Marian Seldes, Tisa Chang, Donna McKechnie, Gretchen Cryer, Frances Sternhagen, Tovah Feldsuh, Eileen Fulton, Graziella Danielle, Micki Grant, Lynn Ahrens, Richard Dubin, and Carol Hall.

Whew! At press time, Upbin even got the word that Lainie Kazan would bring her silver voice to entertain.

Along with the keynote addresses, panels, and entertainment, how about breakfast, lunch and later a wine and cheese networking reception?

The tone of the whole affair, notes Upbin, is "not to get out of the industry, but to shift gears. Keep on course, believe in your dreams, but be realistic about who you are." And, keeping that upbeat attitude, she adds of the conference, "You never know what you can get from coming here. You can learn, you can eat, meet the stars, and, who knows, maybe get your next job by coming down."
Sandi Durell has worked as associate producer on the conference, which costs $65, including the eats. The John Jay College Theater is located at 899 Tenth Ave. at 58th Street. Reservations and info on VINTAge 2001 at the coalition's hotline: (212) 592-4511; e-mail nycoalition@hotmail.com, or visit the website at www.vint-age.org. Day-of registration begins at 8:30 am at the theatre

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