PRIME Productions is a theater company whose artistic directors want to change the way people see women over 50 by putting mature performers center stage. Since its creation in 2016, the company has employed almost 50 women over 50 between its work producing full productions and staged readings – almost a 100% increase in roles available to actresses over 50 in the Twin Cities compared to prior years.
“We want mature women in main roles acting out the many complex stories and lives we embody,” said co-artistic director of PRIME Alison Edwards.
As the company has grown over the past six years, it became apparent that producing shows with roles for mature actresses – their original mission – also allowed them to begin work on changing the narrative about women over 50.
“We have an incredible opportunity to grow our mission,” Edwards said. “Our original mission was to produce plays that had more roles for women over 50 and employ the wealth of local talent for women over 50.”
She went on to explain that as they sought to produce shows, they began to see the opportunity to change the narrative – change the way people see women over 50, and to create productions that include and encourage the participation of all genders, races, sexual orientations and abilities. It is through these varied perspectives that a complete picture can emerge and be celebrated.
“Older women are traditionally portrayed in film, TV, and theater as the wife of the senator, and not the senator,” she said.
“We are notoriously depicted as not fashionable, dowdy, absent-minded, as stereotypes; and men are much less often likely to be portrayed that way. We want equal time and to be portrayed as the smart and interesting people we are.”
To achieve this goal, Edwards and her co-artistic director, Shelli Place, have sought to produce plays that don’t only focus on age, but stories where the playwright notes that characters should be played by people over 50.
“We read a lot of plays where the characters are sitting around the table talking about what they are going to do about their mother,” she said. And while that is one truth about aging and mature women, it isn’t the only one. It is played out.
Growing the mission
In 2022, the small company engaged with Propel to work on expanding their board.
“We focused our board to see what our needs were, but also giving us a path to achieve the goals we have in place as an organization,” Edwards said.
The organization, because it was used to pivoting having had to do so when COVID forced them to cancel their 2020 season, was used to moving from thing to thing, and not looking at the whole picture.
“We really had to ask ourselves – who do we need our board to make this process work, to make progress, and be successful.”
The next production in PRIME’s 4th season opens on March 29, 2023, at the Park Square Theatre where they will produce The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson.
“This is exciting for us as it is already progress toward many of our ongoing goals,” Edwards said.
The play features a Black character who is written into the script purposefully and features four women.
“We can cast women of color, or women with disabilities into many roles, but it is harder and more meaningful to find roles written for them,” Edwards said. “Diversity in many forms is important to us – our narrative change can’t happen unless we are telling the whole story.”
After this production, PRIME will turn its attention to fundraising for a play they want to workshop next – a play that features Latinx actresses and Spanish-speaking characters.
“Our shows are for everyone,” Edwards said. “I want people to come and see all the ways mature women rock; what I want is for women to feel empowered, husbands and partners to be entertained and to think differently, and for 17-year-old kids to see the bad asses their grandmothers are.”
- Donations of any amount can be made at PRIME Production’s website.
- See a show: PRIME is proud to partner with Park Square Theatre to present The Revolutionists from March 29-April 16, 2023. Tickets are on sale now: http://www.primeprods.org/current-season
Photo: Alison Edwards & Greta Oglesby star in Roommate. Photo by Dan Norman.