Elderly Acting Just Might Improve … Line, Please!

The New York Times:

As a 65-year-old working actor who wants to continue working, Lynn Ann Leveridge relies on her experience, her reputation and, above all, her memory.

“It’s imperative,” says Ms. Leveridge, who lives in Los Angeles. “Although an audition doesn’t have to be memorized, you need to be as familiar with the material as possible to audition well, particularly if it’s an on-camera audition.”

A native of Riverdale in the Bronx, she made her Broadway debut in 1975 playing Hadass in the musical “Yentl” (the role played by Amy Irving in the film version). She then went on to a recurring role as Tango Humphries in the TV soap opera “Edge of Night” and parts in TV dramas like “Southland” and the FX hit “American Horror Story,” where this year she enjoyed the distinction of being beat up by Jessica Lange’s character.

A married mother of two adult daughters, Ms. Leveridge also works in regional theater. Her memory was really put to the test recently memorizing 50 pages of dialogue, including two or three pages of monologue, for a play titled “Therapy” staged in Los Angeles.

Surely, given such evidence of cognitive strength, Ms. Leveridge is immune from the “where did I leave my keys?” lapses so common among those of her age.

Well, no.

“I still forget names, still have those senior moments,” she says, with a chuckle. “Honestly, I don’t feel like I’m very sharp at all.”

Ms. Leveridge’s experience says something about memory — its specificity, how it can be improved and the limits of that improvement as we age.

“Good acting involves retrieving the dialogue and movements from long-term memory but using them spontaneously,” says Helga Noice, a psychologist at Elmhurst College in Illinois. “That is a highly complex cognitive process.”

Read the whole story at: The New York Times

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