By Torn Space Theater
Written & Directed by Dan Shanahan and Melissa Meola

About AGES

Ages is an operatic examination of the ages and stages of life. Designed for the parkland lawn around a great cottonwood tree, the audience, pedestrians and picnickers gather to witness the overlapping beautiful and banal moments of life. The shared human moments of independence and co-dependence, love and loss, accidents and miracles, and the here and now play out over the timeline of the universe.  Familiar figures in the Torn Space mythology return, presenting the growing family of their multi-generational fictional society. In this time of seemingly ceaseless turmoil, take a moment to reflect on the year’s events in a venue like no other- the space where you are right now.

The Setting

The Park is the collective space where different ages, economic systems, genders and sexualites co-exist. A park is a Heterotopia –  a concept elaborated by philosopher Michel Foucault to describe certain cultural, institutional and discursive spaces that are somehow ‘other’: disturbing, intense, incompatible, contradictory or transforming. Heterotopias are worlds within worlds, mirroring and yet upsetting what is outside.” They are times out of time, where people can easily and without charge or significant travel, escape, to be alone or alone with someone else, or to practice or to compete or to think differently than in other “usual” spaces of the day. Parks are “democratic” spaces. They are a training ground for other more radical notions of equality and therefore are “worlds within worlds – mirroring yet upsetting what is outside”

The Poems of Carl Dennis

Carl Dennis graciously allowed us to use several of his poems that form the basis of our text. These poems draw focus to the quieter moments we all experience or can imagine ourselves experiencing; they draw focus to chance and circumstance and provide a lens to acutely observe the daily activities that make up a life. 

Stephanie Burt, reviewing Dennis’s Callings in the New Republic noted, “It is in the minor efforts, the daily or weekly rewards and tasks that make up most of any life, that Dennis finds his métier. Dennis’s moderate, easy tone—his accessibility—frequently masks a deep sense of nostalgia, loss, grief, and even fear (Poetry Foundation). His level of discursiveness, his ongoing syntax, can become almost scary. If you keep talking intelligibly (the style implies), so that other people understand you, you will have some way to know that you are still alive (Stephanie Burt). 

Dennis has received numerous honors and awards for his work, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, he has received the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize, and the Ruth Lilly Prize (Poetry Foundation).

Movement One: Supported/Unsupported – Independence and Co-Dependence

Someone flies a kite

A family sets up a picnic on the grass

A mother and child practice walking

Children play ball

The child is pushed on the swing

A plein air painter begins to paint

The girl swings alone

The girl swings with a friend

A man walks by with a newspaper and sits alone

A beer bottle is broken 

A man walks with difficulty 

Broken glass is swept up

Movement Two: Accidents and Miracles – The Impact of Suddenness

A memorial is set up with balloons

A civic emergency drill is practiced 

New relationships are formed

A couple shares a kiss

A yoga class begins

The teenage girl talks selfies with her friends on swing

The girl shares a first kiss with a boy 

The man on a bench gets bad news

People sunbathe

A science class is given

Movement Three: The Here and Now

A couple converses on the bench

The woman swings on the swing with the man

The woman sits alone on the swing

Skygazers ponder Big Questions

A birthday party

Circle dance

Texts used in this performance:

Candles by Carl Dennis

Best World by Carl Dennis

Seven Ages of Man speech from Shakespeare’s As You Like It

Nobody Knows by Carl Dennis

Stop Light by Carl Dennis

Music used in this performance:

Erik Satie – Gymnopedie #1-3 and Gnossiennes #1-6. Reinbert de Leeuw 

Brian Eno- Golden Hours

Performed by:

Leon Alston

Deymia Donaldson

Thea Duskin

Becky Globus

Justin Leis

Marshall Maxwell

Jeanvier Nkurunziza

Matthew Rittler

Carmen Swans

Kalub Thompson

Christine Turturro

Sara Wierzba

Priscilla Young-Anker


Ford Shanahan

Vaughn Esme Shanahan

Lucien Vanouse


LarLwe Say

Eh Wah

Hser Raylod Dah

Tha Dah 

Poets reading in the Park:

August 12th Sherry Robbins

August 13th Carl Dennis

August 19th Mary Richert

August 20th David Landry 

Production Team

Co-Directors/Co-Writers – Dan Shanahan, Melissa Meola Shanahan

Production/Stage Manager – Carly Weiser

Assistant Stage Manager – Sarah Foote

Managing Director – Marisa Caruso

Technical Directors – Matthew Divita, Tony Rajewski

Digital Marketing Manager – Holly Kirkpatrick

Sound Design – Justin Rowland

Costume Design – Jessica Wegrzyn

Prop Designer – Thea Duskin

Carpenter – Sean Kulak

Technical Crew – Daniel Toner, Andrew Zuccari, Marcus Aiello

Video/VR Documentation – FLATSITTER

Silo City Management – Kate Gorman

Silo City Landscape Ecologist – Josh Smith

Box Office/Front of House Manager – Kylie Priscilla

Box Office/Organizational Support – Anna Seidl, Jenn Carter


Special Thanks: Rick Smith, Carl Dennis, Just Buffalo Literary Center, Josh Smith, Kate Gorman  and The Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle


Originally produced for the 2022 INTERSECTION: Performance Series

Dates: August 12-14, 19-21; Rain Dates: August 18 & 22
Doors at 7:00pm, Show starts promptly at 7:30pm
Venue: 630 Ohio St. Buffalo, NY 14203