Greetings and Salutations!
This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hank Rogerson, Director of the revelation of 2005, Shakespeare Behind Bars, the multiple award winning film documenting a production of The Tempest at a Kentucky prison. This was not the first time we spoke, as, two years ago, I interviewed Mr. Rogerson about an upcoming project, Still Dreaming. The proposed project would document a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by the residents of the Lillian Booth Actor’s Home.
Together with Behind Bars veterans Jilann Spitzmiller, co-producer, co-director, and Shana Hagan as director of photography, the Philomath Films crew are now in post-production and have rolled out a indiegogo site where you can help bring this story to life and cinemas worldwide.
The course of true love gathers no moss-
In the first interview, Hank said one of his purposes with Still Dreaming was to answer the question “Is old age okay; is it gonna be alright?” Two years later, I had to ask him what he discovered. “Yes! Yes, I think it’s going to be okay, if we start thinking about it now.” With our nature obsessed with youth and the preposterous notion of “staying young,” we don’t often think about aging, except with fear. Hank noted, and, rightly so, “when we think about nursing homes or senior homes, they’re often called ‘waiting rooms for death.’
Not so at the Lillian Booth, “This home is not that way, it is unique.” Rogerson has been contemplating how to make aging a more positive experience, “To make it okay, you have to start now. Start today thinking of old age and how you want to approach it.” Active aging seems to be key, as shown by this clip from the first Still Dreaming indiegogo, and featuring Dimo Condos, the actor who portrays Oberon:
He looks less “elderly” and more “liberated” to me. Take a look at this video of the rascal, released to us exclusively by Hank and the fine people at Philomath-
Honor thy grandfather and thy grandmother-
Theatre is community. We think about old age as isolation, loneliness. One of the ideas behind this film is to change the dynamic.
One of the most important images to me comes from the past of one of the players-
John Gray, an actor in Midsummer, displays a picture of a soldier, possibly from the Korean War. His trouser cuffs are bloused, he may have been a paratrooper. Look at the body language, this is a proud, dare I say “cocky” kid, with his hands on his hips, uncowed by anything, not even war. Both these images are Harold, the young soldier and the elder. All this brings me back to the so called “seven ages of man” speech from As You Like It, frequently cited as Shakespeare’s philosophy, as if we could ever know that.
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
I asked Hank what he thought of this quote, and if it applied to his new friends at the Lillian Booth. “I can see that being a positive thing, because we get to play. We’re having fun, we’re creating. There were some folks who were terrified of Shakespeare, some had acted, some had not.” In fact, some of the actors were Broadway alums. Check out this video of the late Charlotte Fairchild as Puck, and Demo as Oberon. Ms. Fairchild was a cast member of the original Broadway Casts of Damn Yankees, 42nd Street and Mame, among others-
I happen to think that’s the finest Puck I’ve ever seen, as it approaches the character from an entirely new angle. This film allows us to watch some of our theatre elders stay creative and undergo the sacred changes that our art allows. The transformations, Hank tells us, were not all on the stage-
[After the performance of Midsummer,] the administrators came up to us and said they had never seen such a change. Some people’s medicines were reduced, depression was reduced. The sense of community throughout was magnified.
With that, I give you the Trailer for Still Dreaming, with a Message from Hank and Jilann-
Dear friends in the Shakesphere, it looks like Hank and Jilann have another hit on their hands. Their comrades at the Lillian Booth are our teachers, our trailblazers, the ones who have “been there.” Projects like these are few and far between. We can help shepherd it into being. Please visit Still Dreaming‘s Indiegogo website and give what you can.
I thank you for your care and honest pains.