So this weekend I received an email from Hank Rogerson who, with his partner Jilann Spitzmiller, created the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars. I'm always at a bit of a loss for words when people who do this sort of thing for a living (and, might I add, win awards for it) reach out to me. It reminds me just how far our little corner of the Shakespeare universe has grown, and just who out there is listening. It's pretty humbling, I have to say.
So, with that out of the way, let's get on to the good stuff, shall we? Rogerson and Spitzmiller have a new Shakespeare documentary in the works, and if it's anything like their first effort, we can expect great things.
Still Dreaming takes place at the Lillian Booth Actors Home just outside New York City, and follows a group of lifelong entertainers (all well into their 80's, they tell us) as they work on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
"Four lovers? Among 80 year olds?" the short clip begins, as one of the self-described 80yr olds questions the premise.
"I think it'd be terrific!" retorts one woman, with a hint of indignation, "You never give up!"
What I think is amazing about the potential for this story is that they're not just walking into their local nursing home and sticking a script in front of a bunch of people who've never acted a day in their long lives (although that would be a story in itself, albeit a different one). These are people who have been entertainers for decades, and who aren't letting age get in the way of their ability to continue being entertainers.
"What is it like to lead a creative life, even at the end of your life?" Spitzmiller asks in voiceover. It works on a whole bunch of levels. We talk an awful lot about the universality of Shakespeare, and I think we're about to witness another demonstration of it.
I'm fascinated by the idea. I admit -- I don't ever plan to be "behind bars", nor have I ever really had anything to do with that aspect of our society (no family or friends in that situation, etc etc ....) So I could only get so close to that project. However I have relatives right now approaching their 80s, some in assisted living homes, and heck I plan to be 80 some day as well. I can only hope that there's somebody there to hand me a script.
Right now, Still Dreaming is gathering funding (hence the push for publicity, I'm quite sure. I'm not kidding myself ;)). Visit the site for your chance to contribute, and check out the perks they're offering. Guarantee yourself a copy of the DVD when it's done. For a little more, get a copy of Shakespeare Behind Bars as well. For a little more than that, get your name in the credits! And it just keeps going. Get tickets to the premiere! Meet the cast! I love this "perk" model of funding independent projects.
Go check out their video, and click around the site. Jilann in particular seems quite active in the comments. They are very enthusiastic about making this happen. Even if you've not seen Shakespeare Behind Bars you've almost certainly heard of it. This is not a gamble, and these are not amateurs. We know what they're capable of. Become a part of it.