Still Dreaming: Shakespeare with Seniors

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 102

In 2011, Ben Steinfeld and Noah Brody, co-directors of New York’s Fiasco Theater, were invited to an assisted living facility and nursing home just outside New York City to work with its residents on a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Because it was the Lillian Booth Actors Home—a facility filled with retired singers, actors, dancers and musicians—Ben and Noah expected to work with a group of seasoned Broadway professionals. While there were some, the cast they finally assembled was largely anything but. Ben and Noah were invited on this adventure by filmmakers Jilann Spitzmiller and Hank Rogerson, who turned the process into a documentary called Still Dreaming. We talk about the experience with Ben Steinfeld and Hank Rogerson.

Hank Rogerson is a filmmaker who, with Jilann Spitzmiller, produced Still Dreaming. Ben Steinfeld is co-artistic director of Fiasco Theater. He co-directed, with Noah Brody, the Lillian Booth Actors Home’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hank and Ben are interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

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From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published July 24, 2018. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, “A Dream Past the Wit of Man,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster and Esther Ferington. Ben Lauer is the web producer. With technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Paul Luke at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California; Robert Auld and Deb Stathopulos at The Radio Foundation studio in New York; and Sean Conlon at public radio station KSFR in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Transcript

MICHAEL WITMORE: When was your first time with Shakespeare? Maybe in high school? Maybe you were little and your family went to see it outdoors? Now, imagine if your first time with Shakespeare, your very first time, you were nearly 90.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

NOAH BRODY: Philostrate may very well be a role we ask you to play, but there’s actually a larger role that would be something of a commitment on your part, but we’d be interested in hearing you play around with that role for a bit, if you’re interested.
MARY DEPAULO: I don’t know. I don’t know what this is all about.
DIMO CONDOS: Yeah, but the part is Peter Quince, right?
BRODY: Right.
BEN STEINFELD: Yeah.
DEPAULO: OK, I’ll read it over and see what I can handle. I’m getting another education at my age.

From the Folger Shakespeare Library, this is Shakespeare Unlimited. I'm Michael Witmore, the Folger’s director. In 2011, Ben Steinfeld and Noah Brody, co-directors of New York’s Fiasco Theater, were invited to come to an assisted living facility and nursing home just outside New York City to work with the residents on a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The clip you just heard is from a movie that came out of that experience.

Because it was the Lillian Booth Actors Home, a facility filled with retired singers, actors, dancers, and musicians, Ben and Noah thought they'd be working with a group of seasoned Broadway professionals. And while there were some, the cast that was finally assembled was largely anything but. The film of this adventure is a documentary called Still Dreaming, produced by Jilann Spitzmiller and Hank Rogerson, who have made a career of filming Shakespeare put on in unusual situations.

Hank Rogerson and Ben Steinfeld came in recently to talk about the experience of creating the play, making the film, and the fascinating group of characters who made it all possible. We call this podcast A Dream Past the Wit of Man. Hank and Ben are interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

---------------

BARBARA BOGAEV: I should say right at the top that I pretty much cried my eyes out through your whole film. Do you get that, Hank? Do you get that response?

HANK ROGERSON: I get that and I get a lot of laughter, too. I think people kind of seesaw back and forth between tears and releasing the opposite of that, which is the joy.

BOGAEV: Yeah, that's exactly right. For me, I think it hit right at the top, when you have those first shots, which are these lovely outdoor scenes of elderly actors from the assisted living home, and they're practicing their lines for Midsummer by themselves, while they're walking in what look to be woods, or maybe the grounds of the nursing home.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

DIMO CONDOS as OBERON:
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
With this, I'll streak her eyes

BOGAEV: And it reminded me so much of the time I spent with my mother in a residence like this and just how confining it was, because people are almost always indoors because so many of them aren't that ambulatory, or they can't walk unassisted, and there isn't much nature around for them to walk in anyway. And so those scenes of these actors practicing their craft outdoors were so beautiful and it just seems to symbolize the liberation that the play gave them and the project, just freedom and kind of renewed sense of life.

ROGERSON: Yeah, absolutely, and the home really supports that, going out after lunch for a stroll, and particularly Dimo would go out, one of the characters in the film, he would go out all the time. And we noticed that once the rehearsal started, he was going out with his script.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

CONDOS: The king of the Fairyland!

ROGERSON: Yeah, I mean it was just so reflective of the play itself. The play starts in the court and then goes into the forest, and the nursing home was more ordered and controlled, like the court, but the forest is where magic and chaos happened, and that was reflected in the telling of the story and showing the home, but also showing the beauty and the chaos of being outdoors.

BOGAEV: But the other thing that hit me right away, too, was that we usually think of the cast of Midsummer Night's Dream as full of children and just gorgeous 20-somethings and that it's a story of young love. So what made you choose that play for this project?

ROGERSON: Well, the residents chose the play, but I actually came in with the idea of doing Romeo and Juliet and I proposed that to them, and they said that, "Oh, there's just too much darkness, too much tragedy, and there's enough of that in our lives already. We want to do something lighter, something, you know, a comedy." They just kept coming back to Midsummer, I think, because it's an ensemble piece with no real leads and it's a comedy.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

HAROLD CHERRY as BOTTOM:
When my cue comes, call me, and I will answer. Peter Quince! Flute the bellows-mender! (Interrupting himself:) Ah, scratch my head.

BOGAEV: And Ben, how did you and Noah come on board?

STEINFELD: Well, I think what happened is that we got an email from Hank and Jilann, sort of asking if we would be interested, and so I told them I thought, "Maybe this is an interesting opportunity for us to sort of explore what Shakespeare does in an unexpected environment." And to have an unusual experience with Shakespeare, which is, I guess, redundant [LAUGH]. Every experience of Shakespeare is revealing and new.

ROGERSON: And Ben and Noah, you know, they were up to the task and they did an incredible job of pushing this production to its finish and showing up every day with support and their incredible talent.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

STEINFELD: My name's Ben Steinfeld.
BRODY: My name's Noah, Noah Brody.
STEINFELD: Noah and I work together in this theater company. We also have our own lives as actors, as well as directing and stuff. So we really tend to make our plays from the point of view of actors. I'm just really thrilled that Noah and I get to learn from all of you, from your artistry, and from your experience, and from your unique points of view...

BOGAEV: So what were your expectations for Day One? What was the plan? And watching the film, it does seem like everybody is a little confused, including you.

STEINFELD: That's exactly right. Yeah, I think what Noah and I thought we were walking into was a situation in which a group of enthusiastic residents at the home had sort of formed a Shakespeare group on their own, and they were looking for directors from the outside to kind of come in and help them shepherd this kind of self-generated project. And when we showed up, they essentially asked us what we were doing there [LAUGH].

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

AIDEEN O'KELLY: You mean, you've no idea. You do not have a basic idea to hold it altogether.
BRODY: I don't know that we could have come in here and say, "Here's our version of what this play is going to mean."
O'KELLY: Well, I don't mean that.
CHERRY: You're not going to do the whole play, are you? Or are you?
BRODY: Well, that's really a question for us as a group. What does success mean for us? What does a production mean for us? Does that mean doing the entire play, doing every scene?
O'KELLY: What had you in mind? Are you going to cast it? Who's playing what? Be practical on that sort of thing.
STEINFELD: Yes, we will cast it. We will have a real show.

STEINFELD: It sort of seemed like everyone was confused by our presence. They thought, you know, we were part of the filmmaking team. We tried to explain, "No, we're actually here to work on the play." They weren't sure what we meant by "work on the play." It turned out that the consistency of membership in this self-selecting group was non-existent. It was sort of a very, very casually organized thing, which had a couple of enthusiastic and dedicated participants, but also for other people, it's just, like, something to do instead of watching a game show.

BOGAEV: Right, it's like "Show up in the activities room, and see what's going on."

STEINFELD: That's exactly it. So all of that was a large surprise to us and in retrospect, I'm sort of embarrassed that it was such a surprise, just because I didn't know anything about how these kinds of residential homes work. But it quickly became clear, within the first couple of days, that what we thought we were getting ourselves into was quite different than the reality on the ground.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

STEINFELD: Alright!
CHERRY: Are we memorizing these?
STEINFELD: We, we...
CHERRY: No, I'm just asking because some people will have difficulty memorizing.
CONDOS: Are you talking about some people, are you talking about yourself?
CHERRY: Whatever.
CONDOS: You want to play Bottom without memorizing it?
CHERRY: Of course, I'm going to memorize it.
CONDOS: Why do you ask, do I have to memorize?

STEINFELD: While the home has many residents who were professionals, it also has people who have children in the stagehand union, which gives them access to the residence as well. So, there were people whose connection to show business was limited and whose connections to performing or acting was non-existent.

BOGAEV: Right, and you mentioned that some people had more of a stake in this production than others and Dimo, in particular... Why don't you tell us about him, since we've been mentioning him? He plays your Oberon, eventually, and he really seems to approach this as almost a make-or-break deal for him as an actor.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

CONDOS: Once in Richard III I did Clarence, the brother. I always wanted to do that part, and I got to do it in Dallas, but the most important place, New York City, was out of my reach, somehow. I still hope that I can make something of myself that people will remember.

STEINFELD: I think he felt like his artistic identity was kind of on the line in this production, which is a positive thing, in that he took it very seriously and he brought his full experience and expertise and craft. But it was also, you know, as my old acting teacher used to say, "Our greatest strengths are also always our greatest weaknesses."

And in this case, for Dimo, that also meant that he could be extremely bullying and unforgiving and cruel even, to his castmates and that led to some real power struggle issues between Noah and myself and him, as we tried to model for Dimo what we felt was the right kind of leadership, given his talent and experience, as opposed to treating his colleagues disrespectfully.

BOGAEV: And then there's Charlotte and Aideen. Why don't you tell us about them, their backgrounds? And they were both dealing with some serious health issues and at first they really just threw themselves into the project.

STEINFELD: Yeah, it was interesting. Aideen had a tremendous amount of professional experience and she appeared on Broadway. You know, she was in a major production of Othello and her mind was still working well enough for her to understand the diminishment of her faculties.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

O'KELLY: I'm just so sorry I'm creating all these problems, guys, you're very patient.
BRODY: That's okay.
STEINFELD: Well, you know, we just want to try to divide it up into small enough bites for you that you can say, I'm going to learn this scene, rather than feeling like you have to learn the whole role. We just want you to learn the first scene and the second scene, so that we can zero in on that.

STEINFELD: And she actually ended up withdrawing from A Midsummer Night's Dream, because she didn't feel that she could do the work at the level that she wanted to in terms of memorization, which is a total contrast to Charlotte, who was also a professional, although most of her career was in musical theater.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

CHARLOTTE FAIRCHILD (singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" with JOAN STEIN on piano):
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

STEINFELD: And what's interesting about Charlotte is her... I don't know if it was Alzheimer or dementia, but her mental state was so diminished that she actually wasn't aware of what she didn't know. She showed up every day totally unaware of what we were doing and then, as soon as her aide pointed to her lines (she was playing Puck), she released herself fully, full heart, full soul, full mind, and her acting was a complete revelation every rehearsal. And then, as soon as it was over, she had absolutely no idea what had happened or what was happening next, but she was having the time of her life when she was doing it.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

CONDOS as OBERON:
Puck, thou rememb'rest
Since once I sat upon a promontory
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the very rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid's music.

FAIRCHILD as PUCK (singing):    
La la la la la la la la la.

OBERON:
Dost thou remember? Thou dost remember.

(PUCK continues singing)

OBERON:
That very time I saw (though thou couldst not),
Cupid all armed. A certain aim he took
At a fair vestal

ROGERSON: She would show up to rehearsals, like Ben says, do something extraordinary and commit entirely and, you know, just blow everyone away. And then lunch would happen and she'd come back in the afternoon and then she would say, "Oh, look, a camera crew." What I've known about dementia was that people were very withdrawn and they were angry all the time, and she gave me totally different look at that.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

STEINFELD: Charlotte, we're wondering what, how to introduce you here, to the audience, do you know what I mean?
FAIRCHILD (theatrically): Here she is! There she goes!
STEINFELD: Who can say what just happened? That's hilarious.

ROGERSON: As a storyteller, it took me some time to embrace that. "Okay, this is the way it is, I can't make it clear, and I have to embrace that as a storyteller and make it a part of the story. Make the confusion and the fantasy that's in the play, that's in the home, try to make that cohesive in the film itself."

BOGAEV: Yeah, you really see how everything's operating on a number of levels and Ben, you say at one point in the film, "We're operating on nine different realities all at the same time, but it doesn't matter as long as it's a positive experience."

STEINFELD: Yeah, it took me a little while to get there, because when I said that thing about nine levels of reality, I was in the midst of a bit of a crisis because of Gloria's unexpected departure, which was not a departure, and so, yes, it took me a while to get to a positive place with that.

BOGAEV: Tell us about Gloria, because there is this really touching moment in the film, before you get to that "nine realities" point, where you're in rehearsal and you're analyzing the line that Demetrius has, where he says, "Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream."

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

STEINFELD: Bottom can't trust his senses here, which I would imagine is incredibly frightening, if you actually have an experience where you cannot trust fully what you are seeing, or be sure of what you are hearing. "It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream," that we're still dreaming. This is, in my opinion, this is another version of just scrambling the world of our perceptions. Did this thing happen? Well, it happened for us, because we saw it.

BOGAEV: And this is right at the point where you are having this crisis with one of your players, Gloria. So tell us who she is and what's going on.

STEINFELD: Well, Gloria, I believe, according to her, was mostly a writer, she was a playwright, but she was extremely good with language. And when we first encountered her, I thought she was one of the people who was the most cognitively together. She had a sense of humor, she seemed kind of aware of what was going on, she understood the kind of boundaries of rehearsal, she seemed like a perfect Helena. And then she really surprised me near the end of the process by announcing that her friend was coming to get her and that she was going to Arizona. And because I associated her as someone who really knew what was going on, I was shocked, I was saddened. I was trying to find a way, if there was a way for her to push this back a week, so that we could still have her for the show. And when I brought this up to someone who worked at the home, they sort of looked at me like I was having a moment, and they said, "Oh, no, no, she's not going anywhere."

BOGAEV: Right, she says this all the time.

STEINFELD: "There is no friend. There is no Arizona. She's not leaving." So that really threw me, for me that was the most challenging moment of the process and I think it was a period of time when Noah was away for July Fourth or something, so I was navigating those few days by myself and I was really asking myself, you know, "What is my job here? And what is going on? And how did I get involved with this? Why is my reality, sort of, doesn't seem to be... I don't seem to be in charge of my own version of reality," which is difficult in that moment, and then it just becomes another part of the experience. It's the play tapping you on the shoulder again, being like, "Yeah, it's going to cost you something to encounter that experience, but it will be worth it for what the play has to teach."

BOGAEV: And the experience you have is your truth. I mean, that's the many layers of this experience, is that on one hand, it seems absolutely unique. On the other hand, everything that keeps happening seems like anything that would happen in any professional production, you know? You know, your star, Gloria, drops out. Another of your stars, Aideen, the only actor in the group who had ever performed Shakespeare on Broadway, she drops out. So, Ben, did these dramas start to feel familiar to you? Like déjà vu, that you would have with any diva?

STEINFELD: In many ways, yes, and like most of the time when those crises strike, it's usually in the solution that something revelatory becomes possible. So, while we were sad to lose Aideen and her skill and commitment, Mary steps in to the role of Peter Quince, and, in some ways, steals the show.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

DEPAULO: I do have a question. Do I express that in a poetry form, you know, do I hesitate at the lines, or do I just speak it?
CONDOS: Oh, you just treat it like an incident that you're involved in, you know. Just like, if you're having an argument with Lucille, it's the same thing. You treat the play as if it were an incident in your life.
DEPAULO: I came here to rest. [LAUGHS]

BOGAEV: Hank, you did such a good job of providing a throughline throughout the film that reminds us of the experience, the deep experience, that these actors have on the stage, and I'm thinking of one scene in particular with Bob, I think it's Bob Evans, who was one of the mechanicals, where he just casually starts telling a story by saying, "Bob Fosse came to me one day."

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

BOB EVANS: Bob Fosse came to me and said, "Can you juggle?" I said "Yes." I couldn't, but I said "Yes." He said, "I'd like you to use you in a new show that I'm doing." He said, "I've got to have a dancer that juggles." I said, "Oh, that's me, Bob." So, I started learning how to juggle. Yeah, that's Damn Yankees.

ROGERSON: Some of these people had this incredible heritage of working on Broadway and working in the heyday and all these original productions like Guys and Dolls and Damn Yankees. But also, there were others, such as Mary, who Ben was just referring to, who came about because she was a housewife, but her son was in the union. So, you know, it's just that range of the abilities and you throw into that the cognitive issues, you know, you've just got a kettle for chaos.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

BRODY: So, your relationship here in this room, right, with these people, do you kind of have a sense of it?
LYNETTE LOOSE: Dimo was my father.
BRODY: No.
LOOSE: No.
BRODY: Dimo is the lord and master around here.
LOOSE: Yeah. I think you went over this before.

BOGAEV: And it does erupt into utter chaos, Ben, when your Oberon, Dimo, started to trying to direct his scene with a novice actor and...

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

LOOSE: So I go?
CONDOS: Now, wait a minute. Weren't you supposed to go over there?
STEINFELD: No, you have to take her right now.
CONDOS: I have to take her.
STEINFELD: On what earlier happened.
CONDOS: Are you listening to me? Are you listening to me?
BRODY: Dimo, Dimo, we just had a full conversation.

STEINFELD: Like most fights in any ongoing relationship, it was the result of a perception of a pattern. This was the result of five weeks of Dimo, in many ways, you know, sabotaging his colleagues' ability to have an experience. It wasn't just what he was doing in that one moment, but I felt that the way he was treating Lynette in that moment was particularly cruel and insensitive, given her issues with fear and anxiety and he kind of took things to another level by saying that he could direct the play better than we did and that we didn't know what we were doing.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

BRODY: We cannot allow this dynamic. This is the dynamic we cannot allow.
CONDOS: Ah, [expletive] you, man. What about dynamics? I know more about dynamics that you do.
BRODY: Dimo, I understand your frustration, but you do not—
CONDOS: I'm not frustrated, I'm trying to help the girl! She's supposed to be fierce. She's supposed to be proud. Try to talk her into how she can be.
BRODY: Calm down, I want you to calm down.

STEINFELD: We attempted to stay calm, we tried to take a break, and he pushed past that, and, you know, I felt that he was getting in her face and that he was being inappropriate and that we simply had to meet him energetically where he was, because that's the only thing that he responds to.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

CONDOS: This lady can be helped a lot better and I can do it better than you.
BRODY: That's fine. That is your opinion. That is your opinion. But you do not get to run this room. We have to do this together. And you cannot, Dimo, you cannot.
CONDOS: Don't tell me that I am running this room. I am not. I am trying to help that girl.
BRODY: Let me finish my statement. Look at me. Allow me...
CONDOS: I don't have to look at you. I can hear you. I'll look that way. Speak!

BOGAEV: You kind of feel that you might be seeing some of the things that prevented Dimo, this person, from perhaps succeeding in his career. I don't know if that's true.

STEINFELD: That's a very interesting point.

BOGAEV: It almost seems to be a window into his past. So, I think you got to about two or three days before your scheduled performance, and it seemed like the play was just in complete shambles.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

STEINFELD: Okay, let's take a short break, and we'll talk about that little run-through. (To Brody:) If an audience just saw that, they wouldn't know what they were looking at and the story is incomprehensible right now.

BOGAEV: Describe it at that point and your state of mind.

STEINFELD: Well, our goals remained extremely modest. You know, I was reminded of the time when I was working at a performance arts camp for 11 to 16-year-olds or something and I was directing a show, and I was complaining to my friend who was running the camp about how nervous I was about how poorly it was going to turn out and stuff. And he just said, "Are the kids having a good time?" And I said, "Oh, yeah, yeah." He said, "Are they learning something?" And I said, "Yeah, yeah." He said, "Well then, the show is a success." And so, that's what you do, you just remember where you are, you remember that this is not about you or about what people think of you, it's about the experience of the people you're trying to give an experience to.

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

CONDOS as THESEUS:
I wooed thee with my sword
And I won thy love doing thee injuries,
But I will wed thee in another key
With pomp, with triumph, and with reveling.

DEPAULO as QUINCE:
And we will do it in action as well as we will do it before the Duke.
(Interrupting herself:) Oh sorry, my eyes clouded up.

STEINFELD: In the end, that thing kind of happened, which is that as soon as you recognize that people are going to show up, everyone kind of finds their own way of rising to the moment and, you know, we just wanted to make sure that each person felt endowed with this sort of power to pursue the journey that they were on as actors and to try to let other people be a part of that journey.

[CLIPS from Still Dreaming:]

DEPAULO as QUINCE:
Gentles, perchance you're wondering about this show.

EVANS as FLUTE:
Come, blade, my breast imbrue!

FAIRCHILD as PUCK:
I am sent with broom before
To sweep the dust behind the door.

BOGAEV: And how did you see the effect it had on the residents? Because at one point we hear from Lynette, for instance, she said after the performance...

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

LOOSE: This might be the best one I've ever done. I discovered that I can feel good about myself.

BOGAEV: And Dimo, who went through all that strife and tsuris, he tells you...

[CLIP from Still Dreaming:]

CONDOS: In all the years that I was struggling and trying to be a good actor, I never in my life said to myself what I sometimes say here, "It's great to be alive."

STEINFELD: Yeah, I was amazed by what Lynette and Dimo had to say. I was amazed that the people who ran the home were telling us that people were taking less medication, that their depression issues were evaporating, that it was good for their mental and physical health, and that was one of the reasons to make sure that the show, quote on quote, "the show itself" happened. If we removed that public component, I think we would have been removing the sense of accomplishment that they described.

BOGAEV: Hank, what's the takeaway for you? I know that you showed the film and the director at this residence had a really interesting reaction to it, tell us about that.

ROGERSON: You mean Jordan Strohl, the head administrator at the home?

BOGAEV: Mm-hmm.

ROGERSON: So, yeah, recently we did a screening in New Jersey and Jordan was able to attend that screening and he came up on stage afterwards and he said that the process of this production made the home reevaluate how they approached and cared for those with cognitive issues, because they watched how, even though someone like Gloria had to bow out of the production, the time that she was in the production, she really flourished. As well as Charlotte, who when she was there and engaged, she was remarkable and inspirational. So the home adapted its approach to how it cares for its residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s and other cognitive issues.

As a filmmaker, you hope that there are things that are ripple effects that the story creates and that was one that, hearing it really sort of just made me feel kind of redeemed in some way in this process that, you know, as Ben has been saying, has difficult days. I mean, days that are like, you know, "I don't know if I can show up today and watch what's going on in that room." But moments like Charlotte and Joan singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," I mean, those were moments that made the journey fulfilling.

BOGAEV: And Ben, how about for you? And I'm thinking, as you were talking a moment ago, that there's a scene earlier on in the film where you and Noah are walking out the front door, I think, and a gurney is coming out at the same time with a resident on board and one of you says something like, "Well, I guess we'll spend the next six weeks confronting our own mortality."

STEINFELD: Yeah, that was one of Noah's better lines. I mean, there was a level on which that was true. There was a level on which the day-to-day experience of those six weeks was more challenging than it was fun and like a lot of experiences like that, you end up being glad that you did it. It's not necessarily one you would dive into again with the same level of naiveté, but in the end, you know, Noah and I are both teachers, in addition to being actors and directors, and that's kind of what I mean about doing Shakespeare in nonprofessional environments. I'm sure this is true of the prison program that Hank, you know, told the story about in his other film and the Shakespeare Behind Bars film. It's true of Shakespeare and educational environments, it's true with the elders, which is that when you do this work outside of the confines of the profession, all kinds of revelations become possible, that sometimes are not as possible when everyone's worried about doing a good job and that this sort of represents who they are as an artist and all that kind of stuff.

And so one of the things that gets you excited if you're a teacher, is you get excited by growth, you get excited by change, and you get excited by people becoming a participant in something that they previously didn't see themselves as being able to do. And this experience was more like a teaching experience than it was like a directing experience and once we allowed ourselves to frame it that way, everything becomes kind of good news.

BOGAEV: Well, it's really moving and I really thank you for coming on the show today and talking with me, I really enjoyed it.

ROGERSON: Thank you so much. It was great to be here.

BOGAEV: And Ben, thanks so much for joining us, too.

STEINFELD: It was really my pleasure, thank you.

------------

WITMORE: Hank Rogerson is a filmmaker who, along with Jilann Spitzmiller, produced the film Still Dreaming that followed the making of a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Fiasco Theater’s Ben Steinfeld and Noah Brody at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey. Hank and Ben were interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

Still Dreaming aired on public television stations nationwide in April 2018. You can stream it or buy a DVD at www.stilldreamingmovie.com/shop .

A Dream Past the Wit of Man was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster and Esther Ferington. Ben Lauer is the web producer.

We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Paul Luke at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California; Robert Auld and Deb Stathopulos at the Radio Foundation studio in New York; and Sean Conlon at public radio station KSFR in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

We hope you are enjoying Shakespeare Unlimited. And if you are, we hope you’ll do us a favor. Please consider reviewing the podcasts on whatever platform you get the podcast from. When you do that, it helps us get the word out to people who haven’t heard it yet. We'd really appreciate your help in increasing people's access to these wonderful interviews. Thank you.

Shakespeare Unlimited comes to you from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is dedicated to advancing knowledge and the arts. You can find more about the Folger at our website, folger.edu. Come visit us in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill. For the Folger Shakespeare Library, I’m Folger Director Michael Witmore.