Will also feature a panel discussion with the filmmakers and John Andrews (Shakespeare Guild).
Stretching physical, emotional and mental limits, a group of elderly Broadway actors, musicians and dancers bravely dive into a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and find that nothing is what it seems to be. These former Broadway stars, who reside at the Lillian Booth Actors Home just outside New York City, embark on a journey through the magical play at the urging of the Home’s administrators. The staff of the Home sees this as an opportunity to boost quality of life for the residents. The residents are not so sure.
As the rehearsal process unfolds, the actors find themselves experiencing both the pain and exhilaration of re-immersion in their life’s work amidst the vagaries of old age. At the same time, the troupe’s young co-directors, Ben Steinfeld and Noah Brody of NYC’s celebrated Fiasco Theater, struggle to maintain forward momentum with this over-80 acting ensemble. Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and even minor issues such as sight and hearing loss create constant crises and obstacles for all involved. As the troupe pushes forward, the play’s themes of perception, reality vs. dreaming, and memory become relevant in sharp relief. Ultimately the performance of the play turns out to be surprising, mysterious and resonant, and a vital reminder of the value of engaging in our dreams no matter the circumstance.
DIRECTORS’ STATEMENT: Aging in a Positive Context
We were first and foremost attracted to this story because of the amazing people who reside at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in the quiet and suburban town of Englewood, New Jersey. You’re just 10 miles from New York City, but indeed it seems a lifetime away. At the Lillian Booth, we discovered a group of people who have spent their whole lives following their dreams, some wildly successful, and some hardly at all. And here they are, retired, supposedly having given it all up. But what we witnessed during the rehearsal and performance process of “Midsummer” is that the huge talent of these former entertainers is still alive and well, despite their physical and mental challenges. It was quite a surprise to see the level at which they could still play the game. And their energy, humor and candidness made it even all the better. We were amazed by what this unique cast achieved in spite of their formidable obstacles. What we witnessed was an awakening, and it was truly profound and most certainly inspiring.
We have passionately created this film to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. Our society tends to look away from the Aging issue. This film looks right at it – as a time of potential creative fulfillment rather than decline. We witness a group of elders coming out of retirement mode, and subsequently reawakening their minds, bodies and spirits in very moving and significant ways. Staff of the Lillian Booth Actors Home reported that over the 6 weeks of production, several participants had their medication decreased. Others demonstrated increased self-esteem and improved disposition. There was a marked strengthening of community, not just within the cast of 15, but throughout the Home.
In terms of our artistic approach, we chose to incorporate the themes from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ into the stylistic vision of the film. We often crossed over into the realm of the mysterious woods. Nature footage flirts with magical realism and creates a stunning portrayal of the luminous fairy spirit in the play. Several elders take their roles outside the Lillian Booth, and into the natural landscapes that surround the Home, exploring their characters in intriguing ways. The visual and thematic explorations of the natural “fairy” world are meant to represent the spirit, richness and spontaneity of the creative process, while also adding a beautiful visual dimension to the film.