Saturday movie review: Still Dreaming

As our parents age and we consider how we can best assist and accommodate them in their later years, we baby boomers become more and more familiar with assisted living centers, nursing homes, and similar facilities Mom and/or Dad might at some point consider home. Many of our parents already reside in such spots, others of us may be in the researching-for-someday phase of the sandwich situation.

As is the case with most things, negative stories and worrisome aspects of assisted living centers and nursing homes get the most headlines, cause the most headaches. Yet there are indeed many positive—and true—tales to tell of facilities doing fun, fabulous, innovative, and invigorating things for the elderly folks they care for and, in many cases, consider family.


One of those positive tales is told in STILL DREAMING, an engaging and entertaining documentary scheduled to air on PBS stations around the country mid-April. STILL DREAMING, from husband-wife filmmakers Hank Rogerson and Jilann Spitzmiller, focuses on two New York directors and their efforts to direct residents of the Lillian Booth Actors Home in New Jersey in a production of Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night’s Dream."

Granted, the assisted living center is specifically for members of the entertainment and their families, so many of the potential players have extensive acting experience. Some of those slated for the show include (straight from press materials):

  • a Broadway singer who finds she still has a thrilling talent that moves people to tears
  • a pianist who’s severe Parkinson’s and scoliosis abate when she’s playing nearly concert-level Debussey, Gershwin and Rodgers & Hammerstein
  • A Bob Fosse dancer who is wheelchair-bound, but to his surprise finds he can act
  • a life-long housewife who discovers her calling as a stand-up comedienne

Despite such accomplishments, the hurdles directors Ben Steinfeld and Noah Brody must overcome are many. The residents experience wide-ranging infirmities and ailments typical of advanced age including Alzheimers; dementia and depression; physical limitations requiring walkers, wheelchairs and canes; and myriad medical conditions.

Yet the two young directors are undaunted by the challenge. Together with the seniors, they embark on a six-week journey that challenges and changes both young and old in unexpected—oft-times frustrating, equally exhilarating—ways.

The commitment to the project by Steinfeld and Brody was impressive. The actors at various times seemed non-committal, forgetful, frustrated, confused. Heck, even I was confused by the play's story line, so it's easy to see how the elderly actors might not know what they're to do or why or where or when. Yet the confusion and ambiguity of the play underscore the real confusion and ambiguity the seniors often feel on a daily basis, thus providing opportunities to confront and overcome such issues to some degree.

Despite dropouts, serious self-doubts by some thespians, and a contentious cast member or two, both directors and most of the original players stick with rehearsals. Along the way, the participating residents become more and more connected to one another as well as life in general. Staff, to their credit, continually encourage and support the venture that has energized the entire center population, family members are excited to see the eventual production.

A production that seems doomed at times, even to the typically optimistic directors. As performance night arrives, it's everyone's guess who will actually participate, who will remember their lines, how well the show will go on—or if it will go on at all.

A scene with Mary, one of the few play participants who never acted before the Lillian Booth Actor's Home production—and one of my faves from the film:

STILL DREAMING demonstrates the remarkable impact the arts has on those in their advanced years and the importance of engaging in creative pursuits, regardless of one's age, experience, ability, or circumstance. Doing so has the following tremendous benefits for the elderly, according to studies on art and aging (per the film's press materials):

  • Increase in Happiness
  • Increase in Social Support
  • Increased Memory
  • Increased Comprehension
  • Increased Problem Solving
  • Improvements in Word Recall
  • Improvements in Story Recall
  • Improvements in Verbal Fluency
  • Decrease in Loneliness
  • Decrease in Isolation

Award-winning STILL DREAMING is currently available for a fee on various streaming platforms, including Vimeo and Amazon Prime. The documentary is scheduled to air mid-April on PBS stations (check your local programming for dates and times). Find more on the film as well as information and resources on the arts and aging at

Disclosure: I received a free screener link to review this film; opinions are my own.