Stage-and-film documentaries 

Developed over the course of 3 years, these projects are created with groups of people whose life stories are close-ups on the history and culture of their time. With creators and production team, a script is developed from writings, interviews, and group discussions, then sequenced to tell a bigger story through the collective experiences. The result is a stage production with the participants, and a documentary film about the process. These projects invite ideas about the future by exploring how the past became the present. 

Two of these projects, StreetsmARTs Call Me By My Name and Acting Our Age, are being developed / produced 2017-2021 by The Playworks Group with partnering organizations. Scroll/click galleries for overview, and see the Playworks website.


Acting Our Age
 Developed by Lyndall Hare, Steve Umberger / Directed by Steve Umberger
Co-produced by Aldersgate and The Playworks Group
(15 month initial development, then continuing through the pandemic)

Seven people ages 73-95 relive how their stories intersected with 100 years of America's story.

"The collaboration between director and gerontologist turns decades of memories into a collective whole." Observer



Call Me By My Name
 Developed and directed by Steve Umberger
Film by Steve Umberger, Jay Thomas
A collaboration between First United Methodist Church and The Playworks Group
(18 month initial development, then continuing through the pandemic)

A journey into the world of the streets, guided by those who have lived there

"The experience has been profoundly positive - and one that has cultivated growth socially, creatively and consciously." QC Nerve 


 "This is an example of how we can save the world - conversations, empathy, engagement."   Patron Rosemary Monaghan

"With all that's going on in the world, people feel the need to gather in community. The theatre has always provided that, whether it's indoors, outdoors, or a production broadcast on a screen. It helps us see life a little more clearly when we see how others have surfed the waves. These documentaries on stage and film give people a long time to become close, gain confidence and trust each other. There's something different about watching and hearing 'real people' tell their stories. The audience recognizes their own experience in those stories. It's really a microcosm of what can happen when a community comes together."

Interview for ASweatLife/Chicago © , 2019
Photo credit: Jay Thomas, 2019

See the trailers