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Q&A with Lee Roscoe

In addition to writing for Provincetown Magazine, Lee Roscoe is an award-winning playwright, environmentalist, and author of Wampanoag Art for the Ages, Traditional and Transitional. She has been creating work with a social conscience on the Cape for many years in a variety of media, and this week, the film she made with filmmaker Janet Murphy Robertson, Dreams from a Planet in Peril, will screen at Wellfleet Preservation Hall. The film explores the environmental mess we are currently in using a series of interconnected dreams. It stars many local Cape Cod actors and offers a unique approach to environmental activism through drama.

Provincetown MagazineHow did you come up with the unusual approach for Dreams from a Planet in Peril as a story with interconnected dreams?

Lee RoscoeAt first, we made four separate films to play one after the other. Then Janet Murphy Robertson came up with the concept of a connective tissue of four interconnected Dreams to frame the pieces; with the writer-environmentalist dreaming, to enter the last piece herself.

PMYou are listed as the director and Janet Murphy Robertson as filmmaker. Those are usually interchangeable in film. How did you divide your roles on this film?

LRI am not a filmmaker, Janet is, though I have been around underground films, starring in some notorious [ones] for Norman Mailer when barely out of my teens. So, as a playwright, I had written four short plays, which I thought had common themes of planetary abuse and its underlying causes, and which I thought would film well, using tons of images, video from B-roll, stills from other freeware sources, to create a hybrid theater/film event using green screen in Janet’s small film studio in her barn in Dennis, during Covid. “Water Spirits Colloquy” (which won a prize from Blue Institute) uses mythology and science combined for its tale of anguish and action by the gods. “The Cage,” a class war in ten minutes, is a highly stylized piece, a commedia dell’arte; “Reprieve,” about a native man in despair over the planet and his place in it—who is saved by kindness (as our planet may be)—is realistic. “The Warning” (which got a certificate of achievement from the Independent Shorts Awards, L.A.) and premiered at the 10th Annual Chelsea Film Festival NYC, in 2022, is hyperbole, an over-the-top cartoon very much influenced by German expressionist George Grosz, Ecco Homo.  I wrote the pieces, set up a shot list, directed the actors, selected many of the images, and set a gestalt. But it was Janet who, as a filmmaker—known for Journeys in the Light about the Cape’s BIPOC community – set up lights, created, with her wonderful late husband, Jon, the sets, videoed, edited, added sound, and her own selection of images, as well—to create styles framing the pieces. It was a true collaboration. Without Janet’s vision it never would have come to fruition. She also produced the film (though we had some funding from local Massachusetts Cultural councils—Dennis and Brewster).

PM We have been talking about environmental concerns for so many decades without much change. What role do you see art playing in getting change to happen at this point?

LRThat’s a really interesting question. I just reviewed Ken Grossinger’s book Artworks, about that very point. He stresses that organizers, artists, funders, and public art institutions can and have come together to make social change. I did Dreams to shock people, wake them up, because even those already in the choir need to take action, and those not need to be moved at the gut level.  So, while the role of art is to ask questions and not to give solutions, perhaps this film will compel audiences to take action. We’ve had talkbacks with environmentalists after the film to solve problems it poses. I always suggest stop and go, what to stop of depredations and what to do to promote a healthy biodiverse planet.  As a number of our audience members have commented—there are so many facts around about these issues it gets wearying, but the film makes the facts digestible, with a little humor and even a little hope. I know that for me didacticism alone won’t move people, but appealing to their hearts and minds to change consciousness through art can. I call some of my work “aversion therapy.” I hearken back to the medieval morality/miracle plays meant to depict good and evil and remind people, without sermons, of how to behave in the world. If art (even with some didactics and agitprop) can occasionally impel a change of consciousness, then it can perhaps help us to envision and act on a new way of being in the world.

As a former long-time activist (environment, native rights, social justice), I know change can be made on a small scale, locally. I am thrilled to see that on the federal level Biden is pouring billions into solar energy for underserved populations. This is great climate justice.  I actually wrote an essay about an alternative energy economy in 1975, creating energy independence, jobs with pride, ending wars for oil, helping the earth, but I am oddly a skeptic about how effective our efforts are to stop extinctions affecting biodiversity and to stop increasing climate extremes.

If our species remains materialist, greedy, overpopulated and self-interested, natural systems, self-righting mechanisms will come into play to rebalance earth, and that will be horrific for humans. There has been, as Greta Thunberg says, a good deal of blah blah blah. And the last COP was coopted by big oil.

The eclipse may have given our species a unifying sense of a cosmos which is born into us even as we are born into it—and perhaps that awakening will lead to a sea change of respect for everything on earth before it is too late.

PMAre there any new projects in your pipeline that you can share with us now?

LRYes. I had a recorded Zoom reading of The Men or Stalking Random Pastels via a New York group I am involved with. It is a memory play, a rondo in which two lovers’ lives are being torn apart in very subtle ways by white supremacists. The audience reaction was stellar. Typical [response]: “That was definitely the deepest play I’ve ever been fortunate enough to witness. You raised so many profound questions about love and politics and perceptions of reality.”– Maureen Condon, creator of CRUDE, the climate change musical)

I have a brilliant young New York director and actors who want to take it further.  We have been writing grants and would like to raise the money to give this a filmed workshop production.  I’m also seeking funding to take my most provocative play yet, The Second Coming, catharsis for a hurt planet (anything but religious) further, excitingly, with renowned author and modernist director Avra Sidiropoulou. Productions take money, and need to find funders who are progressive and willing to take risks. I am also rewriting my cultural ecology of Cape Cod seen through a small place: Dreaming Monomoy’s Past, Walking its Present (the interacting nature and culture of a typical coastal area, a subjective and objective account) on a grant from Chatham Cultural Council, and I’m completing a memoir of a trip into Lakota lands as well as very scholarly work about Lakota history, seeking agents and publishers.

Lee Roscoe’s Dreams from a Planet in Peril will be screened at Wellfleet Preservation Hall, 335 Main St., on Sunday, May 5, 3 p.m. The event is free. For more information, call 508.349.1800 or visit

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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