ABOUT TOWN is a short film series by Driving Jersey writer/director/producer Steve Rogers.  In each installment Rogers asks a thought provoking question.  The responses he gets proves both the diversity of thought, as well as, the humanness we share.

The pursuit of happiness is so important to human beings or at least to Americans, that it was written into the Declaration of Independence as one of our unalienable rights. The pursuit continues. The promise behind fame, fortune, great love, good hair, a shiny new car, the right neighborhood...whatever, is attached to the idea that happiness may follow if only.

As spring returns, so too does hope and a renewed sense that happiness is more readily available on the warmer beams of sunlight upon our faces. No material thing has the power to lift spirits like the changing season, winter to spring. As we transcend through transition, Steve Rogers took to the streets to find out what makes "us" happy.

Few subjects interest and entertain us like the movies. And except for the summer, when blockbusters are born, no other time of the year is more significant to the movie industry and movie goers alike, as is Oscar season. With the Academy Awards having just been announced, Steve Rogers asked about our favorite films.

Just after the Presidential Election Season of 2008, I set out with a small team to ask folks for their point of view on the office of the president. There had been much he said/she said, many declarations made for what was best for the people and the people had passionately picked sides and loudly barked nay-says at each other, but I wondered, as they cast stones from glass-houses if they had considered the enormity of the task-at-hand, the sleeves-up work that the new president was going to have to do. 

I was also curious to know, despite polls that supposedly tell us about ourselves, what was most urgent to most people and finally, in asking What would you do if you were president, I wanted to know how people wanted to be governed, by asking how they would govern.


On its surface, the question sounds simple enough: Where do we come from? It's an age-old question, really, one that humans have debated and tried to develop definitive answers for through out their conscious existence. Theology and science have weighed in, but for all the theories, regardless of how likely or unlikely they may seem, the answers remain that, theories.

What’s the best part of asking questions no one can answer? Everyone still has an opinion. On the heels of Charles Darwin’s 202nd birthday, Steve Rogers asked Where do we come from?

“There is little purpose in meeting and filming someone if the end result is to just be called an interview,” Rogers said.  “My purpose in these encounters is to have and enjoy a conversation.”

                     David Staller

Brian Gaskill

In a “past” life I was the Director of the Emmy Awards. That was before the recession and before the ratings went sour for award shows. Subsequently, and because of both, I was laid off and returned my focus to my homestate of New Jersey. 

I don’t make it to the city much anymore or to Los Angeles at all and I don’t see familiar faces from my years of meeting and working with television producers and actors, until this week when I reported to the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ to report on a couple of workshops being offered through their Performing Arts Academy. 

Actor Brian Gaskill would be appearing at the Basie to share stories of his life in television and film and to instruct teens in an exercise of self-discovery to further their evolution as young performers. 

Brian Gaskill…I remembered Brian Gaskill. He was, is a daytime drama actor and, unbeknownst to me, when we revolved in the same circles and attended the same Emmy ceremonies, he was from Jersey, from Monmouth County and attended Red Bank Regional. The hometown connection we shared was never discussed before because I only knew of Gaskill through my work with the Television Academy and his on All My Children and Port Charles. The irony is that today we share similar storylines. He is back home, now living in Ocean Grove, NJ haunting the streets of Red Bank again and giving back what he can from all that he has experienced. And it is under that purpose that I finally did meet Gaskill. 

And for all the characters he has played, for the assumed egos of television actors, Gaskill is as down-to-earth and honest as it gets.  In jeans, a black hoody and motorcycle boots, a shadow of a beard, Gaskill looks like Jersey, like a character in a Springsteen song on the sidewalk in front of the Basie.

For the record, Gaskill broke into television on Models Inc. almost directly out of college and subsequently landed the role of Bobby Warner on ABC’s All My Children. He was named Best Younger Actor by Daytime TV Magazine in 1997, and received a nomination for Outstanding Younger Lead Actor at the 1997 Soap Opera Awards. In 2001, he returned to daytime television in the role of Rafe, a vampire slaying angel, on the ABC series Port Charles. Currently he is auditioning and lining up directing work, including a potential indie film that he has been offered, but Gaskill is squarely centered in local life, appreciating where he came from in order to understand where he’s headed.

He is, besides the workshops at the Basie, also offering his knowledge to the kids at RBR, working parttime in Asbury Park and immersing himself in the fertile Jersey music scene, both because of a love of the music and the makers, as well as his interest in helping them express their work through video. Gaskill has experience as a music video director.

“For me,” he said, “it’s always about story and storytelling first.” This is Gaskill’s refrain, his obsession perhaps, his most acute side-effect of growing up in Jersey.  No state yields talkers and storyteller philosophers like the Garden State. But Gaskill emphasizes and reemphasizes his need for, his appreciation of, and simply by living, his participation in (his own) story. He quickly runs through his own, regretting and rejecting how Google tells his tale and sums up the first two acts of his life by suggesting there are rewrites in the works. Essentially, Gaskill isn’t looking back. He is looking to evolve. 

And while he smartly discusses his own ideas for projects and tells the stories of films and videos he has or might work on, it is his own story that might be most compelling. He claims it is a tired old chestnut though, that the tale of the local boy who climbed to the mountain top and then came back down to the valley to reconnect himself with himself has been done before. 

“The other night I was out with some friends from the old days,” he said. “Ya know, since I’ve been back I’ve been reconnecting with old friends and even people I knew, but barely, back then and we were exchanging stories and it was like I was in a movie.  I was waiting for Sweet Caroline to come on the jukebox and for the whole bar to start singing along. It was that kind of vibe.” 

Gaskill might reject the or his life story as a film idea because he does not yet have an ending for his story or maybe even a realization, apart from it goes on. The local boy turned TV star turned local guy is as yet unfinished, the way Gaskill likes it, you can tell…but it is one to be enjoyed and able to be heard and conversated over at the bar, or better yet, at the Basie.

On a very short list of things to thank George W. Bush for there is David Staller’s inspiration to produce and present the complete theatrical works of George Bernard Shaw. Staller, a bonafide Shavian (a Shaw devotee) before he began the endeavor, set out to direct a monthly public reading of the Irish writers plays at the famed Players Club in Gramercy Park in New York.

Staller, the director of Two River Theater’s production of Candida, a Shaw play, said that “when George Bush was reelected it was a very frightening time particularly for the media. Whether or not you were pro or against what the Bush Administration was for was irrelevant to me. The point is human rights were at stake.” 

Staller called the moment, “the spark” for him that sent him off “tilting windmills,” to mix literary references. The director went Quixotic and sallied forth with Shaw’s work as his shield and his intensions as his sabre.

Shaw’s plays, comedies all, were also sharp commentaries on social issues and institutions including education, marriage, religion, government, health care and class privilege. Staller, claiming he could not contribute financially, enough anyway to have any great effect on the body politic, decided to revive Shaw’s body of work instead. He hoped for what he called his “little ripple effect contribution.”

From 2006 to 2009 Staller and his company, the Gingold Theatrical Group, named for his late friend and fellow Shavian, Hermoine Gingold, presented all 65 plays.  And the work continues. The company is developing new material written by theater critics. Shaw was an accomplished critic himself.  The new works, penned by members of the press community, will employ the humorous and humanist precepts of Shaw. In addition the group will also present a new Shaw series starting in the fall, comprised of scene work instead readings of full plays. All of the work of the Gingold Theatrical Group, Staller said, will adhere to Shaw’s precept, to be an affirmation of human rights.

Of TRT’s newest production, Candida, Staller remarked that Shaw “took flack for writing it.” Shaw, a fierce supporter of women’s rights, created a love triangle story in which the power resides, uncommon for the time, in the role of the desired woman, the play’s namesake. Candida, the play and the character, challenges societal structure at a time in history when women lacked any power, certainly the power to vote or to own property. 

Staller’s admiration for the play is based, in part, on a tempered, wise resolution, that perhaps comes from journeying with Shaw all these years. It is the timelessness of the work, which was first produced in 1895, that interests him. Despite advancements in personal and collective views on the equality of all people, we are, over a hundred years since Shaw’s play first encouraged audiences to be candid about love, marriage and women’s roles, still fumbling around with the subject matter. 

“I find it thrilling,” Staller said, “that, the exploration of who we are hasn’t changed.  People are the same.”

And although Staller’s inspiration for his Shavian exploration no longer helms the “free” world, it is the unchanging nature of our governance that tempers his response to politics today. 

“What I’ve learned, in my adult age,” he said, “is that it’s always the same…whether we like the president or not…no matter what the administration.  It’s always an on-going struggle.”

Six years of tilting windmills has resulted in an understanding that politics is as per usual, and as per Shaw, it is the manner in which we govern ourselves that deserves introspection, understanding and dedication.

Paraphrasing Shaw, Staller concluded, “the government we get is no better than the government we deserve, which basically means, we are responsible.  It’s up to us to make bold choices, because the caveat, the hard part is it’s our responsibility to take responsibility.  And I think this is what Shaw was trying to impart in all of his work.”

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On March 5, 1886, Eatontown resident Samuel Johnston, an African American known in town as “Mingo Jack,” was accused of beating and raping a white woman and in a matter of hours, a group of white residents banded together vigilante-style and briefly jailed and then hung Johnston for the crime. It remains the only documented lynching in the state during the 19th century.

Scott Nickerson - Artist - Instructor

Interestingly - or perhaps understandably - at the same time Nickerson was musing about painting the place, another Jersey resident, Timothy W. Jahn of East Brunswick was also inquiring. The two artists were granted access to the grounds and the halls and stairwells and the roof and everywhere they needed and wanted to go to capture the space on canvas. The university even granted the two men time in Wilson Hall, after-hours. Nickerson admitted that the size, silence and maze-like dark hallways and staircases were a bit intimidating when darkness fell.

Voicing an 18-minute choral medley tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, entitled "His Light Still Shines," the choral majors fulfilled Wilkinson’s apt assessment that the group performs with an ability that goes way beyond their years.  "His Light Still Shines" was arranged by Moses Hogan, an African-American composer and arranger of choral music. He was best known for his very popular and accessible settings of spirituals.  "His Light Still Shines" is an arrangement of Hogan’s original work and assimilated spirituals. 

The Fab Faux (a Beatles tribute band) marked their 10th anniversary show at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank by performing the Fab Four's #1 hits. To observe the occasion Steve Rogers asked the fans about the unparalleled love and appreciation people of all ages, races and nationalities still have for the band from Liverpool. 

Come on, don't hide your love away.

Despite the fact that he was one half of the team that made our existence possible and in most cases, was also the guy who provided food and a roof and supported our dreams with his hard work, the relationship between father and child isn't always an open book or our fathers aren't always open books. Even the best, most loving fathers can be mercurial and given to distance. It is, perhaps, part of the male experience or because of their long hours of toil and obsessive pondering over making ends meet and us happy. This Father's Day take a moment to think about who your daddy is (was) and all of the things he does (did) to make you who you are and who you will be.

School children all across America are anxiously watching the days pass and the clocks tick till the final bell rings that releases them into the freedom of summer. For most local kids emancipation day comes this week. As the saying goes, "no more pencils...no more books...no more teacher's dirty looks...no more math and history...summertime has set me free." There is no comparison to the feeling of looking ahead to future days of idle time in a period of our lives when our bodies are young and strong and our minds are clear and unfettered. Exiled from the kingdom of children, adults can only think back on all of their last days of school, all those early hours of summer, before work and careers. They reach for the butterflies that fluttered inside of them then, now impossible to catch...but to glimpse them again, if only in their memories is still...so sweet.

Though we are never more unified as a country than on the 4th of July, America is defined by its diversity. It's known for the strong individual identities of its citizens. So to celebrate that free-spiritedness as we all wear and wave our collective red, white and blues, for America's 235th birthday, I spent some time asking people what America means to them. Their answers? Diverse...go figure.

In the first episode of the "I am,” stories about superheroes, Johnna White volunteers her love to the sheltered animals at the SPCA.


This extraordinary person is one of those people you pass on the street or at the farmer's market or wherever and do not realize that you are passing an actual superhero, whose special powers include love, appreciation and whimsy. At a time when time is impossible to come by, White volunteers hers two or three days a week, two or three hours a day to cat socialization at the SPCA, which in her words, means, she "plays with the cats."


But according to the folks at the SPCA, cat socialization, is one of the most important things non-SPCA staff can do for these animals, particularly at a time when adoption is absolutely necessary. White, essentially, prepares the caged cat to be loved in a "forever home," by exposing them to play and affection from a human. Many of the cats at the facility are naturally apprehensive and anxious being caged and yet wanting contact. White gives them that contact, that love that takes the cautious feline and transforms them into or back into a loving pet. White, along with the many other volunteers at the SPCA also get to know the cats and can offer rather detailed personality information about each to potential adopters.


Apart from the adoption end-game, White and her fellow volunteers are everything to these caged animals. They have no idea that they are waiting for a home. There is no Disney talking animal consciousness about longing for a family in these cats and dogs. They only know and understand their current living situation and because of that, successful adoption or not, people like White are everything to them and it shows.

I AM is a short film series, created by Steve Rogers, that chronicles the life and times of everyday superheroes.

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CITYwalk is a new series by writer/director Steve Rogers. Each episode of CITYwalk is a short glimpse at a long day or night of wandering around NY. Rogers is joined on many walks by others who appear and disappear through the streets of the city.


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In this first episode, Rogers is joined by his brother. As teenagers, Rogers and his brother would skip school in Jersey and spend days wandering around lower Manhattan. In episode one the brothers retrace their steps and discover that many of the places they once haunted are now gone. Love Saves the Day is now a noodle shop, "an abomination," according to Rogers' brother.  Also in this episode, Jim Power, Mosaic Man!

Steve Rogers takes a behind-the-scenes look at Monmouth Park heading into the 2011 racing season.

For Valentines Day Steve Rogers asked people to recall their earliest, fumbling experiences with love. Despite some people's memory loss, selective or not, many  looked back on their young loves and remembered them as bittersweet.  This Valentines Day, take a second to recall who you were when LOVE first came calling and who it was that you called your first crush.