About the Film
The legendary Stone Circle is a triple ring of 88 boulders located on forested land in northern lower Michigan. Builder and host poet Terry Wooten safeguards this national treasure along with a dedicated group of poets and musicians, who perform by a blazing campfire to a background chorus of croaking frogs and howling coyotes. The atmosphere recalls ancient cultures that came together in family and community groups. For three decades they have kept the oral tradition of poetry and the flame of art burning brightly.
The Stone Circle documentary film features interviews with Terry Wooten and the other poets, who arrive for the 30th Anniversary celebration from as far away as Arizona and Rome. They speak of history, myth, fire, storytelling, the magic of the stones, and the importance of poetryʼs great oral tradition in modern society. The film follows Terry Wooten through the struggles of building the Circle, memorizing eight hours of verse and story, and keeping poetry alive in a world of screens and buttons. The film also follows the other poets and musicians--many who have performed at Stone Circle since childhood--as well as a young poet about to perform for the first time.
The Stone Circle is the longest-running outdoor poetry gathering in the United States, and probably the world. The film culminates in the spectacular performances of the 30th Anniversary celebration, a triumph of outstanding effort in the service of Art and Humanity.
Great Lakes connection:
The Stone Circle is a stoneʼs throw from Lake Michigan.
Cast & Crew:
Director: Patrick Pfister
Writer: Patrick Pfister
Producer: Patrick Pfister
Executive Producer: Alex Barrera
Key Cast: Terry Wooten, Mi Ditmar, Noel Trapp
Director of Photography: Edu Villanueva
Editor: Alex Barrera
Patrick Pfister is the co-scriptwriter and Assistant Director of the documentary film, Expect a Miracle, shot on location in southern India. He is the author of a book of poetry and two books of travel literature. His poems and short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals.
He was born in Detroit, Michigan and now lives in Barcelona, Spain. His novel, "North Beach Hotel," is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil Press.
Four decades ago Terry Wooten and I shook hands and said good-bye. We did not know it at the time but we would not see each other again for many years. I ended up living in Barcelona, Spain while Terry made his home near Traverse City, Michigan. We stayed in touch by an old form of communication called letter writing.
I did not come home to America very often and when I did, Traverse City was simply not on the route to California, where my family lived. So the years passed and I filled an old suitcase with Terry's letters while he filled a dresser drawer with mine. By mail I learned how the focus of his art changed from the written to the spoken. His interest in the oral tradition of poetry grew letter by letter.
In one letter Terry told me he had decided to build a Stone Circle, a place where poets could recite their poems by a fire beneath the stars. Every subsequent letter had some news of a ten million-year old boulder he had levered into place with his tractor's fork lift. In the summer of 1983, a scattering of friends and family attended the first official performance of the Stone Circle.
As time passed, the Stone Circle grew in performers, audience and reputation. Terry's letters described the poets and musicians, the howl of coyotes in the nearby woods and how the northern lights played above the stones. Then, in 2008, he wrote me saying that the Stone Circle was about to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. I couldn't believe it. Twenty-five years of poetry under the stars. "Somebody has to make a film of the 30th Anniversary," I thought.
That week I contacted a documentary film director and began writing a script. Over several months I re-wrote the script many times, adding and subtracting scenes and ideas. In the course of so many revisions, I slowly began to realize that the "somebody" who had to make the documentary film was not some other director, but me. I had never been to the Stone Circle but Terry had shared his thoughts, dreams and hopes for decades. He had described the stones and fire, the poems and songs, the other poets and musicians, the darkness and the stars. Without realizing it, I had come to know the Stone Circle intimately.
I had always hoped that one day I might visit the Stone Circle as an audience member. Instead, I arrived, Terry and I shook hands for the first time in thirty-five years and I began shooting The Stone Circle documentary film.