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Listen up as silent movies trigger deafening peals of laughter in Lanesboro, Minn.

Fri, Sep 6th, 2013
Posted in Lanesboro Arts & Culture

Before Jack (Mike Holst) can sell his cow (Katherine Anderson) and score the magic beans, village authorities require a clean bill of health by the local veterinarian (Tom Sautter).

What’s so funny about a locally-made silent movie? One that reenacts fairytales we all know so well? What? It’s the fun of involving a big cast of local “movie stars” in a light-hearted project intended to get never-before-actors/actresses in front of a camera for the pure joy of bringing the community together to be entertained.

Please mark your social calendars for one or both free family showings of “2013 Silent Movies in the Park After Dark,” 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday evenings, September 14 and 15 in Sylvan Park, Lanesboro, Minn. -- same weekend as Lanesboro’s segment of the Taste of the Trail celebration. Bring your own lawn chair or picnic blanket, settle in for live local entertainment, then the Silent Movies and treat yourself to beverages, popcorn and biscotti made by local volunteers.

Good things are so often rooted in trouble. In July of 2012, when the Lanesboro Community Theater group called for auditions for the summer melodrama, an outdoor production they have typically staged in Sylvan Park each August – just one lone actor showed up to audition. It was clear that the notion of community supported entertainment needed refreshing.

After a little head-scratching, Community Theater volunteers proposed that their small budget for the melodrama be used instead for a local amateur film project. Why not a silent film, where the stakes would be low and anyone and everyone would be included in the fun of filming? Why not local, original, slightly-fractured versions of well-known fairytales whose storylines could easily be cue by subtitles? Soon, 60 local residents and visitors to Lanesboro were involved, gathering costumes and props and playing the parts – and having a bewitchingly good time! “The reception for the 2012 Silent Movies was so successful,” explained film project director Barbara Benson Keith, “that we all wanted to do it again – and again and again!”

The silent movie-making project continues. This year’s budget didn’t need to be very large since the stories are in the public domain, the roles and tasks have been handled by volunteers, the screen for outdoor showings was purchased last year and the projector is borrowed from a local source.

Tales selected for “2013 Silent Movies” include Jack & the Beanstalk, Cinderella and a traditional Norwegian troll tale called The White Cat of Dovre Mountain. On nights of the showings, as the audience waits for the necessary film-showing darkness, the program will begin with a line-up of local entertainers who’ll add live dimension to this BYO-lawn chair movie event – music, song, storytelling, possibly some juggling as well. Sandwiched between the three short fairytales will be three more very short films.

Sure, there’s the fun, but what about the difficult moments? Well, there were little snags, recalls Barb Keith. For example, the Beanstalk story calls for a scene where Jack trades the family cow for magic beans. When a small crowd of volunteers showed up in their farmer duds at the Lanesboro Sales Barn to shoot the scene, the two-person cow-costumed Holstein never did arrive. So Katherine Anderson, visiting her grandmother in Lanesboro for the summer, said she’d be willing. “We looked through the costume boxes at the St. Mane and came up with this quick solution,” said Barb Keith who directed, filmed and edited the Silent Movie project both years. “It’s fun to solve problems as they arise and enjoy the spur-of-the-moment spontaneity of it.”

According to Sandy Webb, who served as the film’s producer, “Our motive was to provide an avenue for people to discover the freedom of acting in a silent movie. Several who acted in the “2012 Silent Movies” went on to participate in the winter Lanesboro Community Theater play, Leaving Iowa.” After last year’s production, a long list of volunteers signed up to act in this year’s installment. Honoring the mission to involve yet a whole ‘nother crew of performers, all of the 2013 participants are new. Over 80 fresh faces on screen.

For all involved and all who won’t be able to attend, recordings of the 2013 Silent Movie will be available for sale on DVDs for just $10. Copies of 2012 Silent Movies are also still available. This Lanesboro Community Theater film project is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council and the arts & cultural heritage fund. Free will donations to help support and encourage the Lanesboro Community Theater are welcome.

For more information please look for Lanesboro Community Theater on Facebook or visit the Community Theater website: http://lanesborocommunitytheater.blogspot.com/

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