The Presidential candidates may have come and gone from Exeter (N.H.) Town Hall, but the laughter will keep going as we screen a pair of Harold Lloyd comedies this evening.
It's the latest in a series of films at this historic venue, which often hosts political gatherings and was never intended to be a movie theater.
But we've found it works just fine. By "we," I mean the students of the Penn Program and their instructor, Andrew Fersch.
The Penn is a homeschool co-op based in Exeter and designed to challenge and engage creative students of high school age.
The students help run the program, which is in support of their very active activity calendar. What kind of activities?
Well, all kinds of stuff! They even go on multi-day hikes, and a class trip to New York City and Washington, D.C. this spring is in the works.
Without a big public school system to support them, the students and the families of the Penn Program have to be creative to keep all this going.
And so I've been delighted to work with them on this year's silent film series, which in two previous screenings has attracted good-sized audiences.
Andrew and the gang have done some outreach to local schools this time, so we'll see if it brings in some new faces.
Working against us, I suppose, is that show day also happens to be Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Christian calendar.
Let's hope that doesn't preclude families coming out tonight for what should be a very good time.
There's nothing like Harold Lloyd films shown as they were intended: in a theater, with live music, and (most importantly) with an audience!
So do your part and come join us this evening at 7 p.m. for 'Grandma's Boy' (1922) and a warm-up short, 'Never Weaken' (1921).
More details in the press release pasted in below.
MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2016 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Silent comedy 'Grandma's Boy' at Exeter Town Hall on Friday, March 25
Classic Harold Lloyd feature film to be screened with live music accompaniment
EXETER, N.H.—The silent film era returns to the big screen at Exeter Town Hall with the showing of 'Grandma's Boy' (1922), a classic silent comedy accompanied by live music.
Admission is free and the screening is open to the public. A donation of $5 per person is suggested, with all proceeds to support the Penn Program, a local homeschool co-op for students of high school age.
Music for 'Grandma's Boy' will be performed live by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer and silent film accompanist who performs at venues around the nation.
'Grandma's Boy' tells the story a cowardly young man (Harold Lloyd) who seeks the courage to battle a menacing tramp who terrorizes his small hometown.
Audiences loved 'Grandma's Boy' when it was first released, and the picture helped establish Harold Lloyd as a major star for the rest of the silent film era.
In revival, 'Grandma's Boy' continues to delight movie-goers and serves as a great introduction to the magic of silent film. It also provides a marvelous window into small town American life as it was lived a century ago.
Despite his mega-star status in the 1920s, Lloyd is largely unknown to today's audiences, mostly because he retained control of his films in later life and refused to let them be shown on television.
"People today remember Charlie Chaplin, but the silent era had many popular stars," Rapsis said. "Harold Lloyd's 'average American' character was immensely popular in the 1920s, not just in the U.S. but around the globe."
With the release of Lloyd's films on DVD, audiences are rediscovering his timeless genius. The reissue sparked a demand for screenings in theaters, where the Lloyd films continue to cast their spell on audiences.
Shown in a theater with live music, Lloyd's features maintain their power to delight movie-goers.
"Times have changed, but people haven't," Rapsis said. "The Lloyd films were designed to be shown in a theater with an audience, and to appeal to a worldwide audience, and their universal themes haven't lost any relevance," said Rapsis, who has performed scores for silent films in venues ranging from the Harvard Film Archive in Cambridge, Mass. to the Kansas Silent Film Festival at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.
Using original themes created beforehand, Rapsis improvises the music live as the films are shown.
"When the score gets made up on the spot, it creates a special energy that's an important part of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of a full orchestra for the accompaniment.
In reviving 'Grandma's Boy' and other great films of cinema's early years, organizers of the Exeter Town Hall film series aim to show silent movies as they were meant to be seen—in high quality prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.
'Grandma's Boy' is the latest in a series of silent film screenings to benefit the Penn Program, a homeschool co-op based in Exeter designed to challenge and engage creative students of high school age.
The program, launched by educator and writer Andrew Lapham Fersch in 2012, seeks to explore new methods of education. The Penn Program emphasizes active involvement in a wide range of artistic and creative activities ranging from video production to stand-up comedy.
Under Fersch's direction, the program operates in downtown Exeter, enrolling students from several area towns.
The Penn Program seeks to create a new model for integrating the arts into education, with the goal of fostering creativity, originality, hard work, dedication, kindness, and a spirit of giving.
"We felt presenting a silent film series was a great way to reach out and introduce ourselves to the community while bringing people together," Fersch said. "We're all eager to celebrate the creativity of early Hollywood in Exeter Town Hall, which is a great space, and we're doubly excited to be able to bring the community together to enjoy such a talented musician and wonderful movie."
'Grandma's Boy' will be shown on Friday, March 25 at 7 p.m. at Exeter Town Hall, 9 Front St., Exeter. Admission is free and the screening is open to the public. A donation of $5 per person is suggested, with all proceeds to support the Penn Program.
For more information on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.