Posts Tagged ‘Theater’

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fort Ti: Ticonderoga’s 1950s 3-D Movie World Premiere

The terms “North Country” and “world premiere” haven’t mingled very often, but May 8, 1953 was one notable exception. It all had to do with Fort Ti, but not the one we’re all familiar with. This was Fort Ti, the movie, and it was special for several reasons.

Since the earliest days of movie-making, film crews have used dozens of locations across the region, but this particular movie had a significant impact both locally and nationally. The fact that Ticonderoga hosted a world premiere is itself impressive. It carries added importance that the historic State Theatre hosted the event.

Ticonderoga’s Union Opera House had been a center of culture in the village for more than two decades, but when it burned in 1916, it was replaced with a theatre, The Playhouse. Culturally, the town didn’t miss a beat, as The Playhouse hosted violinists, pianists, lecturers, movies, bands, vaudeville shows, magicians, and myriad other performers for the next twenty years.

In 1937, owner Alfred Barton leased the building to a company that owned 140 theaters in the northeast. An intense remodeling ensued, and the changes were dramatic: a new domed ceiling; new lighting; drapes and curtains added to the stage; new plush carpeting; air conditioning; a large marquee sign; capacity expanded to 800; and newly upholstered and roomy seating, staggered for easy viewing from any location.

A month later, the building reopened as the State Theatre, receiving glowing reviews from all, and calling to mind one word: magnificent. A variety of events were held there, but it was primarily a movie theater, and when the time came to select a site for the premiere of Fort Ti, the State Theater was the obvious choice.

This wasn’t just any movie. Though most modern reviewers still give it two stars out of four, Fort Ti was important for another reason. Television was a new and growing medium, and its effects were felt throughout the movie industry. People were staying home evenings to watch TV, and something new was needed to bring viewers back to the theaters. In the 1950s, 3-D movies were the solution.

Fox, MGM, Paramount, and Warner Brothers all rushed to produce movies in 3-D format. Columbia employed the Natural Vision System, the same technology used by a few of its competitors. Fort Ti was to be Columbia’s showcase offering, and movie attendees had to wear polarized glasses to enjoy the intended effect. One lens was red and the other blue, and in general, the idea was to merge two visual impressions into one. The result? Objects looked like they were jumping out from the screen, right at the viewer.

The launch at the State Theater was accompanied by a pageant portraying events surrounding the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen on May 10, 1755. The premiere date of May 8 was chosen for its proximity to that anniversary. Media from the entertainment world were on hand, including representatives from magazines, newspaper, and radio. (What, no TV?)

After all the hype, it was time to watch the movie. Was all this 3-D stuff for real? Fort Ti producer Sam Katzman and director William Castle certainly thought so. In an unusual move, Columbia had employed Katzman for the project, a man who LIFE magazine called “the only independent producer whose films—though all despised by critics—have never lost money.” It didn’t matter much that he was often known as a “schlock” producer: for forty years, he made money for the studios, and that was what counted.

Since Katzman was the producer, what better choice could there have been than William Castle as director? Here was a man who made a career out of movie gimmickry, and 3-D certainly looked like a gimmick. As usual, Castle made it work to great effect. Reviewer Donald Kirkley said after watching Fort Ti, “Many times moviegoers were observed to duck as things seemed to come their way, breaking through the screen barrier.”

Others referred to it as “the throwingest picture yet,” a reference to the many objects sent flying towards viewers. How was it done so effectively? In his autobiography, Castle later revealed some of his secrets: “Every evening I took a large pot and practiced throwing things into it: knives, forks, spoons … anything I could lay my hands on. My wife thought I was crazy, but my aim was becoming perfect.”

Castle was clearly pleased with the results, adding, “I attended the preview of Fort Ti. The audience, with glasses perched on their noses, ducked constantly. Tomahawks, balls of fire, arrows, and cannonballs seemed to fly out of the screen. Smiling, I said to my wife, ‘I’m not a director—I’m a great pitcher.’ ”

The movie is only rated average, but “unrated” components conferred cult status on it. Though Ticonderoga is nearly on the East Coast, Fort Ti is generally categorized as a Western. Some movie historians include it on their lists of the most important Western films of all time, not for the story, but for the new 3-D format and the effect it had on viewers.

For the record, the film included many Hollywood embellishments, and dealt with a story of Rogers Rangers, Jeffrey Amherst, and several other players, with a romance built in, and plenty of fighting action (offering ample opportunities for throwing things at the audience). George Montgomery played the leading role as Captain Jed Horn, while young Joan Vohs (a former Rockette) played his love interest, Fortune Mallory. One other participant was Ben Astar, said to be one of Israel’s top actors, and fluent in twelve languages.

Was Fort Ti the best 3-D movie ever made? Hard to say. Was Fort Ti the best movie ever made in Ticonderoga? Not even close. But that’s a story for another day.

Photo Above: Fort Ti movie poster.

Photo Below: A sample dual-image clip used to create the 3-D effect in Fort Ti.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Adirondack Shakespeare Company’s Season Announced

The Adirondack Shakespeare Company (ADK Shakes) will present its first full Summer Festival Season at the Boathouse Theatre in Schroon Lake Village with As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth. Last year, the company presented Hungry Will’s Variety Hour at the outdoor amphitheater at Scaroon Manor, formerly Taylor’s Point.

This summer, a company of twelve professional actors will present the three plays in repertory over the course of three weeks using ADK Shakes’s trademark, adrenaline-fueled “RAW” performance style. This method – “Shakespeare in The RAW” – strips away all extraneous elements of production, and has yielded the company success, selling out its latest production of Richard III in New York City.

With only Shakespeare’s words remaining, the actors and the audience build the world of the play together in their imaginations. In performance, the audience is let in on that rare moment when the acting company discovers the play for the very first time. Greg Davies, who played the title role in Richard III, calls his experience with the RAW method “the most energy and the most excitement I have ever felt on stage.” The company considers THE RAW as much an extreme sport as it is an art form.

ADK Shakes presents As You Like It on July 16, 22, and 30; Romeo and Juliet on July 18, 23, and 31; and Macbeth on July 25 and 29 and August 1. All performances are at 2:00 p.m. In case of rain, performances will take place inside the Boathouse Theatre in Schroon Lake Village. Weather permitting, performances will be held outside the Theatre at the Bandstand in Schroon Lake Town Park.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.adkshakes.org.

Photo: Tara Bradway as Helena, Collin Ware as Demetrius in a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Hungry Will’s Variety Hour produced by The Adirondack Shakespeare Company in 2010.


Kid next to water
Saturday, August 22, 2009

Exhibit Features Photos of Johnsburg Gathering Places

A new exhibit entitled, ‘As Time Goes By’: Photos and Stories of the Town of Johnsburg, will open at Tannery Pond Community Center’s Widlund Gallery August 29th. The exhibit will feature a Johnsburg Historical Society collection of photos and stories in the Town of Johnsburg in the past beside contemporary images. Gathering Places such as local bars, rooming houses for skiers in the 30s, the Ski Bowl, businesses and more, will be featured. The exhibit was written and assembled by Sally Heidrich with contributions from others connected to Johnsburg.

The exhibit will open at 6:30 pm, Saturday, August 29th as the first event of an evening of entertainment at Tannery Pond. At 7:30 pm will be a showing of A. R. Gurney’s play, “Love Letters” featuring Nan and Will Clarkson and directed by Lyle Dye. A reception will follow the performance.

Photo: Near T.C. Murphy’s Saw Mill, Wevertown, c. 1944-5. L to R: Tommy Smith, Bert Stevens, Kenneth Waddell, Foster Monroe (U.S. Army) and Mott Liddle. Photo courtesy of Mary Murphy.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Performing Arts Return to Scaroon Manor Amphitheater

The Adirondack Shakespeare Company will celebrate its inception by presenting Hungry Will’s Variety Hour at the historical Scaroon Manor Amphitheater on the west shore of Schroon Lake at 3 PM this Saturday, August 1, 2009. The 500-seat outdoor Greek style amphitheater, which has been dormant for the past 50 years, is located on the grounds of the Scaroon Manor Day Use Area which reopened to the public in 2006. According to a DEC it’s the “first new recreational facility constructed in the Adirondack Forest Preserve since 1977.”

ADK Shakespeare is a company conceived by Patrick Siler and Tara Bradway to bring professional productions of classic plays to the Adirondack region. Hungry Will’s Variety Hour will feature a select group of actors drawn from across the country performing scenes, songs, and speeches from Shakespeare and other great dramatic authors.

ADK Shakespeare utilizes an approach to classical performance where all non-essentials are stripped away and the language of the playwright takes center-stage. Actors prepare their roles individually, and with only one day of rehearsal, present the full production. “Because even the company is unsure of exactly what will happen, the performances are authentic, dynamic, compelling, and unlike most anything you are used to seeing in the theater,” according to Siler. “Our goal is to discover the play for the first time with the audience present, and together create a world by mixing the raw materials of the author’s language with the catalyst of the audience’s imagination”.

There will be one performance only: Saturday, August 1 at 3:00 p.m. with a rain-date of Sunday, August 2. This event is FREE with paid admission to the Scaroon Manor Day Use Facility, although donations are appreciated. Reservations are not necessary, but can be made by emailing [email protected]


Monday, July 20, 2009

An Adirondack Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare in the Park is a city summer tradition. People pack a picnic and a blanket and go to their local green space to watch live drama under the trees. Now the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts has taken the concept to state park scale.

The Arts Center will present 45-minute outdoor productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at parks and beaches in twelve Adirondack towns. This regional adaptation of the play is as Elizabethan as Elizabethtown.

“In the original version the nobility of a town go into the woods for a night and strip away the trappings of society and find out what it’s like to be a human being,” says Arts Center Director Stephen Svoboda. “In our production the young lovers are going to be sophisticated summer people who come up to the Adirondacks in their Gucci shoes, not expecting this rustic world. The male faries will be romanticized lumberjacks and the female fairies have a Sixties hippie feel with long flowy fabric, and really they’re sort of the embodiment of nature. Then the Mechanicals are the acting troupe in the play; in our version they’re going to be these Beatnik actors from New York City all in black with their bug spray, and since a lot of these performances will be on a lake, they’ll show up in a canoe, lost in the wilderness.”

The production is appropriate for all ages and is free. “It’s really accessible to the audience, something that our summer residents and year-round residents can relate to,” Svoboda says.

See the Arts Center’s Web site for details and locations. Here is a general schedule:

July 25th 2 pm THENDARA 

July 25th 7 pm TUPPER LAKE

July 26th 2 pm BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE

July 26th 7 pm LONG LAKE

July 28th 7 pm OLD FORGE 

July 29th 2 pm RAQUETTE LAKE

July 30th 2 pm MINERVA

July 30th 7 pm INDIAN LAKE

July 31st 2 pm Hudson River Pavilion, NORTH CREEK

July 31st 7 pm PAUL SMITHS/SARANAC LAKE
August 1st 2 pm INLET 

August 1st 7 pm SPECULATOR


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Adk Theatre Festival To Stage Readings of Adirondack Play

Adirondack Theatre Festival will present a staged reading of Hal Corley’s new play, Brush the Summer By on Sunday July 19 and Monday, July 20 at 8pm at the Charles R. Wood Theater, 207 Glen Street (Rte. 9) in downtown Glens Falls. Corley will actively solicit feedback from the audience during a post-show discussion moderated by ATF producing artistic director, Mark Fleischer. The public discussion will help shape the script as it moves towards a full production. Tickets are $20 plus service fees and may be purchased online at www.ATFestival.org or by calling the Wood Theater Box Office at 518-874-0800.

Producing Artistic Director Mark Fleischer will direct the reading. Featured in this two person script are the New York City actors Stephen Bradbury and Peggy Scott. Local audiences may remember Scott from her performance in ATF’s 2003 production of The Unexpected Man by Yazmina Reza.

In Corley’s play, a Southern divorcee on a leaf watching trip to the Adirondacks is shocked when she stumbles across a man sunbathing in the nude. Through subsequent encounters, she reluctantly succumbs to his charms. With equal parts comedy and drama, Corley explores the joy and danger of living in the moment, the challenges and rewards of forgiveness and the power and need of memory. The script addresses mature themes.

Hal Corley has developed his plays with major regional theaters, including Atlanta’s Alliance, the Dallas Theater Center, Seattle Rep, and in NYC with The Abingdon, Cherry Lane, Ensemble Studio Theater, and Urban Stages. Two plays, An Ounce of Prevention and Finding Donis Anne, have been widely performed (Syracuse Stage, Philadelphia’s Walnut Street, NYC’s Westbeth, and in LA, Boston and Charlotte, NC). Hal’s more recent productions include: Peoria, Theatre Artists Studio, Scottsdale, AZ, where he was guest-artist-in-residence in January 2009; ODD, winner of the 2007 Premiere Stages Competition, co-produced with NJ’s Kean University; The Death Bite, Theatre Artists Studio, AZ; Easter Monday, Pendragon, Saranac Lake, NY; Legion, San Francisco’s New Conservatory Theater Center; Mama and Jack Carew, Key West Theatre Festival, and In the Charge of an Angel, Stageworks, Hudson NY.

The “play-in-progress” slot has been a regular part of ATF’s summer seasons since its inception in 1995. Fostering new work is at the heart of ATF’s mission. According to Fleischer, “ATF has a long history of developing new works of theatre. While some view these projects as risky ventures with unknown titles and creators, I view this commitment to new work as a research and development. Some of our new shows have become hits, others haven’t. But no matter the success of the show at the box office, providing a stage and a forum for emerging writers and artists has helped to strengthen new voices of the American theatre.” Many of the shows ATF has helped to develop have gone on to perform in theatres not only across America, but across the globe. These shows have included Becky Mode’s Fully Committed, Bill Bower’s It Goes Without Saying and Deb Filler’s Filler Up!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Theatrical Exploration of the Champlain Quadricentennial

The Adirondack History Center Museum in Elizabthetown is presenting the annual Bits and Pieces Festival, From the Center of the World: A Celebration of Lake Champlain, beginning Friday, July 17 at 11:00 am. An inter-generational group of actors takes on 400 years of history with reflections on the Quadricentennial. Five production dates are scheduled: three Fridays at 11:00am on July 17, 24, 31 and two Sundays at 4:00pm on July 26 and August 2.

The performance project has been created in collaboration with the Depot Theatre, the Westport Central School and the Westport Heritage Festival. It focuses on seven pivotal moments in Lake Champlain history that have global significance. The moments are depicted through fictional characters using soliloquies to explore their personal connections to each event, the changing landscape, and the curious process of human “discovery.” The production moves the audience through and around the museum. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Lake George Theater Lab Announces 2009 Season

The 2009 season of the Lake George Theater Lab (LGTL) in Bolton Landing has been announced. The LGTL, now in its fifth season, does new American productions in bare-bones style that feature Broadway and off-Broadway talent (and according to them, “way off-off-Broadway pay”). Two of the shows are free, and their main stage is only $15 (plus discounts for students and seniors).

The season kicks off on July 9 with LGTL’s annual free outdoor Shakespeare: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by Daniel Spector, with a cast drawn from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Classical Studio. “Midsummer,” one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays, will take over Rogers Park, on Route 9N in central Bolton Landing, on July 9-11, at 7:30 PM. Bring a blanket and picnic.

Next in the schedule is a world premiere by Jesse McKinley, a national correspondent (and former Broadway reporter) for The New York Times: “The Theory of Everything,” a paean to true love, the Thea-tah, and the beauty of the Adirondacks. A comedy with heart – and a mystery or two — “The Theory of Everything,” directed by Mark Schneider, runs July 16-18, 8:00 PM, Bolton Central School, 26 Horicon Avenue, Bolton Landing. Reservations: 518-207-0143. $15.

Then “Belle of Amherst”, William Luce’s celebrated 1976 solo piece about Emily Dickinson, will be performed as a co-production with LGTL’s frequent artistic partner, the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum. “Belle” will star LGTL artistic director Lindsey Gates in the role that won Julie Harris a Tony Award as the reclusive poet. A one night only event directed by Michael Barakiva, “Belle” will be on July 25, at 7:30 PM, the Opera Museum, 4800 Lake Shore Drive, Bolton Landing. Reservations: 518-644-2431. $25. Ms. Gates will also join her mother, Toni Gates, to present a family-friendly performance of “Stone Soup,” at Bolton Free Library, Route 9N, Central Bolton Landing, July 29th, at 7 P.M. A classic about making something from nothing, “Soup” is ideal for kids of all ages (and adults, too), and is free.

Finally, the premiere of “Rest, In Pieces” by Steve Bluestein, in association with Ted Seifman, Silverwood Films, Susi Adamski, and the Charles Wood Theater. A comedy about a family finding themselves through death, “RIP” stars Marcia Wallace (“The Bob Newhart Show”) and Richard Kline (“Three’s Company”) and is directed by John Bowab. At the Wood Theater, 207 Glen Street, Glens Falls, NY, “RIP” runs from August 27-September 6, 8 PM. (Sundays at 2 PM.) Reservations: 518-874-0800. $30.

Photo: Drew Cortese, Jose Febus, Jenny Maguire, Mary Lou Wittmer performing “Leo” by Daniel Heath in 2008.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lake George Theater Lab Announces 4th Season

The Lake George Theater Lab has announced its 2008 season, its most ambitious ever, including “Four by Four,” an evening of world premiere short plays by a quartet of rising young American playwrights; three free “sneak-peek” readings of full-length plays; a free, outdoor production of “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” part of our annual “Shakes by the Lake” series in Rogers Memorial Park; and a benefit performance of “Chopin and the Nightingale,” the American premiere of a drama with music at the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum.

All told, the LGTL will present seven new plays – and one classic – from July 10-19:

“Four by Four,” a collection of four new short plays, including “Leo,” an exploration of a hamster’s homecoming by Daniel Heath; “Panopticon,” a comedy by Aaron Loeb about a husband and wife with a few little weapons around; “The Grave,” Gabriel McKinley’s gritty tale of one horseplayer’s blues; and “Three Divided into One,” a drama about letting go by Molly Rhodes. All seven are directed by Rosemary Andress. JULY 10-12; Bolton Central School, 26 Horicon Avenue, Bolton Landing; 8 PM; $15. Reservations: (518) 207-0143.

“Fresh Work At Frederick’s,” readings of three new American plays, presented at Frederick’s Restaurant, in downtown Bolton Landing. With drinks on tap and dinner at the ready, the readings are designed to be a casual way to hear brand-spanking new work – for free! Among the inaugural offerings are “The Swearing Jar,” a contemporary drama by Kate Hewlett; “The Boy From Newfoundland,” a quirky Canadian comedy by Graeme Gillis; and “Away in a Manger,” not your average Christmas play by Jesse McKinley. JULY 14-16; Frederick’s Restaurant, 4970 Lake Shore Drive, Bolton Landing; 7 PM; FREE and no reservations required.

Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” the comic fairy tale pitting friendship against love and featuring feisty young gentlemen, intelligent young ladies, servants, outlaws, a duke, a knight, and a dog fight. (Needed: one dog.) Directed by Daniel Spector. JULY 17-19, Rogers Memorial Park, Route 9A; 7:30 PM. FREE and outdoors.

“Chopin and the Nightingale,” a drama about the long-secret romance between the famed composer and Jenny Lind, a beautiful Swedish soprano. Performed with a pair of world class sopranos in the gorgeous environs of the Sembrich Museum, the performance will benefit the Icons of Europe TB Fund, which benefits tuberculosis research. JULY 25, Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum, 4800 Lake Shore Drive, Bolton Landing; 7:30 PM; $20; Reservations: 518-644-2431. (Extra performance: JULY 27, 2 PM).



Kid next to water

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