Arts & Leisure

Silent films to resume at Brandon Town Hall

SEE DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS in the groundbreaking action/adventure “The Mark of Zorro” (1920), to be shown on Saturday, June 5, at 7 p.m., at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center. All are welcome to this family-friendly event. Admission is free, with free will donations accepted in support of ongoing Town Hall renovations. For more info, visit brandontownhall.com.

BRANDON — First the seats, then the season. The Friends of the Brandon Town Hall have announced the 2021 silent film series with the hope that the pandemic will continue to level off and patrons will be welcomed back inside. The first film —  “The Mark of Zorro” (1920) — was schedule to kick off the season on May 15, but has been shifted to Saturday, June 5.

The announcement came just two weeks after the hall purchased new chairs for the venue, developments that signal a hope that small gatherings indoors will still be allowed this spring and summer as the country tries to push through the coronavirus pandemic, now entering its second year.

The silent film series was cancelled last year, starting in March, due to the pandemic, and, like other venues throughout the state is starting to gear back up.

“We will be following all COVID -19 recommendations at the time of the performance,” Marden said. “Masks will be required no matter what. Seating will be for two people and social distancing will be observed.” 

Doors will open at 6:15 p.m. on screening nights and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis until the limit is reached. The concession stand will be open, but Marden said the availability of popcorn is still uncertain, adding that they may make it ahead of time and put servings in closed bags to sell.

Marden said he’s hoping patrons will also get vaccinated to further the cause and promote safety.

“We hope as many as possible would be vaccinated or be in the process of getting vaccinated,” he said. “We will open the windows, but have to draw the shades and drapes. It should still give us some good ventilation.”

That said, Marden said that the Friends will suspend the screenings the minute a new case of coronavirus is detected or if another surge takes place.

It’s the 10th year of the town hall’s popular silent film series, which gives residents and visitors a chance to see great movies from the pioneering days of cinema as they were meant to be shown — on the big screen, with an audience, and accompanied by live music.

This year’s offerings include classic comedy from Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton as well as Lon Chaney’s ‘Hunchbank of Notre Dame” for Halloween. First up is Douglas Fairbanks in “The Mark of Zorro” (1920), the pioneering action-adventure movie which screens on Saturday, June 5, at 7 p.m. It is sponsored by local residents Gary and Nancy Meffe.

“Zorro,” a major hit when first released, tells the story of young Don Diego Vega, the outwardly timid son of a wealthy ranch owner in Spanish California of the early 19th century.

Live music for each silent film program will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer and composer who specializes in scoring and presenting silent films. In accompanying films live, Rapsis uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. He improvises the music in real time, as the movie is shown.

“It’s a real treat to return to Brandon for another season of great silent film,” Rapsis said. “If you’ve never seen one of these movies in a theater, take a chance and check it out. You might be surprised.”

Screenings are held once a month on Saturday nights starting in May and running through October.

Admission is free and donations are encouraged, with proceeds to benefit the Town Hall’s ongoing restoration. Over the years, silent film donations have helped support projects including handicapped access to the 19th century building, renovating the bathrooms, and restoring the structure’s original slate roof.

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