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Living Electric Theater: Cinema Emerges in Northfield

From site: Cinema & Media Studies

Carol Donelan, Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at Carleton College, will offer a narrated tour through re-created episodes in Northfield’s early moviegoing history in the cinema at the Weitz Center for Creativity on Sunday, February 26 at 2:00pm. In addition to the lecture, early short films and a stellar cast of local musicians and performers will enliven the show. Come experience the movies as they once were. The event is co-sponsored by Carleton’s Humanities Center and Cinema & Media Studies Department, the Northfield Historical Society, the Northfield News and KYMN Radio. Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Date: Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Time: 2:00 pm

Duration: 2 hours

Location: WCC 161 - Weitz Cinema

Contact: Carol Donelan, Cinema and Media Studies, x5779

Import into your calendar program

The talk and re-created episodes are based on historical evidence documented in Donelan’s new book, Electric Theater: The Emergence of Cinema in Northfield, 1896-1917, now on sale at the Northfield Historical Society and Carleton Bookstore.  Donelan will be on hand to sign books after the event, with all proceeds benefiting the Northfield Historical Society.

Among the re-created attractions at the “living” electric theater is the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Show, staged in Lockwood’s Opera House in 1896.  Northfield resident Philip Spensley will perform the role of snake-oil salesman Dr. Gustave Petersen, interspersing sales pitches for Kickapoo Indian Sagwa, “the blood, liver and stomach renovator,” with projections of Edison Kinetoscope films via the Animatograph, the “greatest invention conceived by the brain of man.”

Another episode from Northfield’s “electric theater” history is set in the Ware Auditorium in 1909 and features traveling film exhibitor Lyman H. Howe’s world famous “noise artists.”  Carleton professors Jay Beck and Ron Rodman and students Anna Swanson '12, Sam Dunnewold '12 and George Guenthner '14 will produce live sound effects for a short film directed by D. W. Griffith, Mr. Schneider’s Anti-Noise Crusade.

Women’s suffrage gives new meaning to The Hazards of Helen, a cliffhanger serial featuring a female action hero, in a 1913 episode set in Northfield’s Gem Theater.  St Olaf student violinists Sonja Gleason Wermager, Katherine Wilhelm and Elizabeth Fairfield will offer orchestral accompaniment for action star Helen Holme’s onscreen stunts.

Nostalgic, illustrated song slides based on popular songs, prevalent in vaudeville and early electric theaters, will delight the eye and may inspire an audience sing-a-long, led by Ron and Sue Rodman.

The event concludes with an episode from the history of the Grand, with a Fatty Arbuckle-Buster Keaton comedy short guaranteed to make you laugh.  Musical accompaniment will be provided by faculty from Carleton’s Music department, including Ron Rodman on trombone, Nikki Melville on piano, Liz Ericksen on violin and Steve Kelly on saxophone.

Come experience the movies as they once were.  Free and open to the public.   Refreshments by Bon Appetit will be served and youngsters Julia Hodel and Audrey Battiste will hawk retro penny candies appropriate to the era.