Theater troupe and harp score enliven silent film ‘Peter Pan’ at Epsilon Spires

Theater troupe and harp score enliven silent film ‘Peter Pan’ at Epsilon Spires

BRATTLEBORO — Adults and children alike will have the opportunity to be transported to Neverland through a multimedia presentation of the silent film Peter Pan (1924), featuring a live score by Washington-based harpist Leslie McMichael and theatrical special effects by the Western Massachusetts troupe The Lovelights. The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26 in the sanctuary of Epsilon Spires at 190 Main St.

Scottish writer J.M. Barrie created the character of Peter Pan in 1902, and since then, several adaptations of his work have been created for stage and screen. The film that will be screened at Epsilon Spires sticks closely to the script that Barrie wrote for the 1904 play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, and marks the first appearance of the story on screen.

Upon the film's release, the critic C.S. Sewell wrote in Moving Picture World that “There have been fairy stories before on the screen, but none with such wistfulness and charm, such simplicity and fascination, such superb fantasy and wealth of imagination as Peter Pan.” He adds that although it is a film for children, “Barrie accomplished the almost insuperable task of writing successfully to the grown-ups at the same time . . . with titles that are brilliant in their wit and scintillating shafts of satire.”

Accompanying the film will be a live soundtrack written and performed on the harp by Leslie McMichaels, who is a faculty member at the Music Center of the Northwest and has served as president of the Suzuki Association of Washington State and the Seattle Chapter of the American Harp Society.

“As a musician, I have found nothing beats playing live with silent film. It's really touching to connect performers and stories from a hundred years ago with modern audiences,” said McMichaels in a news release.

McMichaels has also created scores for screenings of early silent films such as Snow White (1916) and A Little Princess (1917). “Using my harp to express the unrestrained joy and sorrow of silent fairy tales is incredibly fun, and it's so satisfying to hear an audience laugh and sigh at the on-screen story as I play my score,” she adds.

The event will be accented with moments of live theater by The Lovelights, a performance troupe based in Turners Falls, Mass., that makes public television and immersive in-person experiences celebrating imaginative play. Members of The Lovelights are also involved in running the collaborative art space Looky Here in Greenfield, Mass., and creating the Children's Page in The Montague Reporter.

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