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VOL. 22, NO. 15FEBRUARY 21, 1997

A Loud, Raucous Look at Silent Movies

Anne Bogart Examines Roots of Entertainment

By Elizabeth Weaver

Anne Bogart directs the cast during rehearsal last week in Miller Theatre. Record Photo by Amy Callahan.
American Silents, a work-in-progress by Anne Bogart, associate professor in the School of the Arts Theatre Division, will be anything but the hushed, quiet play the title suggests when it is performed this spring, if all goes as planned.

The 16 third-year MFA candidates in theatre, who served as cast in the Miller Theatre performance Feb. 6-8, sang and sometimes shouted with delight when conveying through monologues and dialogues a boisterous era of "constant euphoria"--the age of silent film in the United States.

"American Silents is actually very loud," Bogart, who is also directing the play, told the audience one night. In fact, an actor told the audience afterward, when sound was introduced to film, it was actually difficult to get people to keep quiet on the set.

This is the kind of information the students learned in their research on the era and the people they were portraying--real actors, directors and other figures from the period, including Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith and the Gish sisters. The text of the play is derived from the memoirs and interviews of the major players of the silent era.

The play is the third in Bogart's trilogy about the roots of popular entertainment in America. As part of the School of the Arts "Morningside to Manhattan" initiative, American Silents will be performed at Raw Space, 529 West 42nd St., in April and May. The initiative will expand art at Columbia farther into the city. Eventually, Bogart plans to have the entire trilogy performed concurrently by a single company of actors.