The Fort Lee Film Commission-produced musical “Mack & Mabel” celebrates the centennial of the founding of Keystone Studio in Fort Lee in 1912. With three performances starting this Friday, the production will incorporate film projection with live stage performances by student actors from Fort Lee High School under the direction of Drama teacher Jodi Etra.
Executive director Tom Meyers of the Fort Lee Film Commission said the diversity of the student actors, as well as the use of extremely rare archival film footage, make the production unique and exciting.
“Our high school students are from many diverse backgrounds, and this diversity is such a positive force in Fort Lee,” Meyers said. “To have this cast of young people tell a story about what happened here in Fort Lee 100 years ago is amazing. Add to the fact that we are premiering a previously lost film shot here in Fort Lee as one of Keystone Studio's first films in 1912 is even more amazing.”
Film archivist Paul Gierucki, who is in the process of restoring a lot of Keystone Studio films to be screened on TCM in August, supplied the Film Commission with a DVD copy and permission to use one of the first Keystone films produced in Fort Lee in 1912, A Grocery Clerk's Romance, according to Meyers.
“That silent film hasn’t been seen—as far as we know—publically since about 1912,” Meyers said. “So we want to make sure that we do it for the first time on Friday.”
He said Film Commission member Marc Perez of Sirk Productions in New York City put the footage together, and that it will screen above the stage prior to the entrances of the student actors.
“We gave [Perez] all the footage and the idea of trying to sync it to the actual score of ‘Mack & Mabel’ actually worked really well so it’s going to be fun,” Meyers said. “In addition to that, there’s going to be footage seen throughout the live portion because that clip reel will just open up before the kids come onstage. After that, once the kids come onstage, there will be certain scenes where they’ll be performing, and in the background, we have a large screen where there will be this archival footage that’s synced to what they’re doing onstage.”
He said all of the footage audiences will see during the production at the high school auditorium was all shot by pioneering filmmaker Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studio in Fort Lee.
“It’ll make some sense because whatever they’re singing about, the films will reflect that,” Meyers said.
Productions of “Mack & Mabel” are Friday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 19, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Lee High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 at the door with all proceeds benefiting high school Drama Department programs, according to Meyers.
Members of the Fort Lee Film Commission will be selling tickets in the vestibule of the auditorium starting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Meyers said volunteers are still needed to help sell tickets.
“In addition to raising money, we have to be physically there to handle ticket sales on the day of the performance and the evening of the performances,” he said. “We could use as many volunteers as we can get.”
For more information or to volunteer, contact the Fort Lee Film Commission at 201-693-2763.