Students, local women collaborate on WCTU historical documentary

Tuesday September 11, 2018Roger Coda
reviewing monitor in making of movie by Roslin Smith

Students and faculty from Fredonia had key roles – on both sides of the camera – during the recent filming of a key scene that recreated the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for the historical documentary “Among the Hemlocks. Fantastic Stories from Fredonia, NY”

First-year Theatre Arts major Molly Falkenstein “held her own amongst the grand ladies,” reported Department of Communication Assistant Professor Roslin Smith, director and producer of the documentary on the religious organization whose primary mission was to combat the influence of alcohol on families and society.

Black velvet and lace, silks and shawls, bonnets and brooches were just a few of the original 19th century fashions that 12 local women wore during filming in a McEwen Hall studio on Sept. 1. Although the documentary is in its final month of production, the women’s temperance scene involved almost a year of planning and assistance from many community members.

Rick Davis, executive director of the 1891 Fredonia Opera House, worked with Marcia Merrins and Mary Croxton to recruit women from the Lily Dale History Group and the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters. Ms. Croxton was also instrumental in finding Nancy Adams, who has a massive collection of original period clothing and loaned out several costumes and bonnets for the women’s temperance scene.

The costumes created much excitement and gasps of admiration for all on the film set, Ms. Smith exclaimed.

Among performers parading in front of the camera, Susan Mackay, Nancy Nixon-Ensign, Ms. Merrins and Ms. Croxton were stunning, while Nicki Schoenl, Kathleen Santer, Joanne Mansfield, Hope Harvey and Judy Lutz Woods glowed under period lanterns, Smith recounted. Drs. Jessica Gugino and Laurie Geraci, faculty members at Fredonia, were exquisite marching alongside the superb Alex Holbrook, she added.

Ms. Holbrook is recognizable from “Twelfth Night” as part of the Shakespeare on the Lake summer series. Her young daughter, Sam, also helped in the documentary during the summer by supplying the voice-over for Lydia Bradish, who saw General Lafayette’s visit to Fredonia in the 1800s.

Fredonia students from the departments of Communication, Business, Theatre and Dance and Visual Arts and New Media spent the whole day working on set, ensuring that filming went smoothly and even finished ahead of schedule.

With the support of Ms. Nixon-Ensign, the completed documentary will be previewed at The Octagon Gallery, Westfield, on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. The Darwin R. Barker Library in Fredonia and the opera house are arranging screenings, while the Liberal Arts and Sciences Brown Bag Lunch at Fredonia will host a showing on March 6, 2019, at noon in the Williams Center.

Supported by the Office of the Provost, “Among the Hemlocks. Fantastic Stories from Fredonia, NY” is also supported by New York State of Opportunity/Council on the Arts. The grant programs are funded by the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program with support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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