LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! Movie makers bring abolitionist Frederick Douglass back to the stage at Newtown Theatre
NEWTOWN BOROUGH – Set against a rich red velvet stage curtain, a scene is being shot with an actor portraying abolitionist and orator crederick Douglass.
There’s an air of excitement inside WKH 1HwWRwQ TKHDWUH wKHUH fiOP FUHwV, equipped with lights, cameras and sound boards, are capturing the moment for a new independent movie, “The North Star.”
The voice of germaine games, a former FRQWHVWDQW RQ “APHULFDQ ,GRO,” fiOOV WKH theatre with the song, “I want gesus to walk with me.”
Up on stage, heith David plays the part of a very stern-looking Douglass. The Emmyaward winning and Tony-nominated David looks just like the former slave, complete with the trademark full head of hair and serious face seen in so many portraits of the activist. The actor/vocalist is sporting a tie and jacket of the 1840s.
BDVHG RQ WUuH HvHQWV, WKH fiOP LV VHW LQ WKH 1840s and is about a slave named Big Ben gones. Big Ben escapes a Virginia plantation and makes his way north to freedom by following the North Star.
He ends up in Bucks County where he is helped by local nuakers. There are pictures in the Spruance Library of the Mercer Museum in Doylestown of the house where Big Ben lived.
According to historical records, Big Ben was reportedly an enormous man, standing at least 6’11” tall.
The former slave also was known for his huge feet. A recently-taken publicity VKRW SRVWHG RQ WKH fiOP’V wHEVLWH, www. thenorthstar.com, shows seven members of the cast and crew, including director/ screenwriter Thomas Phillips, holding one of Big Ben’s actual shoes outside of the Mercer Museum.
The character of Big Ben is portrayed in the movie by geremiah Trotter, a former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker.
TKH fiOP LV DGDSWHG IRU WKH VFUHHQ Ey Thomas Phillips, who was born and raised in Doylestown.
Phillips, who wrote the script in 2005, is WKH GLUHFWRU RI WKH fiOP.
Producers are Clifton Powell, Nathan cile and gessie games gackson gr. Powell portrayed Martin Luther hing gr. in “Selma, Lord, Selma.”
Assistant director Drew Powell was savRULQJ WKH PRPHQW GuULQJ D EUHDN LQ fiOPing at the theatre. “As an African American, I’m really amazed that I’m standing exactly where crederick Douglass spoke,” said Powell, who lives in Los Angeles.
“There’s so much history here,” Powell said, adding that helping “to bring it to life” and “to feel it” is much better than reading about it.
CDVW DV HxWUDV LQ WKH fiOP wHUH VRPH members of the Newtown Arts Company, re-enactors, children from a modeling
school and Newtown Borough’s very own Mayor Dennis O’Brien, who introduces “the great crederick Douglass” in the movie.
“I invited these folks to take a look at the theatre,” O’Brien said. “It is part of Newtown’s history,” he said.
Billy Hill and Holly Wilson of Ambler are related to the late Bill Hill who was well-known in Newtown. They DrH HxWrDs in WhH fiOP. 6RPH RI WhHir relatives rest at Mt. Gilead in Buckingham where former slaves are buried.
:iOsRn sDiG shH hHDrG DbRuW WhH fiOP on National Public Radio. “I wanted to be part of it because it is part of my heritage,” she said. “I’m doing it for my grandson.”
BHinJ pDrW RI WhH fiOP is D GrHDPcome-true for youngster Grace Matwijec of Newtown, who happily was one RI WhH HxWrDs. 6hH wDs GrHssHG in D long formal lavender dress, which was decorated with small matching satin rRsHbuGs. 6hH wRrH D whiWH ribbRn in her hair.
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Grace is no stranger to performing. 6hH pODyHG WhH pDrW RI GrDFiH 6hinn in “The Music Man,” recently staged by the Newtown Arts Company on the same stage where a portion of “The 1RrWh 6WDr” wDs fiOPHG.
“Today, we’re going to a talk of somebody who wants to free slaves,” she said. “It’s crederick Douglass.”
Nicole Castor of Doylestown brought her daughters, Anna, 10, and Mia, 8, to bH in WhH fiOP. “7hHy wHrH HxWrDs FDsW today,” said Castor, who learned about “7hH 1RrWh 6WDr” IrRP /RRN 0RGHOinJ Agency in Doylestown.
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7hH fiOP’s wHbsiWH, www.WhHnRrWhstarmovie.com, provides a look at the director’s background:
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He started in the arts as an actor/musiFiDn, spHnGinJ sHvHrDO yHDrs in /Rs Angeles honing his craft and beginninJ D TuHsW WR OHDrn WhH DrW RI fiOPmaking.
cortunate enough to be on set with some of the leading directors in the industry, Phillips took the opportunity to observe, learn and develop his own style.
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During a break in filming at the Newtown Theatre, Actor Keith David, who portrays abolitionist Frederick Douglass, talks with Newtown Borough Mayor Dennis O’Brien. The mayor has a small part in “The North Star.” In the background is writer/director Thomas Phillips.
Grace Matwijec, 9, of Newtown was one of the local extras in the film shoot.
Anna, 10, and Mia Castor, 8, of Doylestown.
Bruce Sirak of Burlington, N.J. and Delores Jordan of Philadelphia were extras in “The North Star.” (Photo by Petra Chesner Schlatter)